“An old man and a little boy were out fishing on a pier in Florida late in the day. They’d been talking about all the important things in life – why the rain falls, why the leaves turn golden in the fall. Later in the day, they’re putting their bait and their tackle up, and the little boy looks up in the old man’s face and asks: `Does anybody ever see God?’ (The old man looked out across the darkening horizon, his eyes filled with mist, and said, `Son, it’s where I hardly see anything else’.”)
No matter how often we have heard the Easter story, we need to hear it again. As one person said: “To the child it is wondrous because it is so new; to the grandparents it is wondrous because it is so old.” We always remind people to prepare themselves for Heaven because they can’t take their possessions with them. There once was a man who wanted to take his gold to Heaven with him. So, he had it put into suitcases and placed in the attic above his bed. Months after his death his wife found the suitcases still in the attic and said to herself, “I knew he should have put these in the basement.”
I have changed my viewpoint, there are some things that we can take to Heaven with us. Our children are the one possession we can take to Heaven. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a powerful force in our faith and in our lives. Miracles are important in our lives, but none more important than the resurrection. When Vickie was dying in the hospital, it was the certainty of the resurrection that held my sanity and peacefulness together. To hold no promise of life after death makes facing death frightening and peace less. The thought of dying only to come back as a cow or some other animal, really doesn’t seem to satisfy the soul. But the thought of awaking from death to find ourselves in Heaven with God brings fulfillment and makes this life worth living.
I remember as a boy living on a farm. One year we had a problem with snakes. My dad and older brother killed the snakes and hung them on the fence. But I wasn’t allowed to go check out the snakes because as everyone knows, a snake won’t die until the sun goes down. But when the sun went down, they were dead.
In death, the body and the soul are separated. When God created humanity from the dust of the ground that body was merely a shell without life and without value. It is when God breathed life into the dust that it lived and had value. In death, the body and the breath of God (our soul) are separated. In the resurrection the soul and a new body are joined.
What happens to us after we die is addressed in resolving the issue of the resurrection. In the Old Testament we have four resurrections occurring.
The Widow Zephathah’s son died and Elijah by the power of God restores life to his lifeless body. The body and the soul are separated. But by the grace of God they are reunited in a healing. Shunammite’s son was raised by Elisha. A valley that is filled with dry bones of a large army is raised to life by Ezekiel’s hand. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
When we move into the New Testament we find three resurrections occurring before Jesus’ resurrection and two following. The Widow of Nain’s son is given life by Christ. Jairus’ daughter comes back to life. Lazarus, even after several days of death, is restored to life.
Following Jesus’ resurrection, the miracles continue. The graves outside Jerusalem break open and the dead walk into the city. Eutychus falls asleep in a third story window and falls to his death and Paul bring him back to life.
What the caterpillar calls the end, God calls a butterfly. There came an ever so slight knock on the bedroom door. It was one of the kids who had gotten sick in the night. I glanced at the clock and it was 2:45 A.M. “Dad, I need help!” I quickly learned that Jonathan was sick. He had vomited twice — once on the floor and once in the bathroom. After helping him, I cleaned up everything and went back to bed. That evening my son was the opposite of his usually active, independent, loud, at times even boisterous, self. I didn’t want him to be sick, but I did enjoy the dependence and the closeness. We forget how vulnerable a teenager really is. When Jonathan is healthy, he will often push me away because he has more important things to do.
So often I do the same with my heavenly Father! When things are going well, I “push him away” because I’m busy with “important” tasks. But when things don’t go well, I run back to God, acknowledging my need and dependence.
And like my child, who had come to me during the night, I can go to God any time. My heavenly Father wants me to come to him when I need him. But even more, he wants me to seek him on the good days as well as the bad.
I know deep down that He is the real Source of my strength each and every day.
Donald Barnhouse was widowed at a young age. The death of his wife left him and a six-year-old daughter in the home. He had real difficulty working through his own grief, but the hardest part was to comfort and explain the death to his daughter. He later recalled that all of his education and theological training left him at a loss. One day he and the little girl were standing on a busy corner at a downtown intersection waiting for a light to change. Suddenly a very large truck sped by the corner, briefly blocking out the sun and frightening the little girl. To comfort her, Dr. Barnhouse picked her up, and in a moment, the wisdom of God broke through and he was able to explain to his daughter: “When you saw the truck pass it scared you, but let me ask you, had you rather be struck by the truck or the shadow of the truck?”
She replied, “Of course, the shadow.” He went on to explain that when “your mother died, she was only hit by the shadow of death because Jesus was hit by the truck (death).”
The Psalmist reminds us that God is with us even though we walk through the valley of the “shadow” of death. All that death can do, it did to Christ. Our Lord felt the chill of it. He died alone. But He did for us what we are not able to do for our loved ones, He explored the basements of death to the very bottom, and came back to tell us to be of good cheer.
He has risen! He is not here. Said the angel. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter. He is alive. He is alive! HE IS ALIVE!