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.
you want the pain to stop
the emotional pain
caused by the physical
caused by the emotional
you want to live again
the way you used to
don’t come too frequently anymore
and you’re left
stuck in the circumstances
you never signed up for
and you try
you try so very hard
to make the best of it
but your best
measures so much lower
than it once did
and you think
there is no God
you are sure
for how could God –
a God full of grace and mercy –
do this to you?
to one you love?
and you don’t understand
and you are confused
and you’re lack
there is no God
or that He is cruel
you hope for a miracle
but where do miracles come from
if there is no god?
do they float out of nothingness
a just become
because we will them to
or do they come from that God
you say doesn’t exist
or does he?
your answer may not come
in the way you are expecting
it may not come
at this very moment
when you are desperate for it to come
it may not come for years
it may not come at all
but still there remains
a real Father
you can run to
and find rest
and if you think about it
isn’t that a miracle itself?
A man is taken to the ER for breathing issues and is looked after in the ER and sent home the same night. After being at home for a time, he has breathing problems again, this time accompanied by a headache. He closes his eyes to get some rest and passes quietly that evening in his sleep.
A young woman is making wedding plans, only to come home the other evening and find that her fiancé has taken his life.
A mom, 32, goes to ER for the flu. She is a wife and mother of two little girls under three years. She never went home.
A tornado hits in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It claims three lives and destroys much of the William Carey University where a friend is attending. She says that the chapel is heavily damaged but inside, there still stands, in its regular place, the word of God. The tempest has not been able to destroy the Book or its message. The president announces that its pages, after the winds have blown them hither and yon, lay open to Psalm 46. A message God wants all to remember. Desires all to hear.
“Listen to me… you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you…
“Remember this, keep it in mind…
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’
…What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.
Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness.
I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.”
For those who have lost loved ones, to those who are grieving, to those who are deeply hurting, to those who carry sorrow that is weighing them down…
His righteousness near. It is not faraway. His salvation will not be delayed. He is God. There is no other – no one like Him. He will sustain you. He made you and He will carry you. He will sustain and rescue you.
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.
When my son was born, until the age of almost three, he had constant ear infections. After the third or fourth time, it became easier to identify that another was coming on and I could get him to the doctor before it became too painful. Most of the time.
I do recall one experience, having that motherly instinct of knowing he was getting another and taking him in to the doctor. His regular doctor was out and another doctor saw him. He assured me after checking him briefly that there was no cause for worry. I wanted to assure him that I was most certain he was wrong.
At twelve o’clock that night, my son woke up screaming, his ear filled with pain. I did everything I could to help him. I gave him Tylenol. I held him. I rocked him. I cried with him. He screamed in pain until morning.
A few weeks ago, I had an ear infection. It began with a gradual achiness followed by intense pain and pressure for about five days, at which time I felt it was going to burst and to be quite honest, I almost wanted it to just to relieve the pain and the pressure.
No one ever gave me Tylenol. No one held or rocked me or saw me crying in the dark when I could not sleep because the pain was so intense, but then, they did not know because I was not crying out in agony.
This is what I learned…
When my son, at the age of two, was in pain, he writhed in discomfort and screamed for release from the grip of his ear infection. Oh how I wanted to comfort him and hold him tight so that he knew he was not alone. I rocked him to try to soothe him and as I held him closely, I cried with him, wanting badly to be able to take his pain away.
When I was in pain a few weeks ago, for the most part, I kept it inside. No one else needed to hear how much it really hurt. No one could rock me and comfort me and it made me think… Isn’t that what God wants us to do with him? Yet, we try to keep the pain in our lives and the heartache we experience hidden deep inside, when all the while He is waiting for us to cry out to Him for help.
A friend was saying that another of her friends was not going to be able to do an event that they had planned for this year. She said the other person had been having some recent struggles and had to cancel. Then she withdrew and ‘disappeared’ (not literally) from her network of friends. My friend made a comment that went something like this: “I’ve told her there’s still a spot for her on the team, but she’s got to walk through the door.”
I liked that.
Do I sit and suffer, failing to run through the door crying out to God for relief? The only One who can truly subside the pain? Do I writhe in pain when it hurts so bad inside that I think I cannot tolerate it for another minute or do I run quickly, first, to the One whose arms are always open wide and waiting? The pain of life can come in a foreclosure on the only home you have known. A divorce. An illness. The loss of a loved one. You lose your job. The list goes on.
Sometimes that is the only thing we can and should do. Sometimes that is the best thing to do. To become like a child and run into the arms God and just let Him hold you and rock you. Let Him soothe you and wipe the tears as He wraps you safely in His arms.
He is waiting to love you. Are you ready to be loved as only He can do? Then… Run!
A friend and I took a walk the other day on a bridge that was above a waterfall. The power of the water rushing beneath us was incredible. So powerful, in fact, I believe that were we to fall in, the chances of survival might be questionable. We walked up the river a ways and there was a quiet, calm and serene spot where you could skip stones. No rushing water, no rocks rolling around hitting each other below. Just a peaceful calm.
As I stood there with my friend, smooth stones in hand, I had a thought of how people are like those stones I held in my palm. We were often once sharp and made smooth by the rushing, powerful circumstances that come passing through in the river of life. Hit by other stones as we tumble downstream, our sharp corners constantly chipped away, one by one, until eventually we were made smooth.
A stone doesn’t become that way by sitting in the calm waters or by trying to dodge the effects of the white water. It is made smooth through the constant tumbling down a winding river, often bumped by other stones along the way.
Many people love to carry a stone in their pocket. A nice, smooth stone. It is often used to relieve stress as you roll it over and over again in your hand. A sharp stone would not even be given consideration to accomplish the same goal.
In the midst of trials and heartache, the people who are the most comforting and encouraging to us are those who have endured great struuggles and pain. They have been made smooth because of them. They are the ones who have had the rough spots softened by the hard places in life.
I want to be a smooth stone. The kind that has had the rough edges chipped away. The kind that sparkles. And, as someone who is struggling in life walks along a sandy shore trying to find hope and peace in their place in this life, they would see me and be drawn to pick me up and put me in their pocket. I want to be the kind of stone – the kind of person – that brings comfort and encouragement.
