It was three days later. Three days after they had laid him behind the stone that everyone said would take at least six men to move, most likely more.
Three days after he had told his closest friends he would be back. Three days after his would-be, so-called followers asked for his blood to pay for crimes he didn’t commit.
Three days. A lot can happen in three days but in this town not much was happening. People were quiet. Afraid. Despairing. Hopeless. In hiding. Unaware.
Quiet for the uproar had subsided. It was believed the cause was now gone. But, a lot can happen in three days no matter how quiet it may seem.
People were afraid. Afraid of what might or never might be. Afraid of being connected. Afraid of being disconnected. But – a lot of connection can be lost but a lot of connection can also be restored in just three days.
People were in despair and void of hope. Despairing over what they had once hoped for because what they had once hoped for now seemed forever gone. But – despair can give birth to hope and hope can give birth to life in just three days.
People feared for their lives, afraid of being put to death for something they once thought would save them. They were unaware of what was happening in those three days.
Three days and the One who gave hope that led to despair had other plans that third day. Plans other than watching three devoted women prepare a body for burial. Three women who were making their way to a tomb that no longer held the One which they sought. Three women who walked quietly. Three women who seemed to have misplaced their hope. Three women who stopped, cheeks wet from fresh fallen tears, to discuss how they were going to move the stone just yards before them. The stone that covered the entrance to the tomb where the body of their beloved laid. The body they had come to prepare for burial.
Fresh tears fell again for though they are ready to prepare the body of the one they love, the three women are unprepared in strength and all their pondering won’t help. They know they cannot move the stone. Still, they step those extra feet, one foot in front of the other, and they approach the tomb.
The stone is not there.
The tomb is open.
As Dr. David Jeremiah said in so many words, have you ever wondered if the stone had not necessarily been opened for the Beloved to walk out of but for us to step into? For us to see that He was not there? For us to see such a miracle for ourselves? The miracle of the empty tomb?
The women listened to the angel who stood waiting at the entrance of the tomb. Three women who had spent their morning walking a quiet, sorrowful journey to do a grievous task. Waiting to give them cause to renew their faith and a reason to dispel their fears.
For three days they had wept. For three days they were lost, alone, and despairing. But then came the third day and instead of finding a body waiting for burial, they found hope anew in an empty tomb. Hope that beckoned them to come, see for themselves that what their Beloved tried to make them understand days, weeks, months earlier – it had now come to pass.
Death could not defeat Him. Hell could not hold Him back. Fear was conquered through faith and despair was laid to waste through death. It was finished.
A woman who wanted affirmation from God that He did, indeed, hear her desperate prayers. She had been raised to believe that laying a fleece before Him was taboo, but at this point in her life, she didn’t know what else to do. Her bitterness and sorrow were growing day by day.
She approached the throne of God and made her request known. She asked her heavenly Father that if He was listening, to send her a red or a yellow rose.
She awoke the next morning, dressed, and headed off to work. All was usual. Even the co-worker that came into her office. And, this wasn’t just any co-worker, but the one that annoyed her due to his perky, joyful attitude. He was too happy and that annoyed her for one simple reason. She wasn’t.
As usual, he was his regular self – full of perk and joy. And full of the smiles she had come to nearly despise. This particular day he greeted her, hands behind his back. She wasn’t in the mood for smiling or merriment. Somehow he had sensed that from her lately and on this particular day he brought her a gift. “A little something,” he felt prompted to explain, “that I thought would cheer you up. The red one is to remind you that you are cherished by a big God and the yellow one is to remind you that He is in control and wants you to be at peace.”
Before he could finish, tears were streaming down her face. The years of sorrow and loss that had turned to bitterness and despair, washed away with the tears that ran down her face that day. God had been listening and answered not just with one rose, but two.
After reading her post, I sat at my computer, staring at the screen. Tears rolled down my cheeks. It was at that very moment that I, too, prayed for a rose. A fleece in the form of a scented bloom. I would not be so bold as to be specific as to color. Any rose would do. I wasn’t picky.
While in the process of moving, packing up our too many belongings, putting them in storage and heading who knows where, we are, I guess one might say – temporarily ‘homeless’. Unable to meet our financial demands in our current place of residence, we are seeking God’s will for the next placement, while not knowing what that looks like or where it is.
With each box that is taped and labeled, the question remains in the back of my mind as to when these boxes of mementoes, memories and more will be opened. The bigger question that haunts me is whether or not we are doing the right thing. Believing we are and at the same time, feeling like we’ve gone absolutely crazy.
So, sitting there before the computer, I laid a fleece before the throne of God. I asked for affirmation that we were making the right choices and doing the right thing. I didn’t need to know where He was taking us or when or how. I just wanted to know we were being obedient and not on some crazy path made of our own accord.
The next day my son was visiting and I was in the other room when the doorbell rang. He answered it and I could hear him talking to someone. By the time I got upstairs, the visitor had left. I asked him who was at the door and he said it was one of my friends. She had brought something for me and he had put it on the kitchen counter. I turned around and looking into the kitchen, there on the counter stood six perfect, as beautiful as I’ve ever seen, red roses from her garden.
I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God. He doesn’t just answer our prayers, but goes beyond what we could have imagined, assuring us that he is indeed listening and answering in abundance.
He tells them to get into the boat. He tells them to go on ahead. Go to the other side and He will would dismiss the crowd.
He knows what he was doing.
The crowd, little by little disperses. Some continue to hang around and chat. Ponder collectively over what they had just heard. The words that had just tickled their ears. Spoke to their heart. Changed their lives.
