When I was in Israel, our guide took us to a shepherd's cave just outside Bethlehem. He said that this was the sort of "stable" Jesus was likely born in, because the shepherds had used this particular cave, and others like it, for millennia. David, the shepherd boy, may have used that very one. Hewn from the cave's stone were mangers, watering troughs, and stalls. The cave itself was very deep, vanishing into darkness. Beneath a hole in the cave ceiling was a hewn stone fire pit, and the walls were soot-covered from ages of shepherds' fires burning there for warmth.
Luke 2:8-12 – And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (KJV)
Based on the guide's information, the imagery is striking: Jesus beginning His life in a stone cave, and ending His life laid in a hewn rock tomb. Jesus began His life wrapped in swaddling cloths and ended it swaddled in grave cloths. Mary likely laid Him in a hand-hewn stone manger, but followed behind when Joseph of Arimathea tenderly laid His earthly remains prone on a hand-hewn stone shelf in an unused tomb. He began His life born from a virgin's womb, but ended it within the "womb" of a virgin tomb. The capstone on the imagery was the large stone rolled across the tomb's opening, with the seal of Caesar affixed to ensure effectively that Jesus' earthly remains would remain untouched.
But God had other plans.
Luke 24:1-6a – Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, [the women] came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. (KJV)
This Easter Day, let us celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus, lowly born in a shepherd's cave and lowly laid in a cold stone tomb, who now lives forever to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Prayer: Lord God, heavenly King, we praise You for coming amongst us to live a life like ours so that You could identify with us in all points. We praise You for dying and rising again and for ascending to reign forever. Accept our homage and praise. Abide among us and within us this day and always, for we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
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