They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn't believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up. But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that's all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head (Luke 24:9-12)
A salvage company which looks derelict and in need of salvage itself does not inspire confidence. I think this is one instance of appearances not being deceptive. The premises seem deserted, empty and devoid of life, the building resembling the disappointing shell-like void of a snail that has long since died. There is no light, no sound and no movement. Behind the brightly painted white doors, with their bold purposeful logo and more recent graffiti, all is quiet and still, like death.
Looking at these images we are left with questions: has the business gone bust or simply relocated elsewhere? Are divers still working? Will anyone answer the phone? What became of Marco? Are Daz and Caz still in love? Who or what does ‘em’ signify? What is on the doors is as fascinating as what is absent behind them. The power of story and human interest is compelling.
As are the gospel narratives set for Easter Day. Looking at the stories of that resurrection dawn is similar to standing in front of the empty building of United Salvage; we are confronted with mystery, enigma and questions. People of faith believe that God is in the salvage business, raising wrecked lives and refloating sunken humanity. Our inherited tradition is of God diving deep below the surface of life into all that is wrong and hazardous, and of dignity, hope and fresh resolve emerging from the depths of all which was deemed lost and irrecoverable. Yet God’s revolutionary paradigm of love in Jesus was scuttled and sent to the bottom on Good Friday. The disciples had watched the disaster unfold. They had witnessed the waves of death claiming Jesus. To these grief-stricken, distraught, confused and despondent people the kingdom of God appeared deserted, empty and devoid of life. Behind their doors all seemed quiet and deathly. The graffiti of hopelessness was written on their faith. From both outside and inside the whole edifice of the Jesus movement now looked derelict and forlorn, a salvage company that could not salvage itself.
By Easter morning some his closest friends and followers began to realise that somehow its immediacy and power had resurfaced. There was indeed something to be salvaged. But it all seemed so improbable, so enigmatic and wrapped around with so many questions. Was the appearance of the empty tomb deceptive? What on earth was going on? What could they hope for? What would happen to them now? What had become of Jesus? What did the women’s experience signify? Did God still love them?
And it was from this empty void and out of the seemingly derelict premises of this failed movement that new life and energy emerged. God salvaged these people. For each of them in turn resurrection was transformed from a distant far-fetched concept into an immediate experience of face to face encounter. God raised Jesus to life in their consciousness and intention. The reality of his loving presence became compelling and energising.
It is just as puzzling and powerful today.