resurrection reflections Lester Ruiz

The Resurrection In Retrospect

“Not powerful enough to prevent crucifixion; but influential enough to take the crucified off the cross”

resurrection reflections Lester Ruiz

“When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph brought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid. Mark 15: 42-47, NRSV.”

I have always been drawn to the gospel narratives of the “empty tomb.” As a metaphor for the resurrection, the “empty tomb” proclaims the triumph of life over death; it asserts the promise of the fundamentally new that may also be fundamentally better. It holds forth the promise that our ordinary, perhaps, unhappy lives are not the last word for our journeys on this earth.

The “empty tomb” signifies hope. It is no surprise, then, that for most of its history, Christianity, especially in those times when it has struggled for recognition proclaims Easter as the fundamental ground—the foundation—for all of Christian life and faith. Hope, it is said, is necessary for life.

This fundamental ground, even the necessity of hope for life, is an experience of power. For what can be more powerful than the experience of life overcoming death? It is part of the human experience to be attracted to life, and to fear, if not detest, death—especially premature, untimely death.

It is also not uncommon to understand life as “the good, the true, and the beautiful” as defined by the dominant cultures of privilege in which we often move and have our being. Without this experience of being filled with power, the reality of resurrection remains a promise to be fulfilled.

So, it is very easy, in this fragile life of ours, for the resurrection to be interpreted along two different, if sometimes incommensurable, trajectories.

On the one hand, for those of us who have experienced being powerful—perhaps because of the way our societies have valued particular statuses based on race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability—the resurrection is readily experienced as legitimacy of our experience.

On the other hand, for those of us who have yet to experience being powerful—perhaps because of the way our societies have devalued our particular statuses based on race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability—the resurrection remains a promise.

Both trajectories are experiences of power—and therefore of life: a promise can inspire; legitimacy can move one to action. But, a promise can also be broken; just as legitimacy can be withdrawn. As forms of betrayal, they can result in death.

Indeed, the distance between power-as-legitimacy and power-as-promise is miniscule. Which is why, the metaphor of the resurrection has been used both by the powerful and the powerless in their quest for meaning and significance.

Resurrection, in this sense, can be a temptation that will distract from God’s eternal call to us to throw ourselves into the heart of transformation.

When we insist on placing ourselves at the very mouth of the empty tomb where the resurrection looms so large—instead of preparing ourselves to receive the Resurrected One in our midst—we just might lead ourselves to believe that we are the bearers of resurrection, instead of mere witnesses to it.

We might actually think that we have the power to prevent suffering in our world and to usher in God’s reign, God’s commonwealth.

The narrative around Joseph of Arimathea helps uncover the contours of this temptation.

Mark takes us to Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” But not satisfied with focusing on the crucified Jesus, he reminds us who among the followers of Jesus were lingering in that almost God-forsaken place: “Looking on from a distance,” Mark writes, “were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These women used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.”

Later in the narrative we are told that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus “saw where the body [of Jesus] was laid.” I suspect, that not only did they see what Joseph of Arimathea did, but that they also witnessed this “from a distance” since, Joseph was not a disciple, but a member of the Council.

But, what did Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council that was instrumental in putting Jesus to death, do that earned him a special place in the gospel narrative of Mark?

We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, a “respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”

And after determining that Jesus was actually dead, Pilate “granted the body to Joseph” who “brought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock” and secured it by “rolling a stone against the door of the tomb.”

There is no indication that Joseph was a “believer” in the resurrection. So his actions may be understood appropriately as arising only out of a respect, not only for the tradition of “the Day of Preparation,” but also for the life of Jesus, a Jewish rabbi—now ended.

There is no indication either that Joseph was a man with the kind of power that could have stopped the Council and Rome from going down the pathway of crucifying Jesus. He certainly had no power to fight the angry, disillusioned crowds that shouted “Crucify him!”

However, Joseph of Arimathea, as Kay Northcutt points out, had some influence, in having the lifeless body of Jesus taken down from the cross, given the briefest of care—but care nonetheless—and laid in an empty, some say unused tomb, before the Sabbath commenced, in order that it could be properly cared for, once the Sabbath was over.

