Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
Luke 24: 1-6. 8 -9 (ESV)
It was a morning much like to today a few years ago, when I got the news that our precious five-year-old Basset Hound, Luke, wasn’t going to make it. He had developed a cancerous tumor—undetectable until it was too late—which had spread to cover over eighty-five percent of his stomach. Surgery wasn’t successful, and he continued to grow weaker in the days which followed until that last day when he died.
The next day our son, Nathan, drove to Gainesville with our youngest Granddaughter, Ellie Kate, to help Lynda and me bury Luke’s body in a special spot in the backyard.
While Nathan and I prepared the gravesite that morning, Lynda and Ellie Kate gathered flowers for him from around the yard. All kinds of every shape, size and color. And then Ellie Kate assisted in the site preparation, by jumping into the hole in the ground we were preparing and troweling away her share of dirt—while her clothes told the story for all to see of what she had been helping with.
As we were about to lower Luke’s body in a box into the gravesite we had prepared, Ellie Kate—having just joined all of us to pet Luke one last time—looked into my eyes—as if to say “OK, enough of this make believe”—and shared one last plaintiff hope, almost as an appeal to me to do something she was sure I could do:
“Granddaddy, I want him to be alive.”
We all cried once again hearing her expression of our own silently held hopes. We had fought for weeks for his life, but it wasn’t enough. Not here anyway, not on this side of heaven, not now. A life so precious, so full of grace and joy was gone much too soon from us.
“I do too, Sweetie”, I mumbled through tears, heartbroken, but helpless to do anything to fulfill her appeal.
Mary and Mary Magdalene, and the disciples were heartbroken, and feeling helpless early that Sunday morning as they rose to face another desperate day.
“Jesus, I want you to be alive.” They had to be thinking that.
On Friday—just three days earlier—Jesus was still hanging on the cross. They had watched while He was spit upon, whipped to a bloody pulp, and mocked on the cross. They watched as people walked by Him on the cross, not caring. They had watched as He breathed His last breath on the cross between the crosses of two thieves hanging on each side of Him, and then they had watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had taken His body away to be buried.
They sat and watched as Joseph rolled the big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb, and then they just sat and watched some more. For what they weren’t sure. Maybe something would happen. If you listen across the centuries you can almost hear them silently mumbling to themselves—
“I want you to be alive. I want you to be alive. This is not how it was supposed to be when God sent you—our long-awaited Messiah. “This is not how it was supposed to be. This is not how the story was supposed to end. I want you to be alive.”
And if the story ended there it would not be much of a story. But as you and I know today, two thousand years later, that’s not how the story ended.
Mary and the disciples had forgotten what their Lord had said He will do three days later. They hang their heads—defeated, believing Jesus had breathed His last breath, unable to see that Sunday had come. Unable to believe that He was alive.
And I suspect if we’re honest with ourselves some of us would have to admit that at times we feel like Mary and the disciples did that morning so long ago. We know today, what they didn’t know then, and yet we still have too many dark mornings like that one they woke up to so many years ago.
We’ve lost a loved one, an illness has returned, finances are tight, and the future of our job is uncertain. A friend turns out to be not the friend we thought they were. Our children are going through things we can’t seem to help them with.
We’ve all been there unable to see the sunlight coming our way just beyond the horizon.
But then they see that the tomb is empty. The Angel tells them that “He is not here; He is risen”—and they went to tell the others.
The empty tomb. Maybe there is hope after all…they thought. Maybe He is alive. But where is He…they wondered…as they ran to tell the others.
And if the story ended there it would still not be much of a story. And empty tomb. A stone rolled back—an empty space. Still not much of a story.
There’s a story which took place years ago on June 18, 1815 the Duke of Wellington of Great Britain and Napoleon Bonaparte of France were engaged in a great battle—the outcome of which would change the face of Europe. The Battle of Waterloo. Word of what was happening on the battlefront came back to the people of Britain much differently than today—with Fox, CNN, the BBC and others—reporting almost in real-time what is occurring around the world.
In those days, a battleship was sent into the local harbor and signalmen by the use of flags—semaphores—would spell out the message of what had occurred.
One a day, not too long after the battle, word spread that a ship had just entered the harbor. It must be about Wellington and so the people gathered from everywhere to learn the news from the battle-front.
As the people pressed together to peer into the harbor, the flags spelled out the word—W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N, and then the letters—D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D. As despair began to set in—shocked at what they just read—a thick choking fog rolled in over London. No more could be seen. The people couldn’t believe it. “Wellington has been defeated, Wellington has been defeated,” they cried as they hung their heads in despair. All hope was lost; Wellington had been defeated.
When the fog lifted a few hours later, the people gathered again at the shoreline to get the names of the wounded and the reports of casualties. But the signalmen, realizing that the fog had set in earlier, had continued to signal the original message. This time—as the sky had cleared and the sun was shining—the rest of the story was seen by those gathered.
With flags flying, forming the letters of each word the people clearly read—
W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N – D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D……
T-H-E – E-N-E-M-Y – A-T – W-A-T-E-R-L-O-O.
Wow! What a difference to get the rest of the story!
When they took Jesus off the cross on that dark Friday, all hope seemed lost. Christ had been defeated. Christ was dead. And for three days the fog of despair and gloom and defeat set in for the disciples and those believers who had put all their hopes and dreams into this one man.
But then the rest of the message is heard, when the angel said to Mary, “He is not here, He has risen,” “Go tell my disciples that He is risen.” And in that moment, the fog which had covered their lives for those three days, had been lifted. What a difference!
He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
That’s the rest of the story.
And that’s where we find the Hope for the rest of the story of our lives—now and for all eternity!
He is Risen!
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2016. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.