While some remain, pondering His words, He hikes up the side of the mountain. Alone. To pray.
The air begins to cool. The sun begins to set. And there He is. Sitting, kneeling on that mountainside, alone, praying to his Father.
In the meantime, the boat, now a good distance away from the shore, begins to rock back and forth. Those inside that vessel grow fearful.
Meanwhile, up on the mountainside, He continues to pray. The cool breezes began to blow past Him.
He knows. He is God and, He knows.
He knows who is in that boat which sways more fervently with each sharp gust of wind. It bites at their flesh. The cold water washes over them, drenching their hopes for a safe return. It threatens to fill the hull that holds them in what little refuge they have. It mocks them. Its intent is to sink them. Sink bury their hopes. Their faith. Their trust. Their belief for a better way. If it has its way, it will leave them for dead.
And He knows this.
It is the fourth watch of the night. It is almost sunrise. They have battled through the night with a ship destined for destruction. He has battled all night in prayer. Were His prayers for their faith to increase and their fears to subside?
There are boats by the shore. He could probably get a ride. But instead, He walks. Right onto the water and the waves lap around His ankles.
On. the. water.
How many times do we read stories from the Bible – hear stories from the Bible – that they’ve become commonplace seem to bring nothing into our humdrum lives?
“Oh yes. I’ve read that one – Jesus brought a little girl back to life. Pretty cool.”
Cool? COOL? It’s miraculous! It’s incredible. Incredibly miraculous. And if I think about it for any length of time, at any depth, I realize – it isn’t cool, it’s unfathomable.
And so He walks. And fear rocks each disciple as the waves rock the boat. Then they spot Him. When that fear has clawed its razor sharp talons into the depths of their beings – they see Him. But through fear-tinted glasses they don’t really see Him.
They see a man.
They see a figure.
“Peter! It’s. a. ghost.!!!”
But He is not a ghost. He is the One who will save them. Now, at this moment. And three years later. And every day after that.
Immediately He calls out. “Guys – it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. It’s me – Jesus.”
Peter gathers his thoughts.
“Lord, if it’s really you then…”
Should he risk it? Should he sound and look foolish should it really be a ghost? Will his request make him look brave so that when he appears foolish in three years on that day of denial, his companions may overlook his shame?
He risks it.
“Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come out there to you on the water.”
Does Peter, at this point in time, have an inkling as to who Jesus really is?
There is no bravery here. There is no foolishness. There is relief. Relief that Help has come. But still the winds toss the boat about. And in the tossing and the rocking and the swaying, Jesus says, “Come.”
At this point, Peter may have wished it was a ghost he had seen for now he had to show by works what his faith meant to him. Could he walk over to Jesus, who had been coming to them but now waited for Peter to come to Him?
I don’t think Peter jumped. I think it was more like he wanted to jump ship as he slowly, cautiously, put one leg over the boat and then the next and then with both hands anchored tightly to the rim on the side the boat, with eyes closed, he lets loose. And… he. is .standing.
I can imagine his suprise. He. really. is. standing!
He probably smiles a sheepish grin to no one in particular and turns around and begins walking toward Jesus. You couldn’t wipe that grin off his face. You couldn’t squelch that pride that coursed through his very being.
His shoulders are broad and he could have moved a mountain. If only the waves at his feet would settle. If only the wind would calm. But, as he looks at the waves and feels their sting against his legs, and looks to the horizon and watches the clouds rush toward him, the faith flees and fear fills him once again and… he begins to sink.
Because that’s what fear does.
It pulls you down and makes you feel like you’re sinking. That the storms in life are pounding down so hard upon you that you will drown and no one can save you.
But Jesus knew. He knew what was going on in that boat while he was in prayer up on that mountain. He knew what they were thinking while he was intervening. He knew their battle with fear while he was battling for souls. And He knew what Peter would do.
“Lord, save me,” Peter cried out as he began to sink.
He knew the very second Peter quit looking at Him, is the very second Peter would begin to sink.
Peter didn’t sink immediately, but instead, “when he saw the wind”, we’re told he began sinking and cried out for Jesus to save him. And what did Jesus do?
Immediately He reached out and caught him. Not down, not under the water, but out. It shows Jesus was ready for that moment. Because He knew – before he even sent those boys across the lake, before he spent the entire night in prayer – He knew what was going to happen. Peter didn’t have time to sink because Jesus was in the process of saving him before Peter knew he needed saving. Before he cried out, “Lord, save me,” Jesus was in the process of reaching out before Peter had time to go under.
And Jesus meets Peters fears and faltering faith with tenderness.
With an arm around Peter’s shoulder and steadying his weak knees, Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
What do you say to that?
What could Peter say? What could he do? He said nothing.
The story goes on…
‘When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.’
The wind died. In the mere presence of Jesus, the wind died. Not a word was spoken.
And, as the wind died, the disciples were saved. As the wind died, their faith grew. As the wind died, they began to live. Really live. And in their living, they worshipped Him. Why? Because they realized who they were hanging around with. They knew this Jesus – their Jesus – wasn’t some mystical, magical being that appeared as a ghost upon stormy seas. They knew this was the Son of God. The One that had the power to change hearts and minds. To change lives. To turn fear into faith and worry into worship.
There are a hundred and one things I could list that could cause me to worry. And fear. And many things on my list I have granted permission to cause fear and worry. Health issues. Financial issues. Family issues. Failures. On and on.
But God doesn’t want us to live there. We can’t live there for Jesus showed us that to live in fear is to sink in the storm. And His way is much safer: keep my eyes on Him, reach for His hand, and trust Him.