Joseph of Arimathea was not powerful enough to prevent the crucifixion of Jesus; but he had the influence to take Jesus’ body off the cross.

My friends, there is a lesson here for many of us who are not unlike Joseph of Arimathea.

For not many of us have the power to stop a crucifixion; or to prevent suffering—especially unjust suffering. All of us do not have the power to give life, much less give it back to those from whom it was taken by others, if not by us.

But, my friends, some of us, if not all of us, have some influence in taking lifeless bodies off of crosses—especially unjust crosses; or, if God’s grace allows, to keep them from mounting undeserved crosses, or take them down before death arrives.

Today, after seeing a little more suffering and a little less success in overcoming that suffering, I am less certain of the promise of the “empty tomb.”

And while I know in my heart of hearts that hope still remains the soul of that empty tomb, I am inspired more by the witness from a distance of the women in the life of Jesus; and, inspired by the testimony of Joseph of Arimathea, who did not find himself at the mouth of the empty tomb, who did not claim the promises of the resurrection, but who, without hesitation, boldly asked the powerful of his day, to respect, care for, protect the memory of human life. And, who, while not having the power to prevent the crucifixion, had the influence to take the crucified from the cross.

Perhaps, this “influence” is God’s gift of power for those of us who, like the women in Jesus’ life, and Joseph of Arimathea, heed the call to be witnesses for God today–and not the bearers of God’s life in the world.

Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

About Dr. Lester Edwin J. Ruiz

Lester was a faculty member of New York Theological Seminary in New York City beginning in 1997, where he was professor of theology and culture.

He became vice president for academic affairs and academic dean in 2006. As associate professor of political science at International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan, he taught courses in peace and world order studies, international relations, and politics and culture.

A graduate in pastoral care and counseling from Ottawa University (Kansas), he holds the Master of Divinity with an emphasis on religion and society and the PhD in social ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is ordained in the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.

Ruiz is co-editor of four published works, including Re-Framing the International: Law, Culture, Politics, with Richard Falk and R.B.J. Walker. He has contributed numerous chapters to books and has been widely published in journals and other periodicals.

Active in social media, like Facebook, Lester shares his ideas and reflections on a variety of topics. We have taken the opportunity and permission to share his thoughts. Thank you Lester.

– From Worry To Glory


generous faithful loving women of God

Faithful, Generous, Prayerful Women of God

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 29: Women

generous faithful loving women of God

I have a few women in my life, but that does not mean I’m a womanizer.

First, there’s my mother who gave me life. Next, there’s my wife, who gave meaning to my life. And then our daughter who gave purpose to my meaningful life.

My life is being strengthened and sustained by the love of these women.

Aside from them, God gave me the strong support of JEC women in my ministry since I was called as pastor in 2003. They always accompanied and supported me during outreach services, vigil services, shut-in visits, and when there were invitations extended to me outside the city.

Their active presence and support through prayers, choir songs, generous contributions, add blessings to the many engagements we have participated in many areas of ministries of the church.

Reading Luke 8: 1-3, I’m glad to know that Jesus had the same circle of support from faithful, generous and prayerful women.

Aside from disciples like Peter, James, John, Matthew, etc. there were also women like Mary, Joanna and Susanna who supported Christ’s ministry out of their own means.

I thought that all these would come to an abrupt end when I was diagnosed with my sickness.

I have to resign my post as pastor of the church since I am already weak to carry my responsibilities. I can no longer preach, led bible studies, conduct home visitations, led vigil services, make lectures and seminars, do counseling sessions and other pastoral duties.

During my long hospital confinement, I have to explain these facts to these JEC women – that I can no longer spent time with them since I’ll be confined to my living quarters for my treatment and convalescence.

But these women have a totally different plan and would not be limited by that. When I was released from confinement, they became my regular visitors to bring me foodstuff and pray for me.

They also accompanied me and my family in our walking exercise at Fort San Pedro, in my doctor’s consultation and even to perform some errands.

