Matthew 27:57-61 (New Living Translation)
As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.
A few weeks ago, my friend Jason came into my office with a challenge. He would be preaching the Easter services at our church, and was thinking about a picture for the bulletin cover. He said:
“Can you make an image of a tree growing out of a coffin?”
Immediately my brain started buzzing with what the tree would look like, and its fabulous theological implications. I already had a full schedule of things I needed to get done that day, but Jason knows that when a new idea for art takes a hold of me, everything else fades into the background. For me, it is always a joy to create something new. I love taking an abstract vision in my head and forcing it into concrete reality.
But this image felt particularly poignant to me, as Jason had recently returned to work at Aldersgate. This time last year, he was in the midst of intensive chemotherapy, fighting what he called “stage serious” Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Frankly, we weren’t sure that he would make it back.
When a friend who has gone through that kind of hell-on-earth asks for an image of life emerging out of death… well… you just have to take that seriously.
By the next morning, this Easter image was born.
As I worked on it, I prayed for Jason’s continuing health and for his family. But I also thought about those followers of Jesus who, disillusioned and terrified, had scattered when Jesus was arrested. Those disciples who heard the news of his crucifixion, and whose blood seemed to stop in their veins as they grieved the death of the one in whom they had put all their hope. Those friends of Jesus who stood helplessly by as his body was laid in the tomb… and as the air rang with the noise of that great stone dropping into place in front of the tomb’s entrance.
They didn’t know that in the dark of that grave,
the seeds of Easter were already sending forth shoots.
Easter is coming!