Mark 16:6 – The angel said, "Don't be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. (NLT)
The dreaded phone call came from Canada in the middle of a missionary term in Papua New Guinea. Our housemaid answered and relayed the message to me when I arrived home for lunch. I'll never forget her exact words: "Rick, sorry … your father is … what … dead." "Yes," she said in her usual shy way, "your father is … what … dead."
Surprised? Shocked! Dad had been well the last time I had talked to him just a couple of weeks prior. He and mom had travelled to visit us the year before, and he looked as strong and healthy as ever. How could this be? How could he be dead?
With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I called home to mom. Now, understand that long distance phone calls from Papua New Guinea were of questionable quality and unreliable at best. It took me, as usual, the better part of an hour to get through. First, I had to dial and connect to a long distance operator (often a challenge in itself), then the operator called me back to confirm my phone number. An hour later, the operator placed the call and then called back to connect to me after the receiving party answered.
During that hour, memories of dad flooded back — of a father who never deserted me, of a devoted father who would give of himself for any of his children; a father who gave to us his all.
Finally, I got through to Canada. Surprise! "Hello!" came my father's usual cheery voice. And in an instant, I realized in quite a different way how important my father was to me. My dad, whom I had thought was dead, was alive! Surprise!
We never did find out whose father had died, and how the misdirected phone call had reached our house. It was a moot point compared to the thrill of knowing that a loved one whom I thought might be dead was alive.
That incident, as it turns out, was a blessing, for in the ensuing time before my father actually died ten years later, it allowed me time to make my peace with him, and to tell him of my gratitude and love for who he was and the example that he had been for me.
As much as hearing dad's voice and knowing that he was alive was a surprise and relief to me, I can't imagine how much of a surprise it was for the disciples and friends of Jesus to learn that He was alive! Unlike me, they had actually witnessed Jesus' death, a horrible, cruel, and humiliating death that would have led them to believe that He was never going to be seen alive again.
Earlier on that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and Mary came to the tomb where Jesus' lifeless body had been laid. The gospel of John says that it was still dark. John could have been speaking both literally and metaphorically, for there was darkness over all the earth before Christ's resurrection. Without His resurrection, our lives would still be lived in darkness.
If we live with no promise or understanding of life to come when our earthly life is over — if aging, pain, and death have the final say — then this is a dark world indeed.
But because Christ has risen, because of His resurrection and His promise of eternal life for each of us, we, too, can live confident that better days are always ahead!
Prayer: Loving God, You, like a loving father, hold nothing back from us, not even Your beloved Son. May we live lives worthy of His sacrifice for us, and live with the confidence of eternal life always. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen!
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Listen while you read: "Christ Arose" (Lyrics)