People flood churches on Easter because they know they are going to hear good news. But Easter is also terrifying news. According to Mark's Gospel, early on a Sunday morning Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome made their way to a tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. Mark also tells us that these women had earlier watched the crucifixion of Jesus "from a distance" (Mark 15:40). When it was all over, they saw Joseph of Arimathea pull the dead body off the cross, wrap it in a linen cloth, lay it in a tomb hewn out of a rock, and then roll the stone over the door of the tomb. They watched it all from a distance.
That is our favorite perspective on death—we do all we can to keep our distance from it. We try to stay healthy, work out, watch what we eat, and we're careful. So careful. It's all a way of keeping death at bay. But occasionally it catches up to someone you love, and then you know, like these women, that you have to go and see death up close.
Last September 11, it became painfully clear that death can always bridge the distance to find any of us. What crumbled on that dark day were not just skyscrapers, but also our illusions that we were somehow safe from the violence the rest of the world has known for a very long time. It doesn't matter how wealthy, well defended, or far removed we are from evil men. Terror can still find us. Every time I drive past the Pentagon and gaze at the gaping wound in its side, I'm reminded that not even powerful generals and admirals in a seemingly impenetrable fortress can keep death at a distance. What hope do the rest of us have?
In the aftermath of that dark day, many of our social commentators repeatedly said, "Everything has changed." It remains to be seen just how ...1