Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
1 Peter 4:1-8
Every now and then I get caught up in a science fiction series. A well-crafted alternate world offers so many options that are normal for that universe but unimaginable in ours. Jesus’s teaching that he would rise from the dead on the third day did not pass the religious and political leaders unnoticed. While none of them likely believed in any type of resurrection life, they certainly did not want any of Jesus’s disciples to be able to claim it. They insisted that the crucified Jesus stay dead.
The Jewish faith has not always endorsed a life in Heaven following death. The passage in Job hints at that belief. Dead is dead. Living a long-life to influence people in the community and descendants were the legacy that kept one alive after death. Between the time of Job and Jesus, while those ideas continued, the belief in an eternity entered the faith.
The passage in 1 Peter reinforces the teaching of an ultimate judgment for all those living and dead. Through that judgment all will face the spiritual eternity.
Following the crucifixion, the religious and political leaders wanted to limit the damage that could come from Jesus, dead and alive again. If he did return and people saw him it would remove all of their authority. Fearing this, they were happy to turn his body over to a wealthy man with a secure tomb in the hills. It was a sealed tomb, more to keep wild animals and grave robbers out than to keep the dead in, that well served the function of keeping Jesus dead and buried. Beyond putting the stone over the entrance, the guard of soldiers sealed the stone in place. It was the exclamation to their actions of the week, “and STAY dead!”
I cannot help but wonder how much they actually believed Jesus’s teaching. They better than most knew the prophecies. They also had the most to lose in the fulfillment of those prophesies. They faced the same challenges we face today: we know what God wants, but it does not always work in our self-interest. At the end of Holy Week, after learning much more about who Christ is, we are compelled to consider which choice we would make.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org