Home Spirituality Life On Purpose Why seek the living among the dead?

Why seek the living among the dead?

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Do you believe it? Does your life reflect that belief or do you live in fear, worry, and doubt — waiting for the next proverbial shoe to drop? I get it. My closet is full of dropped shoes and heart-breaking news.

Still, I am blessed. Yes, you may think I am crazy. But I know I am blessed. My mother told me so the day I was born. The greatest gift she gave me in the 52 years we spent together was that she knew God had a special plan for my life the very day I was born because I almost died at birth. Hearing the story over and over of how God saved me for a reason changed my life — for eternity — and formed the foundation of faith she and my father gave to me.

I built on that foundation by putting God first in my life, in my marriage and motherhood and all the joys and suffering this life entails. If I have learned anything in this life it’s that all the little and big deaths in my life lead to a resurrection. It’s the Paschal Mystery — the dying and rising of Jesus — all over again. And so, I believe we shall one day rise again forever in heaven where there will be no more tears and sorrows.

People often tell me they think I am a very courageous woman. I struggle with fear and anxiety every day. When it gets overwhelming, I pull back and hide in the treasure of my heart where Jesus meets me. And then, I rise. Because dying and rising — it’s what we do when we follow Christ.

There is a place for each of us in the Paschal Story — in the dying and rising of Jesus.

Where are you this Easter morning? Are you at the foot of the cross, standing there in disbelief that your hopes and dreams seem shattered? Hear Jesus’ words: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) and believe resurrection is coming.

Are you locked in a room of fear, like the disciples after they had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus? See the risen Christ come into those fears, breathe His life into you and hear Him say again and again: “Peace be with you.” (Jn. 20 :19).

Are you like Thomas, the doubtful disciple who was locked in the upper room, filled with fear? He only stepped out for a little while — probably under the cover of darkness to get some food. But of course, that’s when the risen Christ appeared.

Thomas was too wounded from his own disappointment and the grief of Jesus’ death to believe his friends when they told him that they had seen the Lord. Thomas replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” (Jn: 20:25).

Jesus obliged Thomas and appeared to him a week later. Thomas saw the risen Christ, touched His wounds and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

If you are like Thomas — the risen Christ is here for you too — with the same wounds we carry in our lives. Jesus experienced every human affliction, including death — for love of us — and God raised him from the dead. His wounds are the scars of the battles we all face and they are the testimony to the triumph of the resurrection we shall receive.

This Easter, I find myself running back to the tomb like the women who ran to prepare Jesus’ dead body. I prayed with this account of the resurrection from Luke’s gospel:

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. Then they remembered his words.” (Luke 24:1-8).

I thought how much I am like those women. I face my own crosses and make feeble attempts at believing God will give me all I need to do His will and love myself and others. But then I run to that empty tomb, lugging all the stuff I need to do. Like the women, I just assume that I have to take care of the next step. They came with spices and cloths. I come with lists and projects and plans to fix the messes in our lives. And like them, I am surprised to find the tomb empty. I can relate to their surprise and their fear, because I am always returning to the place of the tomb, expecting to see the death and destruction of the cross.

What happened when those women did what the angel said — when they remembered the words of Jesus who told them that he would suffer die and rise from the dead? When they remembered and believed, they ran away from that empty tomb and proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus to the entire world.

When I replay hurts in my mind and heart, when I allow my life to be gripped by fear — these are ways in which I am running back to the tombs of death to see if there’s life in there. But when I remember that Jesus promised to take those hurts and sorrows and transform them to bring resurrection hope and new life, I move on in joy.

After I finished my prayer, I went to read an Easter book to my daughter, Johanna. Jo was drawing in her sketchbook. She showed it to me and I almost fell over. In her simple sketch and inventive spelling, she drew the very scripture passage I had been praying about. In the simplicity of Jo’s artwork, the Lord gave me a visual aid to remind me once again not to seek the living among the dead.

The message of Easter is really simple, like my daughter’s faith and her beautiful drawing. Wherever you find yourself this Easter — locked up in fear, doubtful of new life because of old wounds, or just running back to those empty tombs — remember what the angel said: “Why seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!”  We find the life we were meant to live when we stop looking for it among the dead.

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Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen