HE IS NOT HERE
Tad Mitsui, Easter, 1996
One day, I ran into a crowd of people who were watching a dead person being dragged out of the water. It was a long time ago. I was on the way home from school. At first, I was afraid to look. But curiosity got the better of me, and I joined the crowd of spectators. It was not a pretty sight. Suddenly there was a shriek. A woman was running down the river bank. She grabbed the body and hugged the lifeless figure, while she cried aloud. She could have been the mother, or maybe the wife. Whoever it was, it was obvious that the drowned person was someone special to her. I felt ashamed, watching this tragedy as though it was a spectacle. For those who did not know the man, it was just another dead body. But for the woman who loved him, it was an entirely different experience. It was the body of a person she loved, from whom separation was an impossible nightmare.
We can not understand resurrection, unless we love someone dearly. We can not understand resurrection unless we know that there is difference between the spiritual body and the mere physical body. We can not believe in resurrection, if we think that we are just flesh on some bones. But when we recognize spiritual elements of our existence as reality, we will be transformed into another being. When I became a father, for example, it was a spiritual experience. When I saw my daughter for the first time, she honestly looked to me like an ugly lump of flesh. But soon a something hit me inside. The realization engulfed me; it was my own child. That same lump of flesh was transformed into a being with an entirely different significance. She had become someone who would always remain an integral part of my being and for whose safety I would even exchange my life.
When we speak about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are speaking about this special aspect of life, which turns a mere physical entity into a precious being with infinite significance. When two women, both called Mary, came to the tomb to put spice and ointment on Christ”s body, they found it empty. An angel told them that Jesus was not there. He had risen and went to Galilee. The angel also told them that there was no use looking for the living person among the dead.
When you love someone, there is an added dimension to the physical body of the one you love. That extra dimension goes beyond this visible world. When someone you love dies, for you, this person changes appearance. It is difficult to adjust to the new manifestation, because your love has been attached to the physical body you became familiar with. But soon you will know that a spiritual existence lives on, even though it is not visible in this world. Even if your memory fades, spiritual life goes on in God”s love. This is how we believe in eternal life. Eternal life is the life that lives on in the realm of God”s loving care. Science says that there is no evidence to prove that there is spiritual reality, and that life goes on in another form. It does not matter what science says, because science deals only with the physical aspects of this visible world. We know that there is a lot more to our existence beyond the mere touchable and visible reality.
So if you look for loved ones only in this visible world, there is no end to grief. The angel said to the women at the tomb, "He is not here. He went to Galilee." In other words, there is no use looking for the living person in this perishable world. He went ahead of you to your home in Galilee. Some students of the Bible suggest that Galilee traditionally meant a frontier, beyond which there is an unknown territory. It was not the known world of politics and religion like Jerusalem. He went to the frontier, into the future, in his new form of life. Jesus was the first one to put on this new life. When Mary said to the dispirited disciples, "I have seen the Lord.", she was testifying to the new form of reality. It was a spiritual experience but real. I can say it was real, because that is the only explanation for how a group of people in absolute despair suddenly turned into a band of brave, even reckless, evangelists, people who dared to talk about the one executed for blasphemy as Messiah.
You can not mourn the dead for ever. You have to get on with your life and venture into the future, into an unknown territory of living. Then you will find your loved one there – in the future. He has preceded you to Galilee – to your future. It is difficult to forget the body which the loved one used to wear, because that is what you knew. But the real person you loved has simply changed into another attire and has preceded you into the future.
When risen Jesus appeared before Mary Magdalene, she first thought that he was a gardener. It was only when he called her name, she realized that it was her master, the one she loved dearly. The shriek of a woman changed an ugly drowned body into someone”s loving husband or son. When I saw my own daughter, first I only saw a lump of flesh, until magic of love triggered a whole chain reaction of mind and emotion to make me realize that it was my own flesh and blood. It is only when a gardener changes into Jesus Christ, that the spiritual body becomes visible to us. Death is not the end. It is a door into another reality, into the spiritual world. Jesus Christ is not here. He is no longer with us in this perishable domain. But He is risen and lives with us for ever.