Dying, and Behold, We Live

Well, hello there. My name is Melissa. I used to be around here some. Forgive me for the awkward intrusion. This is less of an essay or a blog post and more like sharing some disjointed sentence-fragments I scribbled down this morning. I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes when I have the most in my heart, I am least able to write. But I guess I just wanted to write something, you know? You see, like the colors of spring, the beauty of Jesus is taking me again by surprise this Holy Week. Each Holy Week I wonder if the climactic narratives about Jesus will finally this time, this year, hit me flat. But they don’t. They seize me again.

Jesus seizes me.

I grew up in a Baptist church. My most vivid memories of the Easter season are from Palm Sunday, the big green palms and the choir decked in long white robes. And the hymns. But then I don’t remember much of anything between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Now, that could say more about me than it does my church tradition. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? (Also, I wasn’t paying that much attention.)

Several years ago now I got the opportunity to spend some time studying with teachers and students from other Christian denominations. I think often about words I first read those years ago from Walter Brueggemann. He said that the final three days of Passion (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) “must not be homogenized but must be kept discreet and distinctive, each for its own weightiness” (Brueggemann reviewing Alan E. Lewis’ Between Cross and Resurrection). For the first time, I learned to slow down and carefully take my time walking through Holy Week. My friends taught me to contemplate what the cross of Christ meant on its own terms, to confront the violence in my own heart on Good Friday. To feel the utter despair of dashed hopes and dreams on Holy Saturday. They introduced me to thinkers such as Paul W. Meyer who said things like: “We need sometimes to think about the crucifixion of Jesus as if there had been no resurrection just so that we might understand what the resurrection itself meant for those early Christians” (“The This-Worldliness of the New Testament” by Paul W. Meyer). Thinkers like Meyer forced me to tarry in front of Christ’s cross before rushing to that refrain so familiar to me, “Sunday’s coming!”

I’m currently finishing a wonderful book called A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014). Swoboda argues that Christian faith must enter all three days of the long weekend: “we must embrace the pain of Friday’s sunset, the awkwardness of Saturday’s silence, and the hopeful sunrise of Sunday morning.” Swoboda suggests that most of us, rather than entering the whole weekend, are selective about the one day we want to experience. Swoboda says that this picking and choosing creates three incomplete “knock-off” versions of Christianity:

“Friday Christianity is the religion of those who’ve chosen to find their identity in a spirituality of defeat, death, and loss. Their spiritual depth abides solely in the torment of the suffering on the cross . . . Sunday Christianity is equally problematic. These chipper, slick, ever-too-happy Christians see God in, and only in, victory, prosperity, and blessing . . . Sunday Christianity dismisses the realities of death and loss . . . Saturday Christianity is for those of us who’ve come to consider doubt and ambiguity as final destinations rather than conduits through which we actually enter into resurrection. When we celebrate only Holy Saturday, we believe, in our doubt and questioning, that we have permission to be cynics and deconstructionists—and that everyone should sit in our graves with us.”

I think Swoboda is right about this tendency. I can certainly see it in myself and I think I can see it in others around me too.  Even if I have learned to journey a little slower through Holy Week, to take each day on its own, at heart I have mostly just been a Holy Saturday Christian, I think. Swoboda helped me see that about myself and made me long for more.

Few Christian thinkers conceive of how the death of Jesus and the resurrected life of Jesus co-exist in the Christian as creatively as the apostle Paul. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Cor. 1.8-10 ESV)

And Paul continues a few chapters later:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4.8-12 ESV)

Paul not only speaks of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings, he also speaks of sharing in his comfort (2 Cor. 1.3-6). Most stunning is how Paul articulates his apostolic ministry. He describes it as an experience akin to death for him but he says that it renders life in the ones whom he serves. So death is at work in us, but life in you. This absolutely takes my breath away.

Bringing someone else life can feel a lot like dying.

We love to be with people who are “life-giving,” right? We use this phrase often. But we grow weary of being the life-giving ones, because, frankly, it requires a whole lot of dying that we don’t want to do. Because it hurts a lot. Because it goes against everything in the depths of us most of the time. We quickly tire of being the ones who are pouring ourselves out. We want people to get their crap together, to stop being so draining. But if we carry Jesus’ death in our own bodies, if we pour out all we have, if we die to our own selfishness, our own agendas, we will gain everything. The life of Jesus of Nazareth will be made manifest in our mortal flesh, Paul says.

