“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” – Mark 16:6
My family and I have been spending the last few weeks performing what could be akin to “Swedish death cleaning.” That is not the best phrase, right? But it is apropos. It comes from the Swedish word, döstädning, which gives us this literal translation – death cleaning. The idea is simple, as we get older in life, we accumulate a lot of things - clothes, books, craft supplies, tools, music, and on and on. What the Swedes have tried to share, which is similar to the work of Marie Kondo, is to strip away from ourselves the clutter we have collected in order to relieve that burden from our spouse or children upon our death. (Point of clarification – I don’t believe any of us are near death…) A little morbid, I know, but it seems to work and be necessary at times. You look at an item and wonder, “Will someone miss this? Will someone see in this a memory of me? Would they want it now, rather than finding it after I am gone?” All good questions. In so doing, we clear out things we have held onto that are not useful for memories or joyful living, and instead you get to pass on those things to those who may love them now.
As we enter this coming season of Easter, what we are leaving behind us is a Lent that helped us to see our sins, to know our need for Jesus, and to anticipate the coming Easter morning in which we announce that “HE IS RISEN!” With that tiding of good news comes a relieving of burdens. The sins you clutch tightly to your chest in order to beat yourself up time and time again, or the ones committed against you that you refuse to forget so you might use them against your spouse or neighbor when the time is right? Well, those are not yours anymore. Believe it or not, Christ at the cross has entered into the basement of your soul and gone through all those memories, all those pains and sorrows, and he stole them away from you. He took them with him to the cross so that they might die with him. He has done the essential death cleaning of your life by literally dying in order to clear out the clutter you refuse to let go of.
The Easter season (and it is a season – 50 days!!) then becomes the celebration of a lifetime. Celebrating the freedom Christ has won by releasing you from all that junk you carry around. All the shame and guilt, the “what-if’s” and the “sorry-for’s”. But in Easter, you also are celebrating the fact that you hear the announcement of the angel – “He is not here!” He is not in the tomb anymore. Meaning that all the sins of all the world were not strong enough to keep him there, and he has destroyed the power they have over you, winning the victory over your sin.
Often, we are ones who hide our sins because we think if people knew who we really were, we would want to die. Or if we unload them, especially the sins that have happened against us, then we will not be able to protect ourselves from the next time our brother or sister sins against us. If we do, we lose our edge and we give up our leverage. But Jesus says to you, “Sorry, but that is how life works this side of the empty tomb. All the weapons we use to fight our battles with sin and one another have been blunted. I am not there in the tomb anymore because I won all those wars with one swift victory. I won the battles in my blood shed for you at Calvary. If you want them back – Good luck.”
Having removed our sin, what he replaces it with is joy. Joy in his resurrection. Joy in knowing that we don’t have to play the shell game of hiding our trespasses. We can openly confess them knowing that he will forgive because he died for them already. And then we take this message, and we give it away to our friends and enemies so that we might forgive them and they might forgive us, which then brings them joy as well. Because otherwise, all we do in our life is try to atone for our own failings, or destroy one another so we might not feel as bad about ourselves. No dice. Christ Jesus has done the ultimate death cleaning for you. Now, allow that to be so for you each day this season. Meditate on that phrase – “He is not here.” Because he is not in the tomb anymore. And the tomb of your soul, where you feel those hurts and hatred’s? They are not there either. Instead, Jesus has already cleaned those out. They are gone, and he has put himself there instead. Know that all the places where you look for them are empty, and in their place is only joy. Joy in the One who cleansed you by his death.