Updated: May 5
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28: 1-10
Earthquakes are a natural phenomena of our planet. That is true, but in this instance, I think the earth’s quaking is much more supernatural, within the spiritual battle between God’s kingdom of the heavens and the prince of the earth, Satan and his broken perverse kingdom of the earth. And an angel of the Lord, coming down from heaven, glowing with light! White as snow much like Jesus transfigured into Christ, like Moses when he came down from the mountain after he had witnessed the glory of God.
“He has risen from the dead!” His body has not decayed; he is whole and healed, flesh and blood again. Like the story of the crucifixion, we as Christians are so inured to this story; we have become hardened to its powerfulness, Oh, what I would have given to have my son resurrected in perfect health like Mary and Martha had their brother Lazarus again three days after his burial in his dark, black tomb.
At least three Marys witnessed the brutal death of this beloved son and friend and savior. Jesus’ mother who as a young virgin was visited by an angel of the Lord, Gabriel, watched her son die. Now, just as Mary, sister of Lazarus, anointed the living Christ with nard before his death, these two other Marys have come to dress his dead body with spices and perfumes, At least two Marys are recorded as witnessing angels at the empty tomb of Christ. Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of the disciples, James and John. These women were followers of God’s Son of Man. Now, three days later, these women are the first to see the risen Son of God.
Who have you lost that you would loved to have had raised from the dead? Why?
Where are our loved ones who have died now?
There is a time for everything, and a season for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
At one of my Wednesday evening bible studies, I challenged my young friends to think about a hardship in their lives that they had been reluctant to give to God. Something that he or she was holding on to and suffering from. I knew most of the students fairly well and I was hopeful that certain ones of them could discuss their personal problems and find some comfort in talking them out. We had some rather hard things among the group. One girl had lost her mother in a custody battle due to drugs. Another was struggling with both parents and felt alienated from her home. The discussions were hard but also lovely. We were sitting outside for one of the first warm evenings in the spring. Then a young girl who was there for the first time said, “My dad died two months ago from Covid.” And there it was, death.
God warned his new creation, Adam, made in his very image, ...”you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Grief and mourning are considered a natural order of things but does death feel natural to you? Have you lost a loved one too early? Did it feel right?
Then passage above is so well known. It’s been put to music and was part of my childhood with my 1960’s embracing parents. But does this feel righteous? Yes, a time to be born, to plant, to build, to laugh, to dance, to embrace, to love, and for peace is lovely. But a time to die, a time to kill, to weep, to mourn, to refrain from embracing, to give up, to throw away, to tear, to hate, and a time for war? This isn’t right for us, and it wasn’t and still isn’t part of God’s desire. These times may be part of our natural world but they are not part of the Holy Family’s supernatural world. Stretch and try to see through their eyes, through their hearts. Their “supernatural” world is really the natural world. Our earthly natural world is but a very poor reflection of the kingdom of God; our world is so very small and limited and broken. Our natural world is full of death, but in God’s world, outside of time, there is no time for death, for killing, for mourning.
Because Pharaoh will not let God’s people go, and this chosen child of God is promised to save his creation from its brokenness, God sends the angel of death, the destroyer, to the land of Egypt. This awesome and awful event will be remembered yearly as the Feast of Passover; God rescues his people but at such a brutal price:
Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.”...
At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. Exodus 12: 21-29
Death began in the Old Testament with Adam and Eve and followed everyone who has ever been born; but for two notable extreme exceptions, Enoch and Elijah. This of course continued into the New Testament.
Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” ...Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16: 16-22 (NIV)
Here is Jesus, struggling to prepare his dear friends for his death. Here is Jesus, struggling to prepare himself for death. Even Christ, the Son of God, feared suffering and death. This is the ultimate in brokenness for God. There is nothing “natural” in death. Remember Jesus’s anguish in the garden of Gethsemane:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Matthew 26: 36-39
But now, Mary, the mother of James and John, and Mary Magdalene witness an empty tomb! They have come to anoint Jesus’ lifeless body and instead witnesses his resurrection of renewed life.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Can you remember a time in your life when someone was born? Who was he or she and how did you feel about the entire birth experience? What has that person brought into your life?
Can you think of a specific time that you have laughed? What were the circumstances?
Have you danced? Fast or slow? Who did you dance with? What was the occasion?
Have you ever embraced someone? Why? Have you loved anyone? Have you ever experienced a peaceful time in your life. What did that feel like?
Now let’s think about the other times in our lives. Has someone you love died? Were they young or old? Does that matter? Should that matter?
Have you ever killed someone? What were the circumstances? Has anyone ever killed someone you loved?
Who have you mourned? What have you wept over? Has there been a time in your life when you have needed to not hug someone? Have you ever given up on something or someone very important to you? Have you ever thrown someone away?
Do you hate anyone? Why? Does anyone hate you? What are some synonyms for hatred?
Why do we have wars? Is there ever a lovely thing about a war?
The 29:11 Story
The destroyer, this angel of death on the downfall of the Old Testament on the 29:11 Story, is a beautiful but grey or black crystal bead. This destroying angel is part of Moses’ story. Black is what I have chosen to represent death. That makes sense to me. Death is darkness; it is the absence of light. And what is light, and who created light? Who created our sun and our moon? God, the Holy Family, did: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1: 16
Each 29:11 Story has three black beads within the story of Jesus’ life as he halts the Old Testament’s fall and brings humanity in an upward arc back to God. Three black beads representing death on an upward arc? These three beads are critical in telling God’s Story.
