“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (Jesus, as recorded in John 11:25-26)
This Easter is a bit different from previous ones. Today, after the final “amen” was said, I rushed to my office to change into “travel wear.” I made my way to the airport in Pensacola to catch a 1:36 PM flight to Dallas. After a quick jog to a different gate, I’ll catch another flight that will get me to Little Rock around 6:00 PM. At Little Rock I’ll pick up a rental car and make the two-hour drive south to my hometown, Bodcaw, Arkansas.
On Monday I’ll drive my dad to Texarkana, Texas, just across the state line, which is an hour’s drive west of his home. I’m taking him to receive a treatment in an effort to combat the cancer that has invaded one of his lungs. My siblings have had their turns to take him, especially my brother, and with two appointments for treatment this month, I thought it proper that I arrange to take him to keep my brother from having to make two trips this month.
Dad has been dealing with cancer for some time. In early December they learned that the cancer had returned and was a bit more aggressive than before. My mom and dad spoke with the doctor about options, and they decided to try immune boost therapy. He receives a treatment every few weeks.
My mom told me about the treatment plan in early December. A few days later, on December 16th, she passed away unexpectedly. Here one minute, gone the next. Dad’s port was placed a week after she passed away. Treatments started soon thereafter.
Usually, the only reason a preacher would jump on a plane after preaching is because of a bad deacon’s meeting or a very bad reception of the message. Instead, I’m jumping on a plane and driving down an interstate to spend some time with my dad as he continues to move through the process of grief, and to help him get to an appointment to try to get some health issues addressed.
Life has entered a different phase for us. It’s not a unique phase; I’ve pastored many people who have walked through this phase. It’s just a different phase in my limited, four decade experience on this planet.
Today, the background of this season of life is Easter Sunday. I find that striking. In fact, the idea of resurrection and life has taken on a bit more meaning during this season of life.
Today we celebrated the reality that Jesus Christ, having offered his perfect life as a substitute for my imperfect life, was buried, but did not remain dead. Instead, he was resurrected. He came back to life, never to die again. I believe it to be a literal event, a historical incident that actually occurred. I believe Jesus was dead but was raised to life, is alive, and will be alive forevermore.
His resurrection changes everything. In his resurrection, Jesus defeated every mortal enemy we would ever face. Death was defeated. The grave was conquered. Disease was put on notice. When Jesus rose victorious over death, he claimed victory over everything that would lead to death, be it cancer or corona.
I shared with my congregation this morning that our world, like that of the disciples on that first Good Friday and Silent Saturday, has been turned upside down. Life looks different now than it did just a little over a year ago. In the midst of a pandemic, a reappearance of cancer, a sudden death of a loved one, etc., we have come to realize just how fragile life is. We’ve come to realize that our hope cannot be in our health or our jobs or our bank account or our national security.
If our hope is not in those places, where should it be? What is the basis of our hope for the future? The seemingly solid foundations we have built under us are shaking. We need something, or Someone, under our feet who can never be shaken.
It’s only in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we find the Rock of Ages, the hope for which we long.
There was never a more hopeless time, from man’s perspective, than when Jesus was in the grave. It seemed like the end. The disciples were despairing. But then, on the third day.
Christ. Is. Risen.
Just as sure as Jesus walked out of that grave, he offers eternal life to those of us who must live in the shadow of death and deal with the uncertainty of life.
We can rest assured in knowing that the same care he showed for us at the cross, and the same hope he gave us in his resurrection is the same care and hope he has for us not just on Easter Sunday, but every day of our lives.
Paul said it best. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). Thankfully, this world is not all that there is. Better days are coming. Soon and very soon, sickness, death, pain, struggle, tears, etc., will be wiped away, and all that will be left are the people of God, surrounding a resurrected King, in a joyous time of celebration, all because he lives.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.