The Wright Side: Let Their Be Life! (Mar 1993)

By Matt Dabbs

by Jeff Berryman
March, 1993

10

Easter

Easter Week. Pink bunnies. Chocolate-covered rabbits. Rainbowed eggs. “Santa Rabbit” coming down spring chimneys bearing presents from the North Warren, no doubt without his reindeer. More hard-earned money out the door on weird celebratory paraphernalia.

I must confess that, growing up, Easter was not my favorite holiday. Shiny black shoes and squinting photo shoots in the sun are my childhood markers of this resurrection madness. Any detail of my early Easters is lost, but sadly, I am sure I never thought much about Jesus, or about his rising from the dead.

But one year, with Easter coming, I’d been thinking about Jesus. About his last week, and some of his last thoughts. Don’t get me wrong – meditation was not the cornerstone of my mornings, and prayer and study were not included in the routine any more than usual. Those thoughts of Jesus had tricked me, surprised me, bumped into me, caught me up short. He was in my brain as I rounded the corner of the theater, as I stood in the grocery line, as I held my daughter while she faded into the simple sleep of a child.

Perhaps he wanted me to think of him, to remember, to imagine. Perhaps he was asking me to meditate on the event of history.

Crucifixion

I close my eyes, and place myself on a cross on Golgotha. I try to feel the military hand raking, crashing across my cheeks and nose, blazing with fire and rage. I allow the robe its silken touch on my cherry-red, strip-torn shoulders. The tearing moves to my scalp, and a thorn grown only for this one moment rests just above my eye, and with one wrenching twist the point assaults my skin, digging beneath my bruised forehead. Blood dances with sweat inside my sight, hiding my eyes, and i imagine my wrists on the cross, where they are split apart with wilding pain. The hammer glances off the nail and slams my fingers, and I am a maimed man, a man twisted from life’s axis. I am suspended, listening, muttering, shaking away the Satan, yelling, listening to the pounding agony of my heart. the Angels roar like raging animals, cornered, straining at the leash, wanting the fight, wanting the salvation of God, not realizing its very presence in my cry.

I am John, or Mark, or Thomas. My face is tight with tears, and I stand transfixed by this unbelievable sight. Jesus. His face hangs almost to his belly, his arms joined in a grotesque backwards “V.” Jesus is dead. A memory flashes – of laughing with him. He often joked about death, told us stories that we never quite knew how to hear, let us believe that he might even “come back from the dead.” But I see the soldier stab the lance through his body. Jesus’ life oozes, slips to the ground, splashing and staining the soldier’s torso. The Roman gestures obscenely, madly wiping at this slime of a man, at the fluid blood and water, and I, as John, Mark, or Thomas watch, afraid and still. This man is dead. This is no joke. I whisper. Jesus!

And I, the disciple, finally close this curtain, and step away, numb, utterly blown out, kicking dust.

I am on my knees, not in adoration or fervor, but in fatigue. In confusion. It rains. I lie face down in the mud, weeping, fusing my grief with the earth’s, sharing the fall, sharing what must be the coming of hell.

Burial

I sit in one corner of the burial chamber. My mind is strapped to the slab of rock on which the body of Jesus rests. I see nothing. Deep, empty dark envelops me. Am I here? Am I alive? This tomb is for quiet, is for death, is for the cracking of ancient bones, the decaying of used-up beings. My senses bulge, faintly grasping for something – anything – to affirm my existence. No air. No motion. Even the minutiae of the small world, the microscopic mourners, the bugs, they too have gone, abandoning this God-forsaken cavern. There is no sense of time. The eternal now. The eternal never. No drip, drip, dripping of the clock.

One sound catches me. Like a child oblivious, my heart thumps senselessly on, drumming a dumb rhythm, a clown pounding on a bucket. Hollow blood sits still in my stopped-up veins, and how can I breathe death? This day is Everyday, the moment Every moment, and the Fall of Man, and God, and reality, comes like a cloud into its temple, and silent howls carom from this rocky black to a silken abyss somewhere just this side of hell.

Where is Jesus? Over on the slab of rock. No. That’s a mummy, wrapped in shrouds and spices, encased in a hundred pounds of dark. But it was Jesus. His body breathed, not 30 hours ago. He bled red, coughed a real phlegm, gasped a real surprise. He was there, and now he’s not. Gone to hell, or to God knows where, and I’m left alone in this damp hole in the ground. I’m stuck, I suppose. I can’t move – if I stood up to walk, my life would explode, and I would vanish into nothing … nothing. I must wait.

