“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed…” – Luke 23:44-45a (ESV)
I have to admit to you that I don’t have the greatest memory known to man. But there are certain events, and even particular moments, I remember from the distant past that are as real to me as if they had happened yesterday. One of those moments was the morning that Papa Henry died.
The day before, a Saturday as I recall, we got a call that my grandfather had taken ill and been rushed by ambulance to the hospital. I had to believe in that terrifying moment that he would be okay. He had always been okay. A steady force in many difficult family circumstances, the one rock we could count on in our lives. But it was worse than my mind and heart wanted to believe.
When we reached the hospital, my papa was unconscious. He would never recover from it. After that, hours dragged as family members and friends filed in and the rather large Carr clan from my mom’s side filled the ICU waiting room, nobody wanting to leave in case the best…or worst…happened. Most of us spent the night there in uncomfortable chairs or on the floor with pillows and blankets. It was probably the worst night any of us could imagine. Our unsinkable patriarch was sinking.
In this reminiscing, I have to think about what the family and friends of Jesus felt as they watched him suffer and die. Now, I’m not trying to compare my grandfather to Jesus, or to compare what he experienced in his final hours to Jesus’ excruciating pain. (The truth be known, Papa suffered very little before his death.) But, to them, Jesus was the larger-than-life Messiah Who would never be defeated, the Friend Who would always be there for them, the Healer Who would relieve their afflictions – not suffer His own. This Man they had watched for years defeat diseases, demons, even the devil himself, was agonizingly dying on a cross between two common criminals. It must have felt like their world was crashing around them.
I remember the night before my papa died, I didn’t get much sleep. I sat in a window seat at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, watching as the sun rose that Sunday, and street lights began to fade in the morning light. I watched people out and about not knowing that, for us, life would never be the same. I didn’t know for sure what would happen, that this would be the day my papa’s earthly body would die. But one thing I knew – he was ready. There was nobody on earth that I could say that about with more certainty. My papa knew Jesus, and that’s Who he would see when he left this world.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb…” – Luke 24:1a (ESV)
I can somewhat imagine the sorrow of the women who visited the tomb that early Sunday morning. They were Jesus’ friends, women He had respected and cared for in a time when women were so disregarded by society. Were they dreading the sight of their slaughtered Friend? In the back of their minds, did they remember His promise? Were they thinking about the miracles He had performed or maybe more personal memories of stories and laughter? I don’t know what may have been on their minds, but they couldn’t have exactly expected what they saw.
“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.” – Luke 24:2-3 (ESV)
Now, it would be a little while longer before they would find out precisely what was taking place. But can you imagine their shock and awe at the rolled-away stone, the missing guards, the empty tomb? This event is what mattered. It mattered not only to these women who were honored with the privilege of being the first to know about our resurrected Lord, but to generations of those who followed them. It mattered to my papa as he left his earthly body that Sunday morning and burst into eternity. Because Jesus lived that Sunday morning, my papa lived on a Sunday morning some 2000 years later when his life here ended. Therein lies the hope for all of us.
Hope. There isn’t a lot of that in the world in which we live today. But because of what happened that Sunday morning, there is hope for all of us. Hope and victory, here and in the life to come. Do you know about this hope?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” – 1 Peter 1:3-4a (NIV)
It has been more than 20 years since Papa Henry slipped into eternity. But he is more alive today than ever…because Jesus is more alive today than ever. I plan to see them both when it’s my time for my days here to end. Will you?
Love in Christ,