A few days ago I read a sermon by Rowan Williams called “Into Daylight” from Easter Morning, 2004 (see Choose Life; London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013). I thought it was incredibly beautiful and worth sharing an excerpt here with you. Williams says:

“If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you are not just believing an odd fact from two thousand years ago; you are trusting that there is a kind of life, a kind of love and trust and joy that is the very essence of Jesus’ identity which is now coming to life in you. As it comes to life, you begin to know that no amount of pressure and stress and suffering in your life has power in itself to break the bond that has been created between you and Jesus’ life and activity. You are alive with a fuller and deeper life than just your own. Your resources are more than you could ever have imagined. Jesus rises from the dead so as to find not only his home in heaven but his home in us. He rises so that we may rise out of the prisons of guilt, anxiety, self-obsession or apathy that so constantly close around us. But for this to happen, says St Paul, we have to go on, day after day, getting used to parts of us dying, just as Jesus died: we have to get used to the beloved habits of self-serving and self-protecting being brought into the light that shines from Jesus’ face and withering away in that brightness. That’s why Paul says that Christians go around with both death and life at work in their lives—always trying to let the light of Jesus kill off these sick and deadly habits, always letting the new life that is ours but so much more than ours shine through” (Rowan Williams, Choose Life).

Friends, I wish you and all the ones you love a most meaningful and sacred weekend reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Lord. From him and through him and to him are all things. “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5.14-15 NRSV).


212 Responses to “Dying, and Behold, We Live”

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  1. 101
    carla lee says:

    Hi Melissa, I am so sorry for your hurt and pain. My daughter went through it as well this year. But like you she has a God who has been her strength, her hope, her life. That’s what the enemy doesn’t count on is god’s children really being strong enough to grab a hold of His hand and live out the life He told us He has planned for us no matter what someone may have done to us along the way. You have been such a blessing and source of strength to me and a know to many others that you’ll never meet on this side of heaven. Your wisdom and growth in God’s word has urged us on to do the same. Like I tell our pastor, you spit out those $13.00 words I’m gonna start charging you! LOL You push me to think hard and dig beyond what I would have. Never think that you are not useful, loved, or wanted in our lives any longer. We have missed you and are so glad you are back. I know you can probably quote this verse backwards and forwards but it has been such a help to me when I have felt forsaken or useless for whatever reason. Ps.3:1-5 My daughter is the age of your sister and is also named Amanda so you girls are precious to me. I wish I could just hug you and hold that sweet little face like I do my own and girl and sing this over you. But I’ll leave that to your precious adorable mother. Luv much sweetie, Carla

  2. 102
    Lynda DeBuhr says:

    Lynda DeBuhr TRA in West Fargo, ND!

  3. 103
    Becky says:

    Melissa, I am brought to tears as your writings revealed such a deep, deep longing for understanding of what God may be doing in my life. What He has taught you and you have shared with us, has more meaning that I can express. Praise God –I am settled with His peace in my new situation. Love to you dear sister loved by God

  4. 104
    Mary Bettie says:

    Mary Bettie, Medina TN
    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares The Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.
    Isaiah 55: 8-9. NIV

  5. 105
    Ruth Stephenson says:

    Ruth Stephenson , Milan TN. Being respected is more important than having great riches, to be wee thought of is better than having silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1. NCV

  6. 106
    Brenda Bowman says:

    Hey Melisssa…thanks for sharing these thoughts!
    On the one hand I am sorry I am just reading them today….after the fact. On the other hand, I will enjoy pondering these things for more than just a few days. Having been a Christian a long time this idea is challenging:
    “We need sometimes to think about the crucifixion of Jesus as if there had been no resurrection just so that we might understand what the resurrection itself meant for those early Christians.” The closest I have come so far has been to watch as people see a movie of the story of Christ life, death, burial and resurrection for the first time and see the horror through their unknowing eyes and then the pure joy when He is raised! I will have to spend more time putting myself into the scenario to really try and experience it for myself! And when I am done with this…I will try and tackle this whole topic:”Bringing someone else life can feel a lot like dying.” wow! LOTS to chew on!

  7. 107
    Pam Lessley (Missouri) says:

    Psalm 90:12 (NASB)
    So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

  8. 108
    Sherry says:

    Sherry, Independence, Oregon:
    “To Him alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever,” Psalm 136:4 (NKJV)

  9. 109
    Tara Milligan says:

    Tara Milligan, Stigler, OK. Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV), “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

  10. 110
    Dawn Bouchard says:

    Thanks so much for putting to words some of what is in your heart. It blessed me greatly! Until this year, I had not heard much encouragement to reflect on the ‘Saturday’ of Holy Week, but because of being in an extended deeply painful station of life, I found drawn to meditating on that day. I appreciate your reminder to see it as part of a greater story, to dig deeper and lean more closely into Christ … till the joy comes! Continuing to pray for you, dear sister. Thanks again for sharing!

  11. 111
    Heather G says:

    Welcome back Melissa!! Great to have you back! Around here in Siestaville, you’re always welcome, no matter how long you’ve been gone. (And with that, I thank God, for Beth’s faithfulness to this community…that I can leave for a period and always come back home..and pick up right where I left off, as with an old friend.)

