The One Whose Rising Conquered Death

The Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed!

I spent enough years in a liturgical church to have that greeting engraved in my mind. The priest declared the resurrection. And we echoed our agreement. There is sweetness to the predictable repetition. There is boldness in what could have been monotonous.

The Lord is risen. He is risen, indeed!

It is the very best news.

Because on Friday, it looked like God had died. On Friday, Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross, and Life Himself appeared to have succumbed to death. On Friday, the earth shook with a terrifying force, and even when it stilled, the hearts of the once-hopeful continued to shake – with fear, with fury, with the fiercest grief. And so, when Sunday came, and the earth quaked once more, those with trembling hearts braced for more defeat.

Until the angel appeared.

Until the stone was rolled away.

Until the tomb was empty.

“He is not here, but He has risen!” (Luke 24:6) He has risen indeed.

And then those sinking hearts were lifted. From grief to fear to wonder to amazement. He had risen! And so did they. To hope from hopelessness. To joy from joylessness. To peace from peacelessness. And, yes, to life from lifelessness.

Anytime I think of life from death, I can’t help but think of the little girl that the Man of Christ called back to life. [Mark 5:21-43]

Once news came that she had died, Jesus was selective about those He invited to accompany Him to her side. He took three of His closest disciples and the little girl’s parents. Anticipating the miracle He had in store, Jesus protected this daughter from the uncomfortable stares of curious onlookers. When the room was emptied of the wailing mourners and filled with hesitant hope, the Lord reached for the child’s hand and spoke directly to her: “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” (5:41). And immediately, we’re told, she “got up and began walking” (5:42).

Our God comes in such tender power.

We are changed when we encounter the risen Christ. He sets us free from years of bondage. He removes shame that once quenched joy. He lifts burdens. He proclaims truth. He speaks life where we may not have realized there had been a silent death.

Sometimes He works in strange ways. Sometimes He allows our numb hearts to feel the depth of the pain again before He comes to heal. Sometimes He allows the shame to nearly smother us before He lifts it off and sets us free. Sometimes, as He did in this little girl’s story, He allows our ailing selves to die before He calls us back to life. I don’t really know why He does that, but I think maybe it’s to make sure we don’t miss the miracle.

The parents of that once-dead child – they didn’t miss it. The friends at the tomb – they didn’t miss it either. And as they stared into that empty grave and the reality of a resurrected Savior sunk in, a resurrection of sorts happened within them as well: broken hearts beat back to life; dulled eyes blinked back to focus.

He had risen? He had risen, indeed!

And no one need fear death again.

Jesus gave that little girl miraculous life. Fresh breath filled her lungs. A once-stilled heart beat again, warming her hands and coloring her cheeks. But even with that new life, she could have stayed in bed for fear the fever might return. She could have sat up slowly, cautiously, knowing now the perils of life in this world. And so can we. We can protect ourselves right out of our healing. We can worry ourselves right back into our shame. We can miss the resurrection for fear of death. But we don’t have to!

We really were dead. We really can live.

Because the One who invites us to arise has already risen. He takes our hand as He calls us forth. We do not go alone. We rise with the God who binds up our wounds. We rise with the God who bears our burdens and forgives our sins. We rise with the God who has given us new life, a life that won't be quenched.

We rise with the One whose rising conquered death.