Day One

A few years ago, I went on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land.  In a small village we stopped at a church, descended stairs into the crypt, and stood beside Jacob’s well.  It is an ancient well, recorded in Genesis and throughout Torah.  And it appears again in John’s Gospel when Jesus speaks to the Samarian woman at the well.  He asks her for a drink of water.  And she replies, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep.”[1]

Throughout Holy Week, Luke has shown us what the people around Jesus expected to happen in Jerusalem.  Some imagined that Jesus would come into a sort of earthly kingdom or power.  Others imagined that his death would put an end to this Jesus movement once and for all.

Luke’s telling of the empty tomb story highlights our human struggle with faith.  And, we see Divine Grace … Grace that meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.[2]

The struggle with faith.

The women are preparing spices to apply to Jesus’ body on the third day.  Jesus has already told them that he will be crucified and that he will rise…on the third day.  Yet, the women expect his body to be in the tomb, awaiting burial.

When they arrive at the tomb, they are puzzled that his body is gone.  Two fellas, that appear like angels, ask a very interesting question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  And then they repeat Jesus’ words about his crucifixion and resurrection.

The women return to the disciples and tell them all that they have seen and heard…all their empirical evidence that Christ is risen.  But, the disciples did not believe it.  Peter runs to the tomb.  He must see for himself.

Standing at the edge of Jacob’s well, I dropped a pebble into it:  1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi…and then the echo of the splash.  I was counting the seconds because I wanted to know…is the well really deep like the woman in John says?  Yes, it is 65-feet deep.  Archeologists have determined that, at the time of Jesus, the well was 130-ft deep.  Over the past 2,000 years, people, like me, who needed to test whether the well was truly deep…have dropped so many pebbles and coins into the well that is now half-filled with stuff.   It is an empirical reflection on our human need for proof of the Divine.

Barbara Brown Taylor puts it more eloquently, “Sacred truth is a very deep well into which human beings have been lowering leaky buckets for millennia”.[3]

Our part in Luke’s Easter story reflects our human struggle with faith.  Human hands nail Jesus to the cross.  Human hands prepare spices on the day of resurrection.  Human feet run to the empty tomb.  Human minds leave the empty tomb puzzled….still wondering what is happening?

God’s Work in the story:

Luke tells us that the women went to the tomb on the “first day of the week”.  Amy-Jill Levine, a New Testament scholar, suggests that this rendering of the Greek doesn’t do justice to the original meaning.  In her opinion, a more apt translation is, “On the first day”.[4]  In other words, Easter Day is Day One.

It is Day One of a new era for all Creation. 

Jesus the Christ, takes on our flesh, dwells in our world where good and evil co-exist.  We nail the Son of God to a cross…thinking this will end the crazy teachings of a Galilean prophet. 

God takes this human, evil act and transfigures it, consecrates it, to be a Holy Offering for all Creation.

God raises Christ.   On Day One, death is overcome. 

On Day One, the women are changed.  Their day began with the horrible expectation of seeing Jesus’ crucified body and preparing it for burial.  They leave the empty tomb changed.  There are no more tears. The tomb is empty.

On Day One, the disciples began their day hidden away from the world…wondering what is next for them.  The women come and tell them that the tomb is empty.  Peter runs to the tomb.  It is empty.  There is Hope.

Their story with the Risen Christ is just beginning.  He will come alongside them and be known to them.  Their journey into ministry…into becoming the Church begins on Day One.

We lowered a bucket into Jacob’s Well using a pulley system.  After a good deal of cranking, the bucket returned to us filled with water.  We passed a cup of the water around our group…each tasting the cool, clear water from the well. 

Jesus asked the Samarian woman for a drink of water from that well.  She was surprised.  Jews didn’t usually speak to people from Samaria.  And it was not customary for a man to speak to a woman without an audience.  Jesus tells her that if she understood who he is, she would have asked for—and he would have given—living water. 

He says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks the water I will give them will never be thirsty again.  For my gift will become a spring in the [person], welling up into eternal life.”[5] 

Through Christ, a new path is opened to all of us.  On Day One, we are reconciled, through Christ, to God.  It is his gift to us.  Our sin, our vice, our less-than-charitable thoughts…all of me…all of you…is remade in this one, eternal moment. 

By God’s Grace, we are free to choose this gift, this living water, to know the feeling of being changed and welcomed into the life of Christ.

This is Day One.

The tomb is empty.

Christ is Risen.

Alleluia.  Alleluia.

[1] John 4:11

[2] Traveling Mercies.  Anne Lamott.

[3] Barbara Brown Taylor; Speaking of Sin; p25

[4] The Gospel of Luke; Levine & Witherington III; p650.

[5] The New Testament; JP Phillips Revised edition John 4.