When I was small, I always got a kick playing Jack-in-the-box! Seeing the lid bursting open and a figure of some sort popping out, waving his hands enthusiastically enthralled me! Today I am not small any more. Toys have given way to reality. And reality has taught me that we Christians have a … God-in-the-box!
Just when we think we have everything “under control” and planned perfectly, out pops God, smiling and waving in ways that we cannot anticipate. I call this experience the resurrection bolt from the blue! Jesus is always ahead of us. He always surprises us.
His enemies taught they had finally closed his case. We also in life, many times, may think that it is all over. Dejected and discouraged at yet another failure in life, we roll over a big stone over our tomb. So many live trapped in a tombstone frame of mind, huddled in some hidden room in ‘Jerusalem’ or wedged under a rock probably of our own making.
‘We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow’. Thus, missing the only thing we have, the present.
And yet…. once, in Jerusalem, a startling event happened that can and should have deep repercussions in our life. A man conquered death and He came out victorious. Not only that, but today He is so much alive that He can transmit a new life in us. Before Easter we could be a rolling stone or a stone roller. We could either let circumstances dominate us or we could be agents of transformation. But after Easter there is no choice! Now we have a strength to overcome everything. No need anymore to let contrary events tumble us without any resistance. In Jesus Christ we can now conquer everything.
‘Worry looks around, Sorry looks back, Faith looks up.’ Yes, faith looks up and sees the Risen Lord, triumphant. We can now witness to Christ’s resurrection by becoming stone rollers. Resurrecting Jesus is not our job. But letting Him meeting us, is. And when He meets us, He will not let us settled. He will make us part of His team that constantly goes forth and rolls away the stones that crush people’s lives.
The Fathers of the Church understood this so clearly and when they speak about Easter, they are explosive and fiery! Reading their homilies makes one feel like shouting and dancing.
“Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades (the underworld) by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.
Hades is angered because it is frustrated, it is enraged because it has been mocked, it is incensed because it has been destroyed, it is irritated because it has been reduced to naught, it is fuming because it is now captive. It seized a body, and lo! it discovered God; it seized earth, and, behold! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.”
Our God-in-the-box is always ahead of us. When Moses led the people away from Pharaoh and into the wilderness, the Lord went ahead of them – as a pillar of fire by night and smoke by day. When the Israelites were struggling to establish their foothold in the land of Canaan, the Ark of the Covenant, God’s presence in their midst, would always be ahead of them, leading them into battle.
This is the great news. Our Easter secret is that there is no place we can go, no challenge life can offer us, where we won’t find that God has already gone ahead. He even went ahead of us in death! Be ready to see Him popping out from the box of your depression or your trials. He is resurrected!
The French painter Henri Matisse died in 1954 at the age of 86. In the last years of his life, arthritis crippled his hands badly, making it painful to hold a brush. Yet he continued to paint, placing a cloth between his fingers to keep the brush from slipping. One day someone asked him why he submitted his body to such pain. Matisse replied: “Pain passes but beauty remains.”
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