"You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here."
-- Mark 16:6 (NIV)
Following Jesus sometimes feels like a mix of mystery, confusion and downright bewilderment. You think you know what He might be saying to you or doing in your life only to be left totally lost with a turn of event or circumstance sliding in the opposite direction from what you expected. Maybe the Lord actually does give us some indication of where things are headed, but we are so preoccupied with our own hopes and desires that we miss the divine sign posts along the way.
I can only imagine the curve ball that socked the three women right in the stomach who arrived at the tomb on Easter morning. Prepared to minister to the dead body of Jesus, they confronted a strange man (who looked strange, too) with a message out of left field. "He is not here." They clearly did not anticipate these words or they wouldn't have made the trip to the tomb in the first place. Jesus, of course, had made plenty of references to His death and resurrection while He lived and served with His followers. But it was clear throughout this time that these men and women did not truly understand what they were being told. Just like a final jigsaw puzzle drops into place or the resolution of a Sherlock Holmes novel brings clarity, the confusing words of the living Jesus about His death may have finally started to make some sense to these three women that special morning.
Those four words, "He is not here," jump off the page to me today. The psalmist celebrated the exact opposite of this reality. "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:7-10) According to this declaration, there is nowhere where the Lord is not. Except, apparently, for one place. He was not here, in the tomb, on the first Easter morning.
What does that tomb represent? The triumph of hopelessness: yes. The victory of evil: of course. The death of dreams for a future of joy and peace: absolutely. The defeat of God's rescue plan for all of us: undoubtedly. Maybe it feels like the dark, yawning opening of a tomb-like circumstance is facing you today? Please hear this: "He is not here." The God Who is everywhere is not there. How can that be? Are there places where the omnipresent God does not go? No. The only other explanation is that there is no place where hopelessness triumphs, no place where evil wins the day, no place where dreams die short of God's blessing and no way God's rescue ever falls short. It may feel that way today, but those places are not real. The only reality to bank on today is that God is here, with us, making every tomb a launching pad for a resurrection of hope, joy, life and power in our lives.
Heavenly Father, it feels to me sometimes like You are not here with me in the circumstances I face or the challenges I endure. But I recognize the truth is You are always with me. You do not inhabit defeat and death, but You do help me walk through these places to where I will live with You forever--starting right now. Allow the truth that You love beyond my imagining shape every expectation and perception that I have about my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.