For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
One of the interesting things I get to do is to go behind-the-scenes, so to speak, in our local funeral home. I really enjoy all the guys who work over there, and I notice how much they kind of try to shield the loved ones of someone who’s died from the nitty gritty details. For example, sometimes I’ll do a service for a family without a church home over at the funeral home, and typically it’s an open casket, and the person has been made to look so nice and there might be sentimental objects placed in their hands or what have you. After the service they’ll shoo all the family out of the room and very matter-of-factly close the casket, a process that has a few steps. The first thing they do is crank down the pillow that’s keeping the dead person’s head elevated, the put a little crank into the casket, and wind down the thing so the person’s lying flat. Then they take the little blanket that’s tucked around the person and pull it over their face, and then they close the lid. I don’t mind telling you the first time I saw them do that I was pretty freaked out. It reallybrings you up short with the reality of death. All these lovely customs and the graciousness of the funeral home staff are things that have developed because you know, death freaks us right the heck out.
Those women who went to the tomb were doing the same kind of job as my friends at the funeral home, they were going to embalm the body, lay it out and wrap it in the shroud. But when they get there, the body is gone. Totally vanished. Instead they find two men in dazzling white asking them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Don’t you remember, he told you this was going to happen. That he’d die and then three days rise again. The women think, oh, yeah, he did say that, and they run back and tell the rest of the disciples, who dismiss their story as “an idle tale”. Actually the Greek word there translated idle tale is a lot stronger, but I can’t say it in church. Suffice it to say the rest of the disciples don’t believe them. Only Peter goes to check the tomb, to see if what the women said might be true.
And why should they? It’s pretty unbelievable. Even if you take resurrection seriously, it should still boggle your mind. It’s not really something you can take someone else’s word for. It has to be something you experience, something you know in your own life. And sometimes we find resurrection hard credit, hard to go there, because we don’t even want to get close to death. But you have to go past death to get to resurrection. Like Peter, like the women at the tomb, we have to go to where we think there may be death and emptiness, and look it in the face, before we can begin to get it, begin to understand what God is really doing.