This first week of April celebrates an important day in U.S. History – the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, TN, on April 4th, 1968. In American society, MLK has to have been one of the most influential people of the past century, and we do well to honor his significant life and remember his tragic death.
I expect to meet Dr. King in heaven, but if I wanted to pay my respects to him on earth, I would need to visit one of a number of memorials constructed in his honor, or even better, visit his grave.
After all, that’s what we do with lost loved ones – we create memorials. The cemetery is filled with headstones, marked with telling epitaphs, and my daily commute is marked with several white crosses and flowers at the locations where a driver, police officer or pedestrian lost their life.
Early on a Sunday morning, some two thousand years ago, a small group of women did what any of us would do to remember a lost loved one: they went to the tomb of their teacher, healer and friend, in an act of mourning and respect . Just days earlier, he had suffered the most brutal torture, the most blasphemous humiliation, and the most agonizing execution. Jesus, whom we call the Christ, had allowed himself to be beaten, mocked and crucified. At 9am on the previous Friday, Jesus had been nailed to that cross, and by 3pm, had given up his life.
Only on that memorable Sunday morning, they could not mourn, because the grave stood open.
Instead, they were greeted by two other-worldly men, who asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:5-6). They were shocked, confused and energized. They ran from the tomb to spread the news. And we’re still spreading the news today.
When we talk about a lost loved one or a great historical figure, we always talk about them in the past tense – “he was a great leader” or “she was a dear sister”. With Jesus, however, we don’t say “was”, we say “is”. Because he IS risen, his tomb IS empty. We don’t look for him among the dead, because Jesus IS alive today.
The challenge, then, for us is to look for Jesus among the living. How is Jesus alive in your life and mine today? Where do you see him walking today in family, workplace, community and church? As you remember Jesus, are you developing the eyes to see a living Christ?
Because you won’t find him among the dead. He isn’t there. He is risen from the grave, and he is alive!