The following excerpt is the end of the Very Rev. John Breck’s current “Life in Christ” column:
Very early on the day following the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and other women returned to the tomb, bearing spices in order to prepare the body according to Jewish practice. They carried with them myrrh, a fitting fulfillment of the prophetic gesture made by the Magi at Jesus’ birth. Surprised that the stone at the mouth of the tomb had been rolled away, they entered, only to find the empty shroud and the “young man,” the angelic witness. “He is risen,” the young man announced, “He is not here.”
Can angels be mistaken? If there is one truth that stands out above every other in the gospel message, it is this: that in the darkness of that tomb, and of every tomb, Christ the Giver of Life is present. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth,” the angel declared. Then he added the qualification so often obscured by our translations: “the Crucified One. He is not here….” Crucified and risen; risen yet forever crucified, bearing in his body the condemnation and death of all those who, like the women, remain faithful to him and seek his face, his abiding presence.
As the Risen One, we declare with the angel, Jesus was “not there.” As the Crucified One, however, he is and remains in the darkness of the tomb, in the abyss of Sheol, reaching out his hands to seize, to embrace, and to raise up with himself both the living and the dead. Although risen and glorified, Jesus is nonetheless present in that tomb. And he will remain there, so long as we are there ourselves.