The day was the worst ever. It was neither “Good” nor “Holy,” as we now refer to the Friday of Holy Week. In the midst of the curious, the angry, the Jewish officials, and the Roman soldiers, this handful of Christ followers – the women – stood near the cross, numbed in their sorrow and despair. Their Messiah, their Lord, their Savior, had been brutally beaten – beyond recognition. Earlier, they had followed Him and the procession of onlookers as He carried His cross, sometimes falling to the ground, up the hill.
How can He possibly continue. Please God.
But He did continue.
They had stood – or knelt when their strength abated- and stared through wet blurry eyes as He was crucified. Hours of suffering. Surely, they had attempted to comfort His mother, Mary, who had followed her Son every step of the way, but their own grief, so immense, offered her nothing but hopelessness. Finally, they saw the soldiers pierce His side. The blood and water spilled. He called out. And He “gave up the ghost.” Their hope was gone.
Weakened, these women left the hill called Calvary, distressed, despondent, and depressed beyond measure. His broken body was now in the care of others, as it was soon the Sabbath. Futility set in, as they could not administer their last service to honor their Lord. They went home and prepared the spices, but the embalming would have to wait.
On that first day of the week, these women who had followed Jesus took their prepared spices and went to the tomb, undoubtedly still deeply grieving, as grief does not end when the body dies. It only begins.
I can just imagine. If you’ve lost a loved one, you can too. Going to the grave. Facing the reality. The finality of death. Again. The sting worsens. You all support each other. You want to turn back, but you cannot. You have a responsibility. And an honor to fulfill.
As they near the grave, they fret, wondering how they will possibly remove the stone in order to enter the tomb and treat the body. The agony of death worsens the fretting. And the fretting worsens the agony. It’s a viscous circle. You know. I know. Every task is an obstacle, and every obstacle is heavy and overwhelming. If only they knew what lie ahead . . .
These women – our sisters in Christ – are doing what women have done through the ages and still do today: stumbling through our grief, continuing our work and responsibilities, tending to our families, attempting to comfort others – all in the midst of our own anguish. It’s a stamina that God placed in our souls, one which persists within us until our physical bodies can endure no more.
A line from the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, illustrates the ongoing stamina we women exhibit: “Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between.” Oh yes. . .
With death; with sickness. In the mourning; in the pain. You are continually doing. Reaching out. Giving. Serving. Your life might look normal, but sometimes you don’t know if you are truly living. We women now are just as women were then. If only we knew what lie ahead . . .
When they arrived at the tomb, they discovered that the stone was already rolled away. The Lord’s body was not in the tomb. Only empty grave clothes. He was gone.
And like these women, these Christ followers, who had taken spices to the tomb to embalm their Lord’s body, many of you have believed in Jesus and you’ve trusted Him, but the most devastating crisis (or two or three or . . . ) have occurred, and now you think He’s gone!
You can’t feel Him.
You can’t hear Him.
And you certainly can’t see Him.
But the women’s fretfulness turned to frightfulness when two beings, like angels, stood beside them. “He is not here. He has risen!” they said. “Remember what Jesus told you, when you knew He was with you . . . ”
This is the same message for us today: “You must remember His words.” Why? Because remembering is faith strengthening!
We must remember what the Word – His Word – tells us about . . .
Who He is
He is great and awesome, abundant in power; self-existing and without origin; immeasurably understanding; perfectly knowledgeable and full of wisdom; immutable, unchanging; self-sufficient; omnipotent; omniscient; omnipresent; faithful and true; infinitely kind and full of good will; just; infinitely unchangeably right and perfect in all he does; merciful, compassionate, and kind; gracious loving; holy; glorious, beautiful, and great.
What He has done
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. You are the God who performs miracles; You display your power among the peoples . . . He has caused his wonders to be remembered . . . I remember the days of long ago. I meditate on your works. I consider what your hands have done. Jesus did many other things as well . . . even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
He is faithful in all He does, faithful in all His promises, a faithful Creator, faithful and just to forgive, and is faithful and true. His faithfulness is my shield. His faithfulness is great. He remains faithful forever. His faithfulness reaches to the skies, meets with His love, is my shield, and is unending.
God promises to guide and help us; to be faithful; to save us; to rescue us; to deliver us; to give us wisdom; to give us peace, joy, and love; to prepare a place for us in heaven; to strengthen us; to give us power; to provide for us; to protect us; to deliver us from evil; to heal us; to be with us; to answer us; and to renew us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He has the power to do what He promises. He is faithful all His promises. He is not slow in keeping His promises.
On that Sunday morning, standing by the empty tomb, the women began to “remember,” as the angels had told them. They “remembered” that He said He would be crucified and on the third day be raised again. His words, His voice, refreshed their minds with its truth. In turn, . . .
Their grief was turned to joy!
Their strength was renewed!
They hurried away.
They told others.
Together, they shared the truths of His Word.
They were strengthened in their faith.
And so we must do the same. In our crises, our trials, our grief, our fears, we must remember the truths of His words. The Psalmist tells us that remembering God’s Word brings us comfort – just the very comfort we need. Remembering gives us strength – just the very strength we need for that very moment – for that very day – and for each day forward. Remembering strengthens our faith. Let the truths of God’s Word refresh you. And in a miraculous way, your grief will turn to joy!
We will know what lies ahead, when we remember.