“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
– Matthew 27: 65-66
It must have been the scariest of times. Tensions rising and dreams crushed as the people who followed Jesus watched everything unravel. Pilate is responsible to keep order. Joseph of Arimathea offers a grave and Pilate grants his request. Mary and the “other Marys” keep watch across from the tomb, silently staring into the depths of their grief. The disciples who were so close to him have retreated, perhaps attempting to comprehend what they are supposed to do now. Everyone is doing whatever they can or whatever they know just to walk through the hours and days following the crucifixion. Pilate’s soldiers warn him of the pending possibilities for harm.
We do all sorts of things when uncertainty is high. We are a people who take particular pride in being prepared, planning ahead and executing well in the right time. After all, we are a developed society, we have experience and resources. But life still unravels and gets out of control. And sometimes, everything we planned or thought would be… is not that way at all! An isolated situation or a bizarre turn of events, like a global pandemic, for example, sends the dominoes falling and everything is quickly out of control. One thing leads to another; it doesn’t seem to stop.
So we retreat. We grieve. We offer a helping hand. We do what is in our power to do to keep order. We pray. We go numb. We act normally and strangely and everything in between. God doesn’t do any of those things.
When things begin to unravel in our lives, the Spirit of the LORD reaches out with a hand of grace and says, “grab my hand…let me pull you from the sinking sand; I’ve got you.” When life runs out of its safe boundaries – the ones that keep everything operating in status quo, and we don’t know what to do; the Spirit of the LORD announces: Do not be afraid. I am with you. And my kingdom is being fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven.
A stone can be placed to cover our sin. A seal can be secured to protect us from healing. Even a guard can be placed over our hearts. But the Spirit of LORD has never been halted by our barriers and our seals. No guard can stop the love and grace of Christ from reaching into our tombs and calling us out to live again. Our failures cannot stop it. Our attitudes and strategies cannot divert it. When the God of heaven acts, when the Spirit of the LORD rolls the stone away – we will breathe again! Do not be afraid.
God we all get into places that feel like tombs. Our mistakes and even sometimes our successes get us there. Our fear keeps us locked up inside. We cannot imagine a way out or a way through. We know you are different. We know your ways are far more powerful than our seals and guards. Please free us from whatever hinders us from breathing again. Thank you, Jesus, for loving us enough to break the seals we have secured around our hearts. We love you and we trust you. We place ourselves in your hands again. Breath of life…help us rise now. Amen.
A Living Hope by Phil Wickham