He has been raised
Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023
On the 17th of July in 1985, I awoke in Flagstaff, Az and boarded a bus with a group. We were there to see the Grand Canyon. On the beautiful night before, our group had a chance to go for a swim. We had already been welcomed by name on the motel’s marquee, which I thought was a big deal. Granted, it was a Day’s Inn. But hey, I was a little bit awed.
After a nice swim, I went in to watch the Major League Baseball All Star game. My favorite Brave, Dale Murphy, was batting cleanup. Nicely enough, the National League won 6-1 that year and Murph had a double in one of his at bats. I thought that was a big deal.
Turns out, I didn’t know what a big deal was. From that first visit, I can recall a few impressions. If you’ve been, you may have experienced something similar. At first glance, the Grand Canyon as we approached its wall didn’t look real. It looked more like a painting, with all its various hues of what appeared to be blues and grays layered in countless strata.
Then as we reached a safe vantage point along the wall, I first began to understand its depth and dimension. It was, frankly, the biggest thing I had ever beheld before or since. The canyon rambles on like this for miles.
Eventually, I started to experience another sensation that a lot of visitors there talk about. I had never felt as small as I felt that day just staring out into the distance and down into what looked like a never-ending chasm. I found that being there completely changed forever all understandings I had about height, width, breadth and candidly all of physical perspective.
William Sloane Coffin, pastor of the Riverside Church in New York, once said “The world is too big for anything but truth. And too small for anything but love.” I’ve noticed that we live in an awfully big world.
It is a world that can speed up unannounced and zoom right by us. A world that can give to us far more good than we ever hoped nor had any right to expect. It is a big world that can ask of us questions we don’t have the capacity to answer.
At Easter, we turned to Matthew 28: 1-10. The message this week is the news of a risen Christ! He is the basis of our greatest hopes. He is the ground on which our highest thoughts are anchored.
Mary Magdalene and another Mary, probably the Sister of Martha and Lazarus, came to the Tomb on that first Easter morning. Maybe they brought things to embalm Jesus with. Maybe they brought fresh flowers and wanted to be sure his grave looked good. Maybe they wanted to pay respects and to honor the deceased one more time.
Now, a figure sat before them. He said, “Jesus is not here.” There is a dead man that is now walking. That’s the essence of what he announced. He said to them, “Do not be afraid.” Because maybe the times we are most afraid is when we think something important to us has died.
That could be the death of a loved one or of an era now gone by. We suffer the deaths of dreams, hopes, enthusiasms and plans. “All of a sudden, the smell of death had nothing but memories,” one preacher has observed about our story today.
So now, these women at the Tomb were remembering. The women were remembering that what seemed like only a few days ago, Jesus was teaching somewhere nearby their houses. They were remembering his smile and the way his voice sounded.
Now, Matthew tells us that something seismic happened. He calls it an earthquake. When news is shocking enough, it will evoke unthinkable reactions in us. Here is what I want each of us to take away with us this week. That is, if Easter was to be anything other than, “Isn’t it nice what Jesus did for us?” It’s up to you and me to make this day count. What we do in light of that grace will make this day matter.
Who we are, in light of Jesus, is what will make that day matter. You and me working together, trying to become the people Jesus saved us to be? That’s what will mean that this day changed things forever. I hope this was a blessed Easter for you.
Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.