Category Archives: resurrection

unfinished 


This morning I write surrounded by chaos. For almost a week now we have been living in a house turned upside down. You see, shortly after Christmas we had some of our floor get ruined by a leak from our laundry room. Also the carpet in the boys room was ruined by an air conditioner malfunction so that was torn out as well. But, although we’ve been living on partial concrete floors for a while now, the real fun has come during the last week when we had the floor installers scheduled and realized all that needed to happen before the installation. We now have even more bare floors, our dressers are all in the garage, all the rooms have all the other furniture shoved to the side and most of the rooms are missing doors. So yeah, it feels a little chaotic, a little incomplete, a little unfinished. But the end is in sight…at least I think it is.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like that first Easter weekend. On this day, which we  call Maundy Thursday, the disciples gather with their teacher to share a final Passover with him; not even knowing it will be their last. A few hours later he is arrested and through the night he is tried, mocked, beaten, whipped, ridiculed and eventually sentenced to death in the early hours of that Friday. It was the end. The disciples had fled, the movement had died and even some of the last words of Christ on the cross himself were, “It is finished.” And yet for those who knew Jesus best, for his closest followers and family, something had to feel unfinished. It really couldn’t be the end, could it? When Jesus was alive during His earthly ministry he was once confronted by religious leaders who were frustrated by his actions and teaching. The gospel of John records it this way, “Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? What miraculous sign will you show us?”Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.” The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” – John 2:18-20 Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days? We of course have the insight to understand what Jesus was talking about and yet…it still seems impossible. Rebuilding the temple in three days would have been an engineering feat to daunting for any nation, let alone a person. Resurrecting a body was something that just didn’t happen. So either way we look at the passage it seems unfathomable.

If ever we need the story of Easter it is in our world today. It is easy to see that we are surrounded by chaos, brokenness, incomplete stories, unfinished lives, death, sin and hell. We need the story of the Resurrection. We need the temple (Christ body, but also the church) to be rebuilt into all that God intends for it to be. We need to feel as if there is a work being completed in us that will bring wholeness, healing, life and love to the world around us. We need to be caught up in a hope so fierce that it defies anything that the news, the nations,  or the naysayers might throw at us. We need the finality of Easter because in the end death does not have the last word. Unfinished is not the end of the story and love and life reign supreme for Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!

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aroma

The smell was intoxicating, even a bit overwhelming. But there she was pouring out that expensive oil all over the rabbi’s feet. The dry cracked dust-covered feet of the teacher. Surely something was a bit off to make her do this. I mean this was expensive stuff. One of the students spoke up about the matter, but the teacher quickly corrected them. She has done a beautiful thing? The smell…it was overwhelming.

It seemed to go with the teacher everywhere he went. It almost brought to mind the verses out of the wisdom writings about the ancient anointed kings, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and incense made from all the spices of the merchant?”* Did this woman really know something the students didn’t? They all had hoped he was the Messiah, the anointed one. Even a few days earlier he had the perfect chance to fulfill the role of Messiah. There he was with an entire city ready to rise up, to throw off the Roman scourge and what did he do…he went into the temple instead and accosted the sacrifice sellers and money changers. Instead of driving out the oppressors he attacked the house built by the Davidic line…the very symbol of identity for the Jewish people. That was no way to rally your people under you as king; it almost caused a revolt, and not in a good way.

But maybe this woman saw something the disciples hadn’t fully seen. After leaving the house the rabbi headed back towards the city, the air still thick with the smell of spices from the anointing. It was time for passover and so a meal would be shared together. In the heat of the upper room the aroma lingered from the woman’s gift. It was as if the students were not just sitting with their teacher, but with royalty. And then after the meal…did the teacher even realize that he smelled like a king? What king gets down on his hands and knees in nothing but a towel and begins to wash the students feet…their dry cracked and dust covered feet. What kind of an example of royalty was he setting?

But as the night progresses the aroma lingers. Events quickly turned reality into chaos: a garden vigil, a betrayal, an arrest, trumped-up charges, a trial; and all the while the aroma of messiah lingered in the air. One can’t help but think of the courtyard where the teacher was being accused of blasphemy all the while smelling as if one of David’s line was in their very midst. What these other teachers of the law must have thought. They knew the passages about David and Solomon, the anointed ones, better than anyone. And here in their midst stood this rabbi from nowhere-ville Nazareth and he smelled; well he smelled like a king. But he didn’t behave like a king. He didn’t rise up with a call to arms. He didn’t protest the false charges. No, he just stood there silently.

And as they finally led him away to his death the aroma still was present. It almost made the epitaph above his tool of execution more fitting than ironic, “Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews.” For in the midst of the beatings, the flogging, the taunting, the cross-bearing, the crucifixion itself the minds and hearts of those who surrounded him were being pricked. Why does this rabbi smell like a king? Why does he submit willingly to this torture and death? It cannot be true.

And so they sought to cover up the smell. Although the rabbi was placed in a tomb away from the city in a garden it wasn’t enough. They sealed the tomb…to make sure they would never smell this rabbi, this teacher, this king imposter ever again…

But one cannot contain life in death. One cannot hold back love when it triumphs over hate. One cannot bury the anointed one simply by trying to roll a stone in front of a tomb. No! On the third day life came bursting forth. The aroma of  king permeated that very garden as Christ arose and became the firstborn of all Creation. Death no longer had sway. The grave had lost. He Is Risen…

Recall with me for a moment the story in Luke 24. The women came early to the tomb on that first day of the week to anoint the body with spices…but they weren’t needed. The smell of resurrection had been in the air before his death. His feet had been anointed prior to his ascension to the throne and that aroma now anointed the earth with every foot fall of the Risen Christ…For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

* Song of Songs 3:6

* Much of the credit for this blog post goes to the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg. It really got my wheels going on this idea.


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