Over the past couple of months, I did something that some folks consider to be a silly waste of time. I reread through a fiction series that I greatly enjoy. This was not, however, the second time I have worked through this five-book set. In fact, this is probably the fourth or fifth time that I have read these novels.
Think of how silly that is. I already know how the stories will end. I cannot be surprised by the twists and turns in the fight scenes. I can, from time to time, predict the dialogue that will come as familiarity prompts.
But, I keep reading. While some say they cannot rewatch a movie or reread a novel, I, for whatever reason, find it to be great. As I said in a Facebook post about this set, if you can read a book for the fourth time and still feel the same emotions you felt on your first read through, it must be a very, very good book.
I also have to confess that I almost wish that I could press a button and clear my brain’s memory of the novel. I would love to erase my knowledge of what is to come in order to allow myself to again be surprised or afraid without knowing what is coming next. I’d like to be able to laugh at the jokes as if they were the first time that I had heard them.
I also find myself wondering how great it would be to be able, just for a moment, to do the same thing with the Scripture. How neat would it be, for example, to again hear the story of Jesus for the very first time? How crazy would it feel, as an adult, to hear the words of the angel at the tomb speaking to the women?
Matthew 28:5-7 – 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
I wonder how stunned I would be to read that the women, who had just experienced the greatest in let-downs, went to the tomb on Sunday morning to perform burial rights for Jesus. Suddenly, they are met, not by the soldiers they expected, but by a shining angel from God. There is an earthquake. The stone is rolled back, the soldiers pass out. And then, the angel speaks. What message?
The angel tells the woman that he knows why they have come. They want to see Jesus’ body. But, the ladies are wrong. Jesus is not still dead. He has risen. He is alive.
Stop yourself mentally, shift gears, and think of how enormous those words are. Jesus was dead. They saw him die. They saw the blood. They saw the brutality. They saw the soldier’s spear slide up under his rib cage toward his heart. They saw the flow of fluids out that gash in his side that would kill any normal man. But he was already dead. They saw him wrapped up, carried off, and buried. And they knew this from Friday afternoon, over Saturday, and through Sunday morning. Jesus was dead.
Now, as they go to the tomb, weeping and dejected, they see an angel. That is not normal. This human-looking man wore clothes that shined like lightning. He is obviously holy, far different than any human they have ever met—well, other than Jesus. And this angel says Jesus is not here. The angel says Jesus is alive.
Consider the stunning reversal. Jesus was defeated, at least to all physical eyes. But that is reversed. He lives. He breathes. His heart beats. He is again walking around the countryside. If death cannot beat him, what possibly could?
How great would it be for us to learn this glorious truth again for the first time? It would be wonderful to gasp at the unbelievable truth that the dead Savior is now alive, that he is conquered death, that he has fully paid for our sins, and that he is ready to welcome us into his family. Every other great figure of human history died. Every other religious leader from the past is in a grave. But Jesus lives! This is stunning. This is glorious! May we let it surprise us again so that we might experience its beauty, no matter how many times we have heard the story.