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Apr 28, 2014

The Empty Tomb, the Inevitable Aging Process, and St. Paul’s Assurance

Sarah Christmyer
Empty tomb and rolled-away stone

My Facebook newsfeed is peppered with pictures of the empty tomb: stone rolled away, light bursting out … “He is Risen!”

Would that light look the same without the tomb?

That light, that resurrection light, is promised to me. But as I stand in the light of Easter week, I also see the tomb. I feel like Thomas, as he stood there in Christ’s resurrected presence, feeling the holes in his hands and side.

Without a death, there can be no resurrection. 

Crushed? Nope.

St. Paul told the Corinthians that God himself shone the light of his glory into our hearts:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:7-10, emphasis mine).

When my Grandma was dying of cancer, I would hear her crying at night in her bed. At first I thought she was in pain, and perhaps she was. But she was crying to Jesus for others in need.

One night it struck me: her body is an “earthen vessel.”

A clay pot, cracking under the stress of her disease.

And with every crack, another beam of light, the radiant light of Christ, burst out to illuminate the dark around her.

“Without a death, Honey,” she used to tell me, “there can be no resurrection.”

I want to be like that.

A Light Shines Through Your Cracks

Our bodies, our lives and circumstances, are fragile earthen vessels. We are, like Paul, “afflicted in every way.” But if we die with Christ, we will live with him!

And not only in the next life. He has poured his light into our hearts so that it will shine through us—even through our brokenness—to others.

Hear how St. Paul finishes that chapter (you might want to take time to read the whole thing, and meditate on it today):

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (verses 16-18).

He is Risen. Alleluia!

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  • Thank you, Sarah, for your Bible Adventure Challenges…it is one of the things that led me on a spiritual journey this Lent like I have never been on before…I truly feel like I have died and risen…

    Because of your readers, your encouragement, and many others I know, I have completed my book of poetry and am having it published…it will be out in about 3-4 weeks…It will available on Google, Amazon, Barnes and Noble-Book Review, and through AuthorHouse Publishing Co. It is called “Reflections”, A journey of hope and forgiveness. Thank you most especially to the Holy Spirit, who inspired this little book…It was written during this Lenten season, and has come to publication in a really short time. I believe the Spirit has moved it along…as I was first told it would be August or Sept. before it would be done…But we know when God wants something done, it gets done!! Keep the inspiration of your messages going, for I am sure there are others who were just as inspired as I was.

  • Thank you for this reflection. And I do feel it is particularly appropriate to me as my body is indeed crumbling. However, I am fearful of a personal resurrection. I really wonder what does one do with a body in heaven?

    • I think we will live and we will love!!

      Peter Kreeft gave a wonderful answer to someone who asked whether our injuries and deformities would be removed in the resurrection body:
      “I think not. Christ still had his wounds. But they were badges of glory, not suffering and sadness. … The martyrs’ wounds will glow like gold, but the amputee’s limb will be restored, and so will the brain-damaged person’s intelligence. God’s justice and mercy are perfect, and so is his style.”

      The whole idea of bodily resurrection is a mystery that we can’t know until we get there. No mind has conceived the things God has planned for those who love him, St. Paul says in 1 Cor 2:9. But we DO know with absolute certainty that God loves us too, and His plans are all-good. He doesn’t want us to fear, but to rest and hope in his love.

      May he richly bless you!

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