They also took me and my family out for special lunch or dinners so that our fellowship will continue and I will not be deprived of these kind of celebrations!

Yesterday, eight of them treated Mam Martha and I to a sumptuous lunch at Tatoy’s.

I’m thankful to God for these faithful, generous and prayerful JEC women!

Posted on FB: 22 March 2015 – 12:34 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

Lessons Learned from Sickness

The Language of Silence

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 28: The Language of Silence

Lessons Learned from Sickness

It is customary for people to make or create a noise when emphasizing something. New business or products are introduced by loud public announcements, accompanied with drum beats, full volume music, street parades, caravans, fireworks, etc.

It seems that people are convinced of the products’ effectivity by the loudness of its propaganda or advertisement. The louder the noise, the popular the business.

Silence is perceived as a weakness or a show of insignificance. But is it?

My sickness has introduced me to the world of silence – by force.

In other words, I was forced to be silent, otherwise I will suffer a state of incessant coughing if I continue talking.

It took me quite a while to adjust to this condition.

You see, as a Pastor, my job was to speak, and not just speak, but to speak loudly. I was not used to just sit in a corner and be silent.

But my sickness made me discover the virtue of silence. I discovered that it’s also a means which I can still communicate with others.

I discovered that I can listen more while others are talking, and I can fully internalized what they felt. I discovered that I’m more sensitive to the feelings of others.

Not only that. I also discovered that I have plenty of time to think more deeply, analyze things more broadly, and in so doing, learn quite a lot of things more frequently.

I have more time for personal devotions and to read the scriptures. I have plenty of opportunities to pray for many people in my prayers of intercessions. I have more time to reflect and write my reflections.

What I missed doing when my faculty of speech was still intact I learned to value and maximize in my world of silence.

Posted on FB: 20 March 2015 – 4:39 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.

lessons learned from sickness

Reverse Isolation

Lessons Learned from My Sickness Part 27: Reverse Isolation

lessons learned from sickness

I confess there were lots of things that I didn’t like during my hospitalization.

Foremost is the cost. I found out that it’s really very expensive to get sick.

It’s no wonder why many people who need immediate medical attention, just preferred to stay at home and learn to maximize the use of alternative or herbal medicines.

I even read of a joke about a patient who was already healed of his heart ailment and was given the go-signal to be released after his long confinement. But he died of cardiac arrest when he saw his hospital bills!

I certainly hope that it’s really a joke and not a true story.

Next that I dislike is the pain and discomfort related to or resulting from my treatment. But I have come to accept them, since I knew that they were a significant part of my healing.

But there’s still another thing that I didn’t like – no matter how this doctrine was explained to me.

They called this Reverse Isolation.

According to this phenomenon, I can’t accept visitors in my hospital room because they might have colds, cough or flu, and their virus may affect me.

While I understand that this was a valid way of safeguarding my already feeble health, I find it difficult to just accept it.

That is why there were some instances that I struggled against the insistence of people looking after me, to allow people especially those who came from far away places to enter my room and pray for me.

I really sympathized with those people who came from churches that I previously served as pastor. I knew that they came from remote communities.

They traveled long distances, and spent their hard earned money for transportation just to show their love and affection to their former pastor.

In a way I’m grateful that my requests for exemptions such as these were also granted by my guardians.

Isolation is never a good thing for me because I just don’t want to be alone.

Posted on FB: 19 March 2015 – 7:18 PM

Jaro Evangelical Church

About the Author

Rev. Ronny Luces is the Minister for Administration and Community Service of Jaro Evangelical Church (JEC), Iloilo City, Philipines. He and wife, Martha have been with JEC’s ministry since 1994.

Pastor Ronny graduated from Central Philippine University College of Theology in 1985 and was pastor of several Baptist churches.

In January 2015, after tests and two long hospital confinements, Pastor Ronny got the word he has lung cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy.

Praying for healing and going through all the medical processes, Pastor Ronny writes his reflections “Lessons Learned from My Sickness”.

May Pastor Ronny’s series of reflections and meditations strengthen your hope and faith as you go through your own life’s battles. Please pray for Pastor Ronny’s healing.