    I’d never heard of the Friday, Saturday, Sunday Christian theory and I found it so enlightening and it made me think and ponder which one I am. Your writing is so clear and challenging, I love it! We’ve missed you ’round here .

  12. 112
    Carol Crabtree says:

    Thank you Melissa – good to read this – and I’m a bit late. Didn’t read this until today, Wednesday, April 8th. Thank you for sharing this with us. Great encouragement there.

    Good to have you back on the blog.

  13. 113
    Helen says:

    James 5:16New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

    16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

  14. 114
    Joy French says:

    Well said Melissa. Blessings joy~

  15. 115
    Kim Safina says:


    I read your words over twice.

    I wish I didn’t live so far from you and then we could sit down for tea or coffee and discuss such amazing information that you shared. I have heard very similar words, thoughts, scripture verses come from my own son.

    Keep being REAL!! I haven’t walked in your shoes however, I do feel some of the blisters.

    You are loved, respected and prayed for so very much!
    With Loving Regards and Blessings,
    Kim “Cali Kim” Safina

  16. 116
    Mary Ellen says:

    Mary Ellen, Wichita, KS “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” Ephesians 3:16 (NIV)

  17. 117
    Laura LS says:

    Dear Melissa: Please stop in more often, we miss your writing. I do follow your Twitter feed, but it’s too short! Thank you for sharing such deep, thought provoking topics. I would love to add such layers to my writing and my studies. I hope you had a very blessed Easter.

  18. 118
    Jan Morton says:

    Melissa – I had to come back and read this again and realized I had not properly commented, except for a quick little tweet!

    First, if this is “scribbled disjointed sentence fragments” then when you write a full-fledged article/paper/thesis, I want a copy!

    I love you and I was so tickled to see your thoughts here again. You are a gifted writer/thinker/ponderer. To take all these varying sources and put them in one post that flows so beautifully – well, that’s a gift and I’m receiving the blessing here again.

    I love this quote from Williams you used: “Jesus rises from the dead so as to find not only his home in heaven but his home in us.”


    Love you always,
    Mrs. Jan

  19. 119
    Regina says:

    I loved reading this post!
    You have a great gift of writing.
    Thank you again so much for sharing.

    May God bless & keep you.

  20. 120
    Jeanette says:

    The mind governed by the flesh is hostle to God, it does not submit to Gods law nor can it do so.
    Romans 8:7 NIV

  21. 121
    Angela Dedman says:

    Angela Dedman, Murfreesboro, TN. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah‬ ‭53‬:‭5‬ NIV

  22. 122
    kathy says:

    Thank you, Melissa. I was particularly encouraged/challenged by the Rowan Williams quotes. Excellent, blessings to you also dear one.

  23. 123
    Lorna Coonrad says:

    Lorna Coonrad Austin TX

    Colossians 2:6 NIV
    So then, just as you recieved Christ Jesus
    as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him.

  24. 124
    Carolyn Dodge says:

    Melissa, thank you so much for your message. It was greatly appreciated and needed. I have been struggling with my faith recently and I am not sure why. But then again, I’m struggling with a lot of things lately. I have gained 70 lbs. which is extremely discouraging and difficult to lose. I’m bi-polar, so it seems Satan knows just where and when to attack. I am looking forward to June when I can attend the Living Proof Live event, what a much needed refresher that will be. I’m looking forward to seeing about the books you mentioned. I love the Word and love learning about the Word, so those will be helpful tools. Thank you again. God bless you. And thank you for sharing your mom with us. Eternally grateful, Carolyn Dodge.

  25. 125
    Janey says:

    Thank you Melissa, for sharing this message! Wow! It was a very fresh perspective of each day – Friday – Sunday – the final 3 days of passion!! I have never taken each day and contemplated what that one day meant – to me, to the believers experiencing it in front of them!! This was a breath of fresh air…. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  26. 126
    Diane Ferrell says:

    Diane Ferrell, Modesto, Ca.
    Psalms 119:105 NIV
    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

  27. 127
    Lorraine Johnson says:

    Lorraine Johnson, Ketchikan Alaska
    “Praise the LORD; praise God our Savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” Psalm 68:19 NLT

  28. 128
    Erin says:

    Beautiful – I always love hearing Melissa’s thoughts.

