Saturday, April 23, 2011

The First Day

John needed time to clear his head, to take in the enormity of it. Too much had happened too quickly – in the space of a mere 3 days he had moved from deadly, grinding despair to dizzying wonder, and he felt overwhelmed. What did it all mean? It was the first day of the week, but now it was also the first day of something else. Something had changed forever, and now, while the markets bustled and the soldiers marched, it was a different world .. a (he fumbled for the concept) .. new creation. Yes, that was it, a new creation – the first day of a new creation!

Since he was a small child he had known the creation story, and how, on that first day of all, the Lord had spoken, “Let there be light!” and light had shone into the darkness, and wherever light shone, the darkness retreated, for the darkness could not overcome it. Light was stronger. And now, in the darkest place of all, the tomb, the sealed off place behind the stone, light had broken forth. Death was no more the unbreachable darkness, for Jesus Himself had gone down into death, into the terror and the horror, and had overcome them with His life. Death had been broken. Life had broken forth, and that life was the light of men.

He remembered how he had heard Jesus speak of Himself as the Light of the World; at the time it had seemed poetic and attractive, now he saw it was nothing less than the literal truth. There was a hideous, skulking darkness in the heart of each human being, and its tentacles reached out and sucked the life from everything that human beings tried to do and build together. It was a darkness so great that many were unable to recognise the light of Light when he stood in their presence; he had come unto his own people, the children of Abraham, and instead of loving the light they had turned their backs on it, on him, and done whatever it took to make that horrid light go away, even to the point of crucifying him.

John wept. Even in the wonder of this golden morning, that wound was still too raw. So short a while before they had leaned close together, and shared from the same dish as they recounted the ancient story of deliverance: how only the blood of a slain lamb, painted on the doorposts, had stood between the firstborn of Israel and death. And then .. his body .. so horribly broken .. the rage.. the cruelty .. the spitefulness .. the petty meannesses of their injured pride .. all had been poured forth on him, had broken over him like a mighty wave of destruction, a storm that had pulled him down to the depths of Hades. The darkness had not understood Him, and where it did not understand, it hated. And they had strung up his body on that hateful cross, as if to prove that they had finally utterly beaten him. And, through blinding tears, John had watched him die, and all their hope die with him.

And yet .. Jesus Himself had said that if he were lifted up he would draw all men unto himself. At the time it had meant nothing – what could it mean? – but now the sense of it was starting to form a pattern in his mind. The Passover lamb, dying in the people’s place, the creator beginning a new creation, and calling them to come and join him, skipping over the darkened hills of their distress towards a dawn that was breaking over history. If death could be overcome, what else was possible? The same Word which had spoken the world into being on that very first day had walked among them for a season, the Father’s own glory walking in their midst; and then, in their place, had walked, deliberately, into death itself, that there he might speak that word by which death should be destroyed.

And this was just the first day.

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