Wait? Wait for what?

There is nothing coming. No change I can imagine. So.

No wonder Jesus is not here.

The tomb of Jesus, at least my corner of it, on this Saturday, feels a lot like hell.

Resurrection

The earth spins along the calendar, rotating to Sunday, while a rising sun marks the day’s arrival. But this arrival is special. This sun shakes in apprehension. Galaxies are cracking, and the arch of Time bows in deference to the shouting heavens. The God of beginning is coming, and the Spirit hovering over the dark chaos is beginning to move.

The enemy roams the deepest caverns of space, sulking, beaten, weary, discouraged, disillusioned. His black eyes weep blood red, and his spirit crumples, whining over an inevitable life. An inevitable death.

In my mind, I sit in the corner of the tomb, waiting.

Waiting.

In the dark, something moves. In the stillness, there’s a sound. In the quiet, the air begins to shiver, and the tomb stirs. Smells from another world confuse me, and I press against the wall, trying to hide, afraid of the power coming, encasing the cave. I cannot close my eyes, lest my lids be torn away. I am strained to breaking, every fiber fiercely vibrates with an ancient energy. There is something like light – first here, over there, glowing, searing, working. The walls have opened, the hillside has disappeared, and all the universe is pouring in. Specks of dust are planets dancing in a new creation. Stars surround the dead man, and something sounds, a voice, an ocean, an exploding nova, and in now way explainable, I understand the thought in the voice.

“Let there be Life!”

Waking invades the dark, and layers of hell peel away. The burial clothes begin to burn, white flame warring with black, and the enemy’s dying cries rise visibly before me. They are skeletal sounds gasping, a gaping wound whose edges vainly grope to hold the blood running from the skin’s tear. Death’s grip slips, and ghostly fingers, bony, black, wearing Murder’s ring, slap onto the slab, pushing against the raging, seething power. A pulse erupts, the heartbeat of eternity, and a visible wind storms the room. This is the breath of life – I know it. It envelops me, touches me – I am transparent, blazing with a before-life, breathing glory, each breath laboring from my terrored chest, creating worlds, singing stars into shining.

All at once, silence. The symphony ceases. An effervescence fills the cavern, a glow, a shimmering; lightly golden air hangs above me, and I work again, straining to see, straining to apprehend a God. On the slab of rock now sits an upright figure, a man, an utter newness. He is present in ways I cannot name. This is creation unlike any before. In his simplicity, in his nakedness, in his presence, resides Forever. How do I explain? In the aftermath of war, in this warm peace, I gaze at the victor, at Jesus, and everything is clear. he embodies. Here is all that is known. He sits in quiet, his chest rising and falling in a process familiar, but strangely unknown. This is essence. This is Life. The room is a window, a door, an opening through which a new reality is pouring, centering itself in the chest and heart of this … this … this man, this risen figure, this … I know not what. This God.

The world of shadow and blaze inhabited by goblins, dreams, angels, devils and gods is now my world. The seen intersects with the unseen, and I have been crushed and raised in the joining.

Jesus raises his face, looking up, looking in, seeing all. Now there are two figures. A third is suddenly beside him. And a fourth. Jesus robes himself with glory, with a white that shouts of splendor with clothes burning, clothes that only God can wear. There are silent embraces all around, and worship, though I cannot say how I know this is worship. A silent language is shared among these beings but it climbs to heaven, filled with praise, filled with thanks, filled with love. Then smiles, then laughter, then glad shouts bounce eternity throughout the room. The place is filled with angels, their bodies pressed forward, all straining to touch the Liberator, the Life, the King.

A sun is rising in the east. Its dawn light filters down the hillside, and spring floods the air, and the angels take their leave, save two. Jesus, silently, calmly, takes the burial cloths in hand, folds them, and holds them for a moment, thinking, musing, praying. he lays them aside and strides for the door.

The tomb is empty of Jesus, filled with Forever.

The angels look at me, and we all smile. Then we laugh, and I am in my car, rocketing down South 1st Street in my Toyota, running to worship, seeking my God, seeking his children, seeking a world to tell.New Wineskins

Jeff Berryman lives in Abilene, Texas with his wife, Angie, and their two children. he shares his creative gifts with the Highland Church of Christ.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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