For the past year and a half, we’ve lived next to the graveyards in the Forest Hills/Woodbourne area. When your house is essentially in the graveyard district you can’t be scared of graveyards or you’d never leave. So, I’ve had to work through some things. I’ve become more comfortable staring at death almost every day. Those gravestones are a constant reminder that I’m not promised tomorrow. They have pushed me to think about life a little differently… and do more research on weird things I see in the graveyard.
If you come to our area of town you’ll notice some tiny stone houses near the graveyard with family names on them. You might know them by their more appropriate term: mausoleums. Which I had never seen before. So I started researching them. They were once a way for rich people to show off their wealth, but in the in the 18th and 19th centuries, families began purchasing mausoleums to protect against "Resurrections" A.K.A. grave robbers.
Grave robbing was common all over the world during this time, but in Boston, Harvard medical was a grave robber's primary customer. There were strict laws protecting the use of bodies for research. So, Harvard would hire grave robbers to steal recently buried bodies for medical science. As you can imagine a single body would fetch some coin… About $500-1000 a piece in today's money. Not bad for a nights work.
If you’ve ever noticed bars and locks on these mausoleums, it’s not to keep the dead in but to keep the living out. They would leave the body in the mausoleum for three weeks. During that time family members would protect their loved ones with firepower. They'd stand outside the building with a shotgun, plant landmines (for real), or set up trip wires connected to guns. Grave robbing was a dangerous job. At the end of three weeks, the body was no longer any use to science because it had decayed too much. At which point they would bury the body to never be disturbed again.
Well, that was the thought. There is a strange and deeply important belief in Christianity called the resurrection. We believe that we will die one day, but we place our hope in one day being resurrected. This belief is so important to our faith that the Apostle Paul said this:
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Those, then, who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. 1 Corinthians 15:16–19
Without Jesus' power over death, there is no resurrection. If there is no resurrection go home, all this Jesus, church, and Bible stuff is useless. Resurrection is that central.
Tomorrow we'll look at how Jesus is the ultimate grave robber through the incredible story of Lazarus in John 11. Many of those bodies that were buried three weeks after death to never be disturbed, will finally be robbed, but this time by Jesus at the end of time. And that's good news because when Jesus robs your grave you come back to life.
Join us for worship tomorrow!
493 Centre St.
Jamaica Plain 02130
Good Friday Service March 30, 6:30 PM at Tremont Temple
This year we're going to join with others churches in the city to focus on Good Friday. Join us at Tremont Temple as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus.
Easter Sunday, April 1 10:30 AM
Bring a friend along and join us for Easter this year as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We'll still be meeting at Curley K-8 in Jamaica Plain. Hope to see you there!