If two angels ask a question, it is a question worth pondering.
The question comes as part of the angelic announcement that Jesus is risen from the dead, his body remade to be indestructible, a state of eternal living we describe as “resurrected.” It is a truth we celebrate whenever we gather as Christians to worship, and it is a truth celebrated in particular on Easter Sunday.
The question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead,” almost sounds rhetorical. I don’t think God intends us to read it that way, however. The question is as valid today as it was in the middle of a Jewish cemetery nearly 2,000 years ago. For those of us who acknowledge the truth of the resurrection, the question challenges our view of the world, our very approach to life.
Sometimes we can see people literally looking for life in the midst of death. A few years ago, at the last church I pastored, our community had problems for a few weeks with a group of what were either older teens or young adults. They had became enamored with the rural community cemetery next to our church building.
Dressed in black, they lounged against the headstones at twilight like they were on living room couches. Sometimes they took pictures of each other draped across the tombstones. I heard some of the photos were on a web site. It was weird.
I feel certain this was more than mischief, however. As misguided as they were, like all human beings, they were seeking some kind of deeper truth, some sort of connection with each other and to a larger purpose. But you cannot find life in the midst of death. We as a church wanted to reach them, but it was like trying to approach a conspiracy of ravens—their instinct was to fly away.
Other than paying our occasional respects to a loved one, most of us are not going to be found lingering in cemeteries. There are other similarly wrong ways to pursue truth, however, and we can inadvertently find ourselves hovering in the world of the dead. When we find ourselves in these situations, it’s good to ask ourselves why we seek Christ where Christ is not.
So many people seek truth through anger these days. But anger is something of the cemetery. Anger is rooted in woundedness and bitterness over slights and losses, real or perceived. How are we to find the living, resurrected Christ where there is anger?
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Those were Jesus’ words after nails had been driven through his flesh, pinning him to the wood to bleed and dangle until death.
Other people seek truth through what is temporary, and the world is full of temporary distractions. The distraction can be as noble sounding as deep commitment to work or sports or as deadly as drugs, but if it is not of God, then it obviously is not where you will find the risen savior.
Here’s a test for whether we’re searching where there is life. Remember the story of the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus? We know when we’re in the presence of the living Christ. What we are doing creates a holy burning within us.
When we sense the presence of the living Christ, everything begins to change. In the midst of a broken world we can feel the joy of eternity. Life, we realize, has boundless potential, simply because the resurrection tells us there are no more boundaries.
We also begin to live into the truth that even the cemetery one day will no longer contain death. In Christ, there ultimately is no death, no pain, no fear. Like Christ, we shall rise, remade holy and indestructible, ready to live forever in the presence of our creator.
Why would we look for anything else?