In preparing for Holy Week and Easter I read a book by Barbra Brown Taylor called, “Learning to Walk in the Dark.” She notes that her motivation for writing about the dark came about after a realization that so much of our lives, theology and orientation is focussed on avoiding the dark. Darkness is often associated with what is “bad, evil or destructive.” Light on the other hand is what we have been taught to strive for. Light is the goal and we associate light with “good, new life, joy” and many other descriptors. Because of this Barbra believes that we are missing something. By focussing too much on the light and the benefits of the light, we often overlook and miss the good and benefit of the dark.
On a trip to the West Bank in Israel Barbra BrownTaylor learned that the birth of Jesus most likely took place in a cave, not a Lean To structure as we often imagine the stable to be in our Western way of thinking. In Ancient Israel at the time caves made good sense to function as stables. Caves offer shelter from the wind and elements in a way a wooden structure can’t. So in this way, the birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus have a cave in common. Both events took place in a cave.
When we think of caves, we imagine them to be dark, damp and deep caverns carved deep beneath the earth. If you have ever been in a cave or taken spelunking seriously, you will know that often there are corners and sections that are narrow and tight. This is probably a good reason why I have no intention of taking spelunking seriously. Almost everything we can think of about caves seems to run contrary to what we imagine Resurrection to be like. But if we follow the logic of being buried in a cave or tomb, then we realize resurrection occurring in the dark makes sense. Scripture reminds us that there was a stone rolled in front of the tomb, blocking out light and preventing others from entering.
In the dark, alone with absolutely no witnesses Jesus rose from the dead. Scripture reminds us that while it was still dark, Mary went to the tomb to find that the stone had been rolled away. It is only later that Mary recognizes the man in the garden - outside of the tomb - as Jesus. Jesus had already risen and left the tomb by the time Mary arrived. The Resurrection had already happened. What was left in side were the bands of cloth used to prepare the body and two angels to declare that he - Jesus - was no longer there. No longer to found in the tomb.
We often hasten to associate the resurrection of Jesus with day light, trumpets and fanfare and hymns that proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Risen today!” But in actuality this is not the most accurate depiction. Resurrection happened in the dark. This changes how we imagine resurrection and our understanding of The Resurrection. When we reflect on resurrection and the resurrections of our own life and world we realize that many of them begin in the dark. Life begins in the dark whether it be human life, seeds that are planted in the ground or even “In the beginning . . .” As Genesis reminds us; they all originate in the dark.
Often when we think of resurrection we instinctively imagine the big and the grand. However, as we have learned The Resurrection happened in the still quiet of the night with no witnesses. This implies that the moment of resurrection is often quite small, humble and can often go unnoticed. Resurrection becomes then an internal and personal process, one that manifests itself to the world after it has happened. Think of the resurrection moments in your own life. The times when the first inkling and sparks of a new change, a new day, a new job or way of being in the world emerges from within you. It starts within, takes root and begins to grow. Only later, after you are in the “new you” do people notice and comment, “You look different, have you done something with your hair?” Or “. . . this suits you.”
Tonight we come as close as we can to the epicentre of Jesus’s resurrection. Tomorrow and the days and weeks that follow we join with Mary and others down through the ages in living into the resurrected life. We are not to stay in the tomb. We need to leave this place, transformed by our resurrection encounters and enter into the world where others may see and know the God of resurrection. A God that makes all things and all manner of things new again.