Sunday, April 02, 2006

Born in a Grave

Human tragedy is never ultimate. Unbelievably, incredibly purpose often springs out of chaos and light from the darkness.

Paul Tillich tells of a moving event that came to light during the Nuremberg War Trials. It seems that in Wilna, Poland, in an effort to escape the clutches of the Nazis, several Jewish people resorted to hiding in graves in a nearby cemetery. There in such an unlikely place a young woman gave birth to a child.

An 80 year old grave digger was the only one there to assist in the birth and as he saw what was happening he said in awe: “Great God, hast thou finally sent the Messiah to us? For who else but a Messiah could be born in a grave?”

The old man was wrong as to the identity of the child because the emaciated mother had no milk and very soon the child died. But he was right in another sense, for only God could do something as incredible as cause life to be born in a grave.

This is exactly what did happen on Easter morning. New life from the grave is the greatest of all symbols of God’s ingenious resourcefulness. Out of that awful matrix of death and tragedy, healing began to flow.

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), 1955, chapter 20. Sadly this book is out of print but this insightful chapter can be seen online at:
Quoted in Easter Sermon by John Claypool, Tragedy and Hope.

Image: Paul Tillich