Both of their faces were stained with tears. The older woman holding the younger. They were rocking slightly. Their shared grief was palpable. I knew neither of them well but I knew that the younger woman had just watched as her son was buried. This was a grief to which I would attend as a pastor over the coming days and weeks and months and years. This would be a grief observed in the life of our faith community.
Several days passed and the older woman came to the church and told me to get in the car. We were going to the younger’s woman’s home. “It is time,” she said, and with that, I followed her lead.
We prayed during our brief journey and I admit now that I did not know exactly what it was “time” for, but that question did not linger long. My mentor was a woman who knew personally the experience of the woman we were visiting. She, too, had buried a child. She possessed a credibility that I did not. I was clearly brought along so that I might learn, not that I might counsel.
She knocked but did not wait long before opening the door. We found our sister hiding in the darkness of a house where every blind was pulled and every light turned off. She was grieving as one who has no hope.
The older woman held her again and simply said, “My dear, precious friend, it’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the dark. You have to get up in the dark in order to see the sun rise. And you have to get up in the darkness of your grief in order to really know the power of Christ’s resurrection.”
Sobs and then, over time, peace — the peace which passes naturalistic understanding. Grief was being overcome by hope.
Every year on this day, on the day in between the cross and the empty tomb, I revisit that profound experience. Today is a day of keeping vigil at the tomb. Today is a day of counting the cost of our sin and the sacrifice of Christ. Today is a day of real grief, but not as those who have no hope. Which also makes today the day that Christians get up in the dark as a testimony to the world that Christ is risen, indeed!
The people of Jesus stand at the foot of the cross but we also run breathlessly to the gaping glorious reality of the empty tomb. We do not worship a dead man but a living Savior. So, even when it’s dark, we get up, trusting in the One who is risen and risen indeed.
Even as you attend today to the reality of the grief of Jesus’ death, be encouraged to get up in the dark as a witness to the hope we have in Jesus Christ. And on your way to the empty tomb, go by the house of someone you know who has drawn the curtains, shutting out the light. Attend to the grief and then tell them that it’s time to get up — that they might know the power of Christ’s resurrection and live.
In your equipping study you quote Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8):
“and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” The reference is to Saul’s unusual conversion (Acts 9:5). “As to one abnormally born” ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι “as to an aborted fetus” or “as to a miscarriage” in the Greek is a bit jumbled for ως τω περιτρομοντι “as to one trembling.” That refers to the fact that Saul trembled on the road to Damascus when the heavenly voice told him (Acts 9:5): “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” The continuation in verse 6: “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him” lacks in most Greek manuscripts. What confused the text was Paul’s preconversion name Saul, which reminded the author of Old Testament Saul, who was a tall man – in fact so tall that 1 Sam. 9:2 and 10:23 describe him as “from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” Saul came to be known as “From his shoulders and upwards” – which is ὑπὲρ ὠμίαν – making “as to one abnormally born” the abbreviation of “as to one From his shoulders and upward (Saul) who was trembling” when he met the risen Lord. Either the optical impediment that this meeting produced in Saul caused him to mistake the crucified and resurrected Lord as an aborted fetus coming to life or he had read the Christian birth-accounts devoid of pregnancy. In any case, your sermon gives us hope for the PCUSA denomination as an organization whose death is premature.
Sorry about the confusion caused by the King James addition at Acts 9:5: “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” It’s carried over from Saul’s account of his conversion experience at Acts 26:14, where the Greek has σκληρόν σοι πρὸς κέντρα λακτίζειν (skleron “hard” soi “for thee” pros “against” kentra “pricks” laktizein “to kick”). The author of 1 Corinthians 15:8 confused Greek kentra “pricks, stings” with Latin centrum “center” and Greek laktizein with Latin lacteus “for milk” to get the image of a baby’s craving for milk causing him to kick at the center of the mother in order to advance the delivery. Saul was so thirsty for the gospel that “he kicked against the pricks” like an overly anxious fetus. See 1 Peter 2:2: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
Carmen, this is a lovely, meaningful message for the Saturday of Holy Week. It IS time to get up in the dark, as a witness to the hope we have in jesus Christ.. resurrection has and is coming. Thank you for sharing this profound experience.