“The world has gone to hell in a hand-basket.”
These are the words of my late grandmother, but I can imagine that they were also silently mouthed by Mary as she ran through the darkness to check on the grave. Her rabbi was gone. The authorities were filled with hate. The people tuned on him.
“Hurry, hurry,” she whispers to herself. “His body better still be there.”
She ran even quicker through the night, all the while feeling the world plunging deeper into a dark, chaotic void. It is going to hell in a hand-basket for certain.
I thought of this as I stared at those dyed neon, cheap, sliver laden Easter baskets in Wal-Mart the other day, as if the very quality of the basket resembled the reality of things going to hell in it.
If we stuffed the world in one of those baskets, the neon colors would not be able to distract us from the reality of a world filled with hatred. Terrorists kill. Demagogues destroy with their words. Heroin destroys communities. Children cover their ears in the dark as parents argue. So, yes, the world might as well fit inside a cheap, neon, sliver laden Easter morning child torture device, and be sent off to burn.
It is so easy for the evil of the world to entomb the thoughts of our minds that we obsess over those thoughts even during mundane shopping trips through spring colors and enticing sales. Has that even happened to you? Has your mind ever been so caught on the horrors and struggles of life that you do not even see that a whole pack of Reese Peanut Butter Cups are on sale for two dollars! Two dollars! You can be surrounded by color, but only see grey.
Mary runs through the garden, and does not even see the dew still on the roses. When she arrives, she is horrified. The tomb has been opened.
She knew she should have skipped the Sabbath Day and come to guard the tomb! But, the worst is yet to come.
Bending down and looking into the tomb, she sees…nothing. Nothing. Well, other than the two gleaming men sitting in the tomb she sees nothing. She literally cannot see beyond the darkness and fear that has taken over her mind.
That is a dangerous state to be in. When fear claims you and clouds you mind that much anything can happen. You can make poor choices. People can get hurt. People can convince you to hurt others in the name of goodness. In other words, hand-baskets get to have their day in the sun…well darkness.
Fear loves the darkness and it clings to evil. If God were to step in to Mary’s story at any time, this would be a good time to do that.
“’Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’" the words came from a man standing behind Mary.
“Supposing him to be the gardener, Mary said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’
‘Mary!’” the man said.
“She turned and said to him ‘Rabbi.’"
Jesus’ voice dissipated Mary’s darkness. “The shepherd calls his own sheep by name…they know his voice.”
Standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, I saw a disheveled man with his young daughter tugging at his grimy sleeve two people ahead of me. You know, Wal-Mart people. The man tried to swipe his bank card. “Insufficient funds.” Embarrassed, the man looked at all the items in the bags, looked at his daughter, and simply said to the clerk, “Sorry to put you through all this trouble.”
Then, as if Jesus were standing behind the man, the customer in front of me said, “Excuse me,” reached forward with his credit card, and made a swipe. “Happy Easter” he said.
Stunned, as if he had just recognized the resurrected Jesus standing right in front of him, the disheveled man said with tearful hope, “You have no idea what this means to me. Bless you sir. God bless you.”
I thought I had just seen Jesus. Maybe it was Jesus. How am I to know? Or maybe he was just a really great follower of Jesus? I do not know. It is not like he wore a shirt that said, “Jesus is mine.” But, his act of grace for a disheveled, grimy father looked so much like Jesus that it had to have been him in some way.
Of course, it is possible the man had no claim to Jesus at all. But one thing was obvious: Jesus had claimed this man as his own. Jesus had claimed him and infused his whole being with love.
Jesus likes to do that you know: claim people. Remember that Jesus refused to allow Mary to cling to him, and claim him as her own, and take him home with her, and lock him up where he would be safe. Instead, Jesus claimed Mary as his own, and then commissioned her to “Go tell.”
On that dark morning at the tomb so shrouded in despair, Jesus broke through the darkness and claimed Mary as his own, and Mary went and told the others saying, “I have seen the Lord.”
To say, “I have seen the Lord,” is more than hanging your hopes on a vacation home in a heavenly place with a bear rug and a martini in hand. It is a declaration in the face of darkness...in the face of terrorism...in the face of racism...in the face of family strife...in the face of daily struggles that the Lord has conquered them all.
To be able to look out on a world that others have written off as going to hell in a hand-basket and see the Lord standing there, in the ruins of life, scarred hands and all, is to live a life with resurrection eyes…seeing possibilities where no one else even dares to hope.
We are a resurrection people who look upon the dark world, and rather than seeing darkness, we see the potential for new life!
We are a people who shout out to those in the darkness, “I have seen the Lord.” “I have seen the Lord.” “I have seen the Lord.” And, because we have seen the Lord, we have a life that burns with an eternal hope. A hope that proclaims, “Yes, even this darkness can be made new through Christ!”