Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stuffing Jesus Back in the Tomb

They each wanted to touch Him, chubby fingers possessively grasping molded legs and outstretched hands, eyes studying His bearded face. Even without being told, they all knew this, this was Jesus.

When all three had held Him, they crowded around to watch as I lay Jesus in the tomb, then rolled the stone firmly over the entrance. There, the children listened to my warning. Each solemnly nodded understanding and echoed back my words: "Jesus must stay in the tomb. Yes, touch the angel, but do not touch the stone until Easter."

This scene played out some sixty-eight days ago. Since then, the angel has moved from the bathroom to the kitchen to under the covers of someone's bed. But the stone? With a few exceptions early on, it has remained unmoved.

Late yesterday afternoon, like a child at Christmas excited at what was coming with tomorrow's sunrise, I just couldn't wait. Or maybe it was that I didn't want to wait, didn't want to live in the darkness of death for one hour more. So, I rolled back the stone and Jesus came forth--alive!

The twins found Him first. Within seconds, Amelia mumbled her disapproval to Emerson, shoved Jesus within, and rolled the stone back in place. I quickly intervened. "No. It's ok. Jesus isn't dead anymore! He's alive! He rose up from the grave."

It seemed they understood me; yet, sometime later, someone silently slipped into the foyer and re-entombed Jesus. I rolled the stone away again.

Four more times that evening, they and I replayed the scene of Jesus being placed into total darkness of death and sin only to then arise to new light and life three days later (or a few minutes in this case).

You and I--we are not children who have memorized only half the Easter story. And still, sometimes our actions reflect hearts that act as if Jesus is still in the grave.

I am guilty.

I roll the stone back in place...

Each time I live enslaved to the guilt of past sin.
At times, my mind is my worst enemy. It can replay decade-old scenes better than any HD television with closed captioning. In those times when I allow my past sin to incapacitate me, to keep me from living in victory--even for a moment--that is when I am saying that Jesus' sacrifice wasn't acceptable enough to the Father...not enough for my sin.

Paul says, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death" (Rom. 8:1-2). Under the blood of Jesus, my sins are forgiven.

And although my mind may still remember them, David says, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12). The prophet Micah even says God "will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Mic. 7:19).

Living in the shadow of guilt over sins that we have confessed, repented of, and turned away from (and that God forgave long ago) is, at best, an act of ingratitude and, at worst, sin itself. In Scripture, God never once asks us to forgive ourselves...just to repent and accept His forgiveness so that we can fulfill the plan He has for us.

I roll the stone back in place...

Each time I live enslaved to present sin . Even for a non-newborn Christian, it's all too easy to grow discouraged at a failure to stop sinning and simply give up the quest to overcome, especially with sin that is habitual, that has its roots deeply embedded in the past.

The problem is we can't just give into sin because "our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:6-7). In other words, Christ was a victor over sin; as Christians, we must claim that same victory and strive, strive, and strive some more to let the Holy Spirit empower us to be victorious over sin...not slaves to it.

I roll the stone back in place...

Each time I live in fear of man, of public perception, of circumstances.
Truth be told, this is where I put my back into it and press against stone the most.

Paul says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). The Psalms are filled with the repetition of "What can man do to me?", a reminder that our free-will God is somehow mysteriously in control of every man's action as well as every atom's function in the universe since He "works all things after the counsel of His will" (Ps. 56:4, Eph. 1:11).

I know all of this. And yet, I get stuck before the "but" in Philippians, forgetting the key to not being anxious is prayer...well, not really forgetting so much as being so caught up in the busy-ness of living with the problems that it's easier to let worry tug at the corner of my thoughts than to stop and take time to bow the knee.

If Jesus is a victor over death, what can He not be victorious over? We must embrace the Holy Spirit within us, the same Spirit that Christ's death provided to all believers, and stop living as if He is powerless to help in all circumstances.

Each time we fail to believe in the total cleansing power of a risen Savior, it's like we are placing Jesus back in the tomb, like we are saying He is not an acceptable enough sacrifice for our sin. Not a victor over the power of present sin. Not a victor over the power of death.

Our Savior is enough. And He is alive.

1 comment:

  1. I am forever stuffing Him back in the tomb. Thank you for this post.