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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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When Empty Is Good

Posted by admin in April 11th, 2009
Published in Uncategorized

Easter, in my opinion, is the most important holiday of the year. The most important holiday ever! This is the time that we acknowledge the life-giving death and resurrection of Jesus. Christmas is great. I love Thanksgiving. But Easter is the big one. Easter is the essential holiday!

There are two specific events in the Easter narrative that shout at me the truth, the whole truth, of the Gospel message. These two events are “the Gospel in a nutshell.”

The first one is Peter’s denial of Christ just hours before the Crucifixion. This really is the story of Christianity—at least my story anyway. Here’s a guy that followed Jesus, saw all the miracles, hung out with him, heard Jesus pray and when the rubber met the road, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. I’ve done that. Not directly denied Jesus, but each and every time I disobey him, each and every time I sin, it’s a denial of who he is, his love for me, his power being manifested in my life. Sin is for all intents and purposes–denial.

So Peter denies Jesus. We have no record that he showed up for the Crucifixion and this is the guy who said, “Don’t just wash my feet, but my hands and my head as well.” Gung ho Peter. Cutting off the soldier’s ear, saying he would never deny Christ, wanting all of Jesus, claiming to be Jesus’s most devoted disciple–Peter. “Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you’” (Matthew 26:34). I will never leave you Jesus. I will never desert you. I will never disobey you. I will never betray you. And he did. Just as I have. Just as all of us have in one way or another. But Easter came and the messenger at the tomb said something so amazing, yet simple, “A young man, dressed in a white robe…said to them…go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus is going to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:5-7). AND PETER…Jesus knew Peter. He knew Peter would have a hard time forgiving himself. He knew Peter would be beating himself up over denying Christ. He knew Peter needed a special invitation, an affirmation that he too was to be in Galilee along side all the other disciples. A message that Peter was not excluded. Jesus was telling Peter “All is forgiven. Please come and meet me.” The Gospel of Luke tells us that Peter got up when he heard the news and he ran to the tomb. He ran to the tomb and he wondered at what he saw there. Then he remembered all that Jesus had said about his resurrection, his death, his purpose in coming to humankind.

I love this because it means that when I have betrayed, disobeyed, and yes denied Christ that he also invites me back into his loving arms and Jesus doesn’t hold grudges. He forgives. He forgets. He cleanses. And Teri. And you. And all who long to be forgiven.

The second “Gospel nutshell” is in the Book of John…Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus at the tomb. This story is so compelling. Mary is distraught, confused, lost, feeling abandoned once again by a man, alone, heartbroken. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever needed Jesus to show up and seemed he didn’t? She invested her whole life in his ministry; she gave up everything to follow him and now he was dead. Not quite sure what to do, she went to the tomb to tend his body out of respect; out of love and now he’s not only dead–he’s gone. The very person she had invested her whole life into was gone, without a trace, as if he had never existed. How frightening that must have been. How absolutely awful to think that everything she believed in had come to nothing. An empty tomb. She didn’t even have a body to bury; to mourn over.

Hopeless. Foolish. Scared.

I’ve felt like that before. Loving Jesus is easy. Following him is hard. Especially when I feel abandoned and forsaken. I’ve had times when I didn’t know where he was. When I looked for him and couldn’t find him. Times when I felt as though my commitment and sacrifices to him were for nothing. I know what it’s like to pray and cry out and beg God to answer my prayer and it seems as though he is silent, gone. I hate when I feel empty. Alone. I think I can understand Mary’s feelings at that moment in time.

I see her standing there at that empty tomb not realizing its vacancy is actually very good news! (Humans!) And when he does show up, she is so distressed she doesn’t even recognize him. I’ve done that too, Mary. But then it happens–the moment that her life is forever changed. The moment that everything gets put back into place. The moment He speaks her name.

“Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she looked in and she saw two angels sitting where Jesus’s body had been…They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where…’ When she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. He said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, please tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!'” (John 20:11-16).

He said her name. He spoke her name. And when she heard him speak her name she saw and realized then that he had been there all along. He had not forsaken her. He had not abandoned her. He called her by name. And suddenly in that moment Mary’s life made sense again. In that moment she knew it was all worth it.

I pray this Easter, if you need it as desperately as I, you’ll hear Jesus, the Risen Lord, speak your name. And perhaps the emptiness you might be experiencing will be good news because it allows Jesus more space to fill in your life. Peace.

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114. big sister said,
April 14th, 2009 at 10:24 am

Wow – I think you do not need to hear my comments as your own words stand alone – fully impacting lives and hearts of the weary, lost, down-trodden, those in need of a Saviour speaking their name – PRAISE GOD!

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115. susan said,
April 14th, 2009 at 11:31 am

Thanks Teri – this reminds me of the verse in Isaiah 49: “I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands.”

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