Resurrection Morning (c. 2003)
James R. C. Martin
copyright 2011

Easter Sunrise, John 20:1-18

Historical Description:

James Martin is an artist from the United Kingdom. He paints a variety of subjects, and he has experimented with various portrayals of the biblical narrative. His few biblical pieces invite the viewer into a unique perspective: looking on with Lazarus’ sisters as he walks out of the tomb draped in grave cloths; entering into the presence of God with Hannah in humble prayer; and watching the meeting of Jesus & Mary on Easter morning from inside the empty tomb.

Devotional Reflection:

Evidence of death’s reign abounds. We see it globally in war, terror, natural disasters, and perpetual starvation. We see it happen quickly to loved ones taken by sudden illness, heart attack, or car accident. We see it happen slowly and tediously in dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. All around us are tangible, terrible, dreadful reminders of the agitation, imminence, and inevitability of death. But inevitable though it may be, we hate it. If we are honest, we know that the world looks so much better from outside of the grave. God created us to be fully human—fully alive—and we yearn for it to remain that way. After all, death puts us in a condition for which we were never created. To be inside the grave is evidence that we have been ripped apart, body from soul, even as we are torn from the ones we love. We know, deep in our bones, that we weren’t created for the tomb in which those very bones will one day be placed. But, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And sin never misses a payment. It deals its deathly wages all the way to the grave. The grave is not a place we look forward to; it’s not a place we long to go. But until Christ returns, it is a place where we all will rest. It is evidence—grave evidence—that those two great enemies, sin & death, still reign.

And yet, into the grave is exactly where Christ goes. He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He who came to be fully human, chose to take into himself fully that which violates our humanity—sin. And that sin killed him. Upon himself, Christ took your anger, your malice, your gossip, your selfishness, your apathy, your arrogance, your sin. And it killed him. He received its wages, a reality tangibly confirmed as his body was taken from the cross and placed in a tomb. Christ goes into the grave, dead.

Of course, we know the rest of the story: he doesn’t stay there; he doesn’t stay dead. As the Lord of all creation and the victor over every enemy, he endured even death itself and came out the other side, alive. Into the grave, and out again. That is where Christ goes, and that is where he takes us.

Look at the moment depicted in this image, Resurrection Morning. In its perspective, the artist invites you inside the tomb of Jesus. But Christ is not dead. He is very much alive. So alive, in fact, that he has already made the journey back outside the grave to meet Mary Magdalene. The details are few: two silhouetted figures, grave cloths left behind, and steps leading outside of the tomb. Seeing her reaching out her arms in faith, we could imagine that the artist has depicted the moment when Mary realizes that it is Christ she sees and not just the gardener. In that moment, her eyes are opened, transformed to see the world now as a place where the reign of God and the defeat of death have truly come in Christ’s resurrection. But look again. The artist has depicted this scene in such a way that even as Mary realizes whose presence she is in, she also seems to be stepping out of the grave with Jesus. Christ is helping her up the steps and out of the tomb. She eagerly reaches for him in faith and he extends his hand to her, welcoming her into a world which has seen the firstfruits of Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20). She exits the tomb with Christ; in faith she rises with him from death.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:3-5). Into the grave and out again. In baptism, that is exactly where Christ takes us. We have entered the tomb, dead, buried with Christ. Our old Adam, sin and all, is drowned and killed. And because we are buried with the Lord of Life and the Victor of death, we are brought out of the grave with him, resurrected in the newness of life with eyes to see a world where death does not have the last word.

Such is the hope of the Christian. Such is our hope, as we celebrate resurrection life now, even as we long for our Lord’s return. On that Day God will finally and completely undo death, for he will “raise me and all the dead, and give to me and all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.”

 

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