We’ve discussed the first black bead that represents both Jesus’ Last Supper and his crucifixion. When I “read” the 29:11 Story, I always say that this is where God’s Story fails as I hold the beginning clasp and let the rest of the beaded wire fall. Now the Last Supper bead has become the Crucifixion as Christ’s beloved creation has put both our creator and our Messiah Savior to death.
This bead is preceded by a bead that looks like an alabaster vase full of nard and spices. This is Mary Magdalene, the beloved follower of Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene beautifully ushers in the new Christian church; she has witnessed the Risen Christ. This bead will be echoed by two other beads that are on the 29:11 Story: Church age believers and Revelation’s Seven Churches. These three beads are cream colored, a mix of beautiful pure white and dirty brown. We, as believers in Christ, are the body of Christ but we are not yet the Bride of Christ. Can you find the bead for Christ’s Bride? What color is she? Where is she found on the Story? She is radiant white, full of light and purity. She will be brought home to the wedding feast of her bridegroom, Christ. All in good time ... all in the fullness of time ...
After this black bead of death, the crucifixion, is Judas, a red bead; he has refused the Lord’s offer of repentance and met his death in a horrible suicide. He has allowed Satan to rule him.
But the next bead on the 29:11 Story that follows Judas is a beautiful clear crystal bead that represents the angel announcing the empty tomb, another black bead. The Son of God, Christ, resurrected, has defeated both sin and its horrible, conceived “child” of death. Because of this, the creation will become the adopted child of God, the Father, and the Bride of Christ.
Now, in the fullness of time, a profound mystery is revealed. Pain and anguish will be turned to joy, like a mother in labor, greeting her newborn. The Holy Family did not and has not failed. Satan has not overcome them. The Old Testament angel of death is replaced by the New Testament angels announcing resurrection over death. The light and darkness of the angel of death are separated as the righteous light of Christ has overcome death:
The third and last black bead? It is Saul…
William died in May. Near Christmas, I had lunch with a group of women I didn’t know very well. One of them I knew had lost a son. After lunch, in the parking lot, she said, “I have a Christmas gift for you.” Here’s her gift:
She told me about the birth of her prematurely born triplets. All three were born alive, but the two little girls died shortly after birth. The boy, her son, Bo, survived but he was very compromised. I remember seeing this mother and this precious boy at McDonald’s once. Bo was wheelchair bound and couldn’t talk. But he could laugh! There was so much joy in that small body.
Luanne told me about how Bo rode “the short bus” everyday to a school for special needs children. He had three best friends, his own “posse”: CJ who could talk but walked with crutches, Trina who could talk but was wheelchair bound, and Michael, who could walk and talk but had also suffered from cerebral palsy.
Bo was the oldest of four in his family. He was a small boy with a big presence. He died when he was 15. CJ died at age 17. This is where Luanne’s gift to me begins. One morning, when he was 21 years old, Michael’s mother came into his bedroom to give him some important news. His door was open, unusual for him, Michael slept with his door closed. He was lying in bed, looking very peaceful. “What’s happened, Michael?” his mother asked. “This morning, early this morning, I woke wide awake. Trina, CJ, and Bo opened my door and walked into my room! Bo walked and talked! They were all so tall and so beautiful.” he said. “What did they say?” his mother asked. “They told me that it is so beautiful where they are and they wanted me to come with them. I told them that I wasn’t ready yet and they said they would be back when I am ready.” The news Michael’s mother had come to tell her son, Michael, was that Trina had died early that morning.
What a gift! Like Mary, I have treasured up this story and pondered it in my heart. But that’s not the end of that lovely gift to me. Several years later, I was volunteering at the public library with our Adult Learning Center. One of my students was a young man who was physically compromised by spinal bifida. I would have to pull him out of the library’s lounge area for our lessons. He was always surrounded by a small group of young adults who had special needs. They had their own “posse.” This was their gathering place.
One morning, I decided to share Michael and Luanne’s story. As I told this favorite story, I watched the groups’ eyes get wider and wider. It is such a lovely story. But when I finished, one of them, a young man, said, “That’s My story, I’m Michael! Trina was my girlfriend, Bo and CJ were my friends!”
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
Who wrote The Book of Ecclesiastes. Where is he located on the 29:11 Story? Old or New Testament?
What do you know about Mary Magdalene? Was she a prostitute? Read the beginning of Luke 8.
What do we know about the mother of James and John? Read Matthew 20: 20-28
What happened to Enoch and Elijah? Read Genesis 5:21-24 and 2 Kings 2: 1-18.
Read all of 1 Corinthians 15. Who wrote this? Who has explained this to him? Where are our loved ones who have already passed from their earthly bodies? What is the time frame here?
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” What does this mean?
What does Jesus say about this? John 14: 1-4
We’ve studied the passage surrounding the following verse: Luke 10: 20. "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” What does this mean?
At the Last Supper, his last supper, Jesus tells his disciples: :…Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. What did he mean?
Read John 2:19-20? How long was Jesus dead?
Read Revelation 11: 15-19.
We’ve just read about the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11. Now read the entire chapter. What happens to these two witnesses? Who are they? What is their purpose?
What about our promised resurrections? Read Revelation 20: 1-6
Matthew 24: 30-31. Now read the entire chapter. This is where we are going.
Is there a time for war in Revelation?
Where is death at the end of the end times? Read Revelation 20: 11-15 and Revelation 21: 1-5.