Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spiritual resources for the terminally ill and caregivers: Why do you seek the living among the dead?

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:1-8)

When it comes to death, the other religions in the world can offer only talk. Jesus is unique among the founders of the religions of the world: he rose from the dead. His resurrection took religion out of the realm of mere talk and thought, out of the realm of competing schools of thought that offered no definitive answers. After his crucifixion, Jesus had been truly dead, truly buried. Jesus' followers had known that pointed emptiness that comes at a graveside, that aching loss of leaving someone you love in a cemetery and walking away. The women had gone to Jesus' tomb expecting him to be dead, expecting to finish the burial rituals.

Jesus' death broke the power of death. He rose from the dead, something new in the history of the world: he was alive, never to die again. He met his disciples that night, took a long walk with two of them, spoke with more of them and ate dinner with them. They spent the rest of their lives telling everyone -- whether of their religion or not -- about how God had given everyone a living hope through Christ's resurrection from the dead, how God had given everyone reason to trust him through that same resurrection.

Christ's empty tomb is God's promise to us: all those other tombs where we have left our loved ones will also be empty one day. There will be another day when they say to us, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"

In this sense, we cannot afford to treat Christ's resurrection as a Christian partisan event, as if it only mattered for those who happen to be Christian already. Instead, Jesus' resurrection is as universal as death. It breaks down partisanship and gives reason for hope to everyone who faces death.

1 comment:

Spencer said...

Hi there!

Sorry for the tangent. I've written a paper on the problem of induction, arguing that it can be resolved using Buddhist metaphysics (particularly the doctrine of emptiness.) Specifically, I argue that the problem rests on a mistaken view of reality - that there are essences and intrinsic natures. I know this isn't directly about theism or atheism, but if the arguments for emptiness are correct, then it seems that theism is in trouble.

I'm looking for some feedback on my paper. Would you be willing to read it? If so, please send me an e-mail at; I look forward to having some good discussions!