I have a one-of-a-kind story to tell. There are hundreds like me, but not one of them was in my place that weekend.
I had been carved for my purpose several years earlier. Each tomb is slightly different, because of the rock hillside from which it is hewn. Each tomb’s stone must be custom-carved to fit it perfectly, so as to seal the contents in … away from the sight and smell of respectable folks.
I wasn’t particularly fond of my fate. I knew I had practically an eternity with one side facing the world of life and light, sunshine and laughter…and the other side facing death, darkness, and a terrible final silence.
Until that weekend, I had not been required to face this fate. My tomb was brand new, planned for the eventual death of a wealthy ruler, Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph was still very much alive. But I saw him coming toward me with another ruler, a friend of his named Nicodemus. They were carrying the body of a man I didn’t know. I could tell that this man had died by crucifixion, the death reserved for only the vilest of criminals. I couldn’t believe it! They were inaugurating my clean new tomb with…with that! How could they?!
They treated that man’s body so gently, though, so reverently. I just couldn’t understand it. There were none of the usual mourners, no funeral procession. There were just two pillars of the community, doing the unclean work of preparing the body of a criminal for burial.
They wrapped the body with fine linen and expensive spices. Then they very carefully laid it in my tomb. They seemed to take a long time, positioning it just so, as if they wanted the man’s eternal rest to be comfortable. They used a large lever to pry me from my resting-place and roll me across the entrance. It was a difficult job; I’m no lightweight. They grunted and sweated until I was perfectly aligned. Then they bowed their heads in sorrow, and left.
I was left alone with my mysterious “guest”. But we were not alone for long. A squad of soldiers came to me. They put an official seal across me, and prepared for guard duty. What was this? Most people think that I am sufficient guardian by myself. What threat would this dead criminal pose to anyone?
For two days, my questions went unanswered. On one side, in the darkness and silence, the body lay still – of course. On the other, through day and night, the soldiers took turns tramping back and forth – and complaining. I can’t say that I blame them.
Then, on the third morning, it happened. The world on my “good” side went dark. The earth shook until I feared that I would roll out of place. And then, on my “dark” side: LIGHT! Blinding… glorious… incomprehensible… this-cannot-be-happening LIGHT! It was so bright that I could no longer see the body lying on its shelf to one side. Then the light shifted and condensed and drew in to the body. The entire universe hesitated, just for a split second. Then… the body moved! One deep sigh: of relief, of joy, of homecoming … of triumph. And the dead man sat up, stretched, and smiled at me!
I’m not sure what happened next. I just know that I was back in my resting-place, away from the tomb entrance. The soldiers were lying unconscious on the ground, and my guest was gone. There was a hush in the aftermath of the…whatever it was that had just happened. When the world un-froze and started to move again, the soldiers stirred. One look at me: out of place, and the tomb: empty, and they ran for town as fast as they could.
For two thousand years, people have been wondering what happened that morning. During all that time, I’ve been standing here: one side facing the light and the other side facing death. But if I ever get discouraged about my fate, I remember the morning that my world reversed. And I think about the words of the Master when it was suggested that he rebuke his disciples for praising Him too enthusiastically: “If they keep silent, then the very rocks will cry out!” 1 Some day, if he permits me, I will add my voice to those of the ages in proclaiming Jesus Christ to be the Risen Savior!
April 21, 2000