For Christians everywhere, this is Holy Week, the most sacred time of the year. During this week, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of his followers and all of humanity.
The entire story starts, of course, with Jesus appearing and proclaiming “the kingdom is at hand”. At hand means up close and personal, here and now, within our grasp. Jesus also described this kingdom in terms of healing and unconditional love. To demonstrate what he was saying, Jesus performed miraculous healings and spent his time with the people who were considered unclean or unlovable at the time, including tax collectors and people living in the streets, living day to day and finding food and shelter any way they could.
Well, this caught the attention of the religious leaders of the time, who were busy telling people what is right and what is wrong and how to live. When Jesus came along and said the old religious rules take a second seat to loving one another and practicing peace, they had a problem with that, so they started following Jesus around to gather evidence against him. Their power base was being threatened so they wanted him to shut up.
When they tried to challenge him with questions regarding scripture and the law, Jesus turned their questions around and challenged their interpretations right back at them.
Eventually, they caught up with Jesus. Jesus and some of his followers gathered together to celebrate a Jewish Holy day called Passover, and after dinner they went to a hilltop park. While they were gathered there, a group of officials came to arrest them all. Jesus told the officials “I’m the one you seek, take me, leave them alone.” So for the followers of Jesus who were in that garden with him, Jesus literally saved their lives, because the penalty for speaking out against religious and political leaders was death.
And so, the man Jesus was arrested, put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. After the execution, on the first day of the week, some of his women followers visited his grave with the intention of preparing the body for a traditional burial. When they visited the grave, and they found the grave was empty.
Luke 24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body.[a] 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
When we speak of faith, we often speak in terms of possibilities. Science gives us demonstrable facts. If you throw a ball with a certain amount of force at a certain angle, science can tell you where the ball will land. Science tells us the universe appeared after a big bang, and science tells us that humans evolved from mice. Science tells us that when a living creature dies, they are dead, they cease to live.
Faith offers possibilities. For example, faith offers the possibility that there is an unconditionally loving higher power. Faith tells us that it is possible that the universe, this galaxy, this solar system, this planet earth, us human beings, and each of us as individuals are here for a reason. Faith tells us that it is possible that we are all brothers and sisters, born from a common set of parents. And faith tells us that the reason we exist may be to love, to love our creator, to love all of creation including the trees and flowers and mountains and rivers and oceans and all the animals, and ultimately to love ourselves and one another, even as we are loved, unconditionally.
Remember, the story began with a statement that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, here and now. The final chapter of Jesus life, and this first chapter of Jesus eternal life, is also about here and now. The possibility presented by this first chapter of eternal life is that even death can’t stop the power of Grace, of unconditional love that Jesus spoke of. Even in death, healing is possible. And this healing and Grace is possible for our friends and loved ones who have passed on before us, and for ourselves and our friends and family who suffer here and now.
Faith is about possibilities, and Grace and the signs of resurrection are all around us. Every sunrise is a resurrection, ever morning awakening. There is resurrection in the tender leaves that faithfully appear in the spring time. In the voices and play of little children. In our own experiences of healing and love, and in healing relationships we are blessed with.
In summary, the story of Jesus’ life, His teachings, his death, and resurrection present the possibility that even when we feel alone, we are not alone, and even when we feel unloved and unlovable, we are loved, and even when we or our loved ones are injured or ill, even in death, healing is possible.