Scripture: John 20:1; 11-18, NIV
The U.S. government said that the week of April 5 would be the toughest week of the coronavirus pandemic! That week was Holy Week. It commemorated Jesus’ toughest week!
On Sunday, Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. The crowd shouted, “Hosanna!” and waved palm branches. By Thursday, Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples. He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and dragged from one kangaroo court to another. The same crowd that shouted “Hosanna” on Sunday cried “Crucify Him!” on Thursday. On Friday, following betrayal, arrest, desertion, false trials, denial, condemnation, beatings and mockery, Jesus was required to carry his cross to The Place of the Skull.
Jesus traveled the Via Dolorosa. Jesus was nailed to the cross. He died on the cross. Jesus was taken down from the cross. His body was placed in the tomb. Two weeks ago was supposed to be the worst week of the COVID-19 virus. That week was Jesus’ toughest week of his earthly life.
Yet, the toughest week in Jesus’ life is the best week in the lives of all Christians. Had Jesus not died on the Cross of Calvary, our souls would be lost! For every Good Friday, there is a Resurrection Sunday!
Shelter in place means to find a safe location indoors. Jesus’ body was sheltered in place. Jesus’ body was sheltered in cave or a cocoon. To cocoon means to wrap or envelop. Today, we are ordered to remain in our places of shelter. Our homes have become our cocoons — places of shelter — places of protection.
Oftentimes, struggles are exactly what we need in our lives to strengthen us. I asked for strength, and God gave me difficulties to make me strong. I asked for wisdom, and God gave me problems to solve. I asked for prosperity, and God gave me a brain and brawn to work. I asked for courage, and God gave me danger to overcome. I asked for love, and God gave me troubled people to help. I asked for favors, and God gave me opportunities. I asked for forgiveness and God gave me enemies to forgive. I received nothing I asked for, but God gave me everything I needed! God gave us Jesus, his only begotten Son! The transformative process will make us stronger and better or sad and bitter.
Shelter in place. Find a safe location indoors. Stay there until you get an “all clear” or told to “come out, come out wherever you are.” Some time between the sealing of the tomb and Mary’s arrival at the tomb, Jesus received an “all clear,” a sign to “evacuate,” a signal from God to “get up!”
When Mary Magdalene arrived at Jesus’ tomb, the tomb was open, the stone had been rolled away, but Jesus’ body was not there. The tomb was empty. In Matthew’s gospel, the angel announced, “He is Risen.” In Mark’s gospel, a young man dressed in a white robe announced, “He is Risen.”
In Luke’s gospel, two men in shining garments asked them, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” In John’s gospel, Jesus appeared to Mary. Nobody told her, “He is risen.” She saw the risen Jesus for herself. She ran and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord!
Right now, we are all ordered to shelter in place. What will you look like when the quarantine is over? Will you look like that couple in the cartoon I saw on Facebook: “Now how are we going to get out?” They were too fat to fit through the door.
I hear the Holy Spirit asking the body of believers, “When you evacuate, what will you look like?” Will you still be churching, but not changing; praying, but not putting your faith in action; singing, but not set free; speaking in tongues, but not speaking to your neighbor; dancing, but not delivered; dressed casket sharp, but not heaven ready; hooping and hollering, but not humble; meeting and eating and greeting inside the walls of the church, but not doing missionary work outside the walls of the church?
When you evacuate, will you do more turning to your neighbor than turning from sin (repentance)? Will you do more conferences than confession of sin? No more playing church! When you evacuate your shelter, make that change and be the TRUE church!
A caterpillar folds into a cocoon, dies, bursts forth as a butterfly. A seed falls to the ground, gets eaten by the soil, and shoots up. A tree sheds its leaves, sprouts buds, and dazzles the world with newborn flowers. A flower buds, blooms, then eventually withers and dies. A person is born of a woman, lives and eventually dies.
Passion week was the worst week in Jesus’ life. He was crucified on Calvary. Holy week was Jesus’ toughest week… But, thank God for Sunday. He rose! Jesus evacuated the cocoon of the tomb.
Jesus’ death is the way of Christ. Jesus’ death is the way of creation. Jesus’ death is the way of Christians. Jesus’ resurrection is the way to eternal life. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
A relationship with God through Jesus Christ, led by the Holy Spirit is everything we need! In the meantime…in the between time…I’m going to shelter in place until God calls my name. I’m going to shelter in place until He returns.
The Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor is the senior pastor of Brookins-Kirkland Community AME Church in Los Angeles.