a Crib, a Cross, a Cave
By Jill Briscoe
Easter has come and gone for me 75 times. It wasn't until the 18th time around that I understood its meaning or why:
God in embryo
Growing to birth size
A baby boy became!
Here was a crib, cradling the One who came the hard way to save us.
One day an arrogant young student, without God, without Christ and without hope, stopped rushing around her college world speaking with great authority from the depths of her considerable ignorance about nothing very much, and took a hard look at a crib, a cross and a cave.
I found myself quite sick in the hospital. This was not on my agenda! Having survived World War II in Britain, I thought I had it made. But I was unaware that there was an unseen war and a much bigger battle going on. It was the battle for my soul - a soul I was not even sure I had! The ugly “I” in me stood tall with unbowed head defying my world. “I” would, I convinced myself as an idealistic teacher, change my world. I believed this, notwithstanding my ambivalence about little children and my small amount of interest in them beyond the classroom.
But now I found myself lying in my disinfected world unable to control my destiny. I couldn't even keep myself alive, I realized with an increasing sense of apprehension.
Janet, the girl in the next bed, smiled at me. What on earth did she have to smile about? She was a lot sicker than I! Then she told me. She was thinking about Easter.
“Easter is all about a cross,” Janet explained crisply. “We were not created to live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for us.”
She told me that egocentric people who lived only for themselves would never find fulfillment. Christianity was really about the “I” being crossed out.
“But what would 'I' have to give up?” I asked apprehensively.
“Only your sin,” she responded sweetly.
“Well, that couldn't be all that bad,” I thought.
Janet gave me a card with a poem that went something like this:
Not “I” but Christ
Lord, bend this proud and stiff-necked “I”
Help me to bow the neck and die
Beholding Him who died for me
As best I knew how, I asked Him to forgive my silly assumption that I, the created being, could ever hope to be anybody or achieve anything significant without the Creator. I asked Him to forgive my sin, which had prevented me from being a force for good and for God, and found my fears chased away in a personal experience of redemption. I discovered that being ready to die was the key to being ready to live!
Forty-eight years later the joy of my first Easter as a Jesus-lover and glory-giver remains, causing my spirit to sing, my soul to dance and my eyes to be full of hope and joy, for:
Joy is Jesus,
God in Galilean Cloth
Making my heart smile!
The crib is incredible, the cross indescribable. And the cave is the reason that I am a Christian today and not an adherent of another faith. Only the founder of Christianity came out of His own grave, by His own power. He had said to Pilate, “No man takes my life from me.”
Today you can go to mausoleums and visit the corpses of great leaders. You can visit Lenin's tomb in Moscow's Red Square where his body has been preserved. The archaeologists have unearthed in Egypt what is left of Tutankhamen, and you can stand in line to view the remains of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.
There are, however, no remains to visit in Jerusalem. It would be a waste of your time to visit Jesus' tomb except to step inside and marvel at the convincing argument of its triumphal emptiness. The very stones seem to echo the voice of the angel crying out, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen” (Lk. 24: 5-6)!
Who else, where else and when else did a dead man rise from the dead, body and all? This was not a different body. It was His own earthly Jewish body. It was in this body that He met Mary and the others in the garden on the day that He walked out of the cave and into our lives.
The crib is incredible, the cross is indescribable, the cave is indispensable with its message of hope for a dying and desperate planet full of people who cannot forgive their own sins, keep themselves alive or raise themselves from the dead. The empty cave is the reason my life is so full today - full of life and audacious laughing faith in the glorious God of Easter Sunday morning.