  29. 129
    Deborah Mott says:

    Thank you so very much Melissa! Your sharing is incredibly special. Rare (in my experience) in its deepness and in a sense it seems to call me deeper IN CHRIST! The texts you cited with your commentary = valuable as gold..truly beautiful and intricate in revelation. You have blessed and challenged me and cause a desire to understand more. I have been asking the LORD about the idea of what it means to truly live a transformed life…reflecting/ bearing the death and resurrection life of CHRIST in my life… for quite awhile: To really identify with CHRIST in His death and resurrection. I think I still depend on following Law or try in my own strength too much. I do not really know. I live a sanctified life. I do know CHRIST and see His power at work changing me. I do not know how to explain it but I have been so desiring to be TRULY CONVERTED to the SPIRIT filled life 100%. I tried to research the related topic of DENY Self, take up your cross and follow JESUS. It can get terribly complicated in my estimation. Is True Christianity a CALL TO DIE? If so how do you explain this life and really live this? I think I have sometimes lived this and other times I question it. In a recent devotional by Neil Anderson he made a comment about being IN CHRIST we are already dead and we then live IN His Resurrected power. I still do not really understand these concepts much or at all. I wonder if other Christians have similar questions. I often feel poured out and question when the harvest will come. To me it is imperative for us to get this as in the early church there was such persecution and the believers thrived in a way I long to thrive…as Paul discusses and you quoted (2 Co 4): The life of Jesus of Nazareth will be made manifest in our mortal flesh, Paul says…renders life! For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Cor. 1.8-10 ESV). Such amazing depth IN CHRIST…Our Hope is in HIM…Thank you for sharing. Would love to hear more on this subject. How did the first generation of Christians live like this to such a level that the blood of the martyrs brought forth such revival in the world….Interesting related thoughts? I am sorry if I veered off specific subject of Christ’s specific Cross and Resurrection experience. It is just that …are we not called to live like Christ?…so don’t we need to know these things? Just saying? Thank you so much for trusting us with these truths. I enjoyed your writings and thoughts so very much.

  30. 130
    Cathy R. Bishop says:

    SIESTA MEMORY VERSE #8 – April 15, 2015

    1Peter 2:9-10 NIV “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

  31. 131
    Susan Brown says:

    Susan Brown, Mandeville, LA.
    Isaiah 59:1 “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” NIV

  32. 132
    Lori Ledoux says:

    Beaumont, Texas.

    A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.

    Ps. 51:12 NAB

  33. 133
    Laura says:

    Troy, Ohio

    Ephesians 1:19-20 NIV

    and his incomparably great power for us who

    believe. That power is like the working of his

    mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ

    when he raised him from the dead and seated

    him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

  34. 134
    Mickey says:

    We are Lutherans, and celebrate Easter beginning with Palm Sunday, into Maundy Thursday (which we celebrate the Last Super), Good Friday (the Passion of Jesus’ death on the cross, a very somber service), and then, of course, Easter Sunday, where we are filled with joy because, “He lives! He lives indeed! Hallelujah!”
    I think I am half Baptist, though, lol, because, well, I can’t articulate it exactly, but I just identify with so much I see, hear, and read. I guess the main link is Jesus, and the Triune God. 🙂

  35. 135
    deb oakes says:

    Deb oakes Alliance, nebraska

    Psalm 25:4&5
    Show me your ways o Lord: Teach me your paths.
    Lead me in your truths and teach me.
    For you are the God of my salvation;
    On you I wait all the day.

  36. 136
    Bonnie Cosby says:

    John 16:33
    “I have told you these things,
    so that in me you may have peace.
    In this world you will have trouble.
    But take heart!
    I have overcome the world.”

  37. 137
    Cynthia Moorhead says:

    Cynthia Moorhead Gainesville,Ga
    My dear brothers and sisters,take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
    James 1:19 NIV

  38. 138
    Kathy Krimsky says:

    Kathy, Missouri City,TX
    Psalm 33:8 (NIV)
    Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him.

  39. 139
    Heidi Nielsen says:

    Heidi N. Stow, MA ” For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Sprit to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-8 ESV

  40. 140
    Cheryl Lynn Sword says:

    Flint, Texas

    Knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ.

    Colossians 3:24

  41. 141
    Faylee says:

    Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
    1 Timothy 6:17 New King James

  42. 142
    Kristi Hood says:

    And so, Lord, Where do I put my hope? My only hope is you.
    Psalms 39:7

  43. 143
    Vanessa Peacock says:

    Vanessa Peacock, Augusta, Georgia

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

  44. 144
    Nicole Gelvin says:

    Nicole Gelvin
    Blue Ridge Texas
    ” Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
    Galatians 5:25 NIV

  45. 145
    Linda Ballard says:

    Linda from Waxahachie, TX: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

  46. 146
    Allyson Flack says:

    Allyson, Wichita Falls, TX
    “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
    1 John 2:6 (ESV)

  47. 147
    gisella oliver says:

    Gisella Oliver, Toledo Ohio

    This is what the Lord says-your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
    Isaiah 48:17 NIV

  48. 148
    Allison says:

    Allison from New York

    “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”
    -Psalms 18:30 NIV

  49. 149
    Denise says:

    Psalm 139: 7-10 NIV
    Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

  50. 150
    Miriam K Nikkila says:

    Kearney, NE

    I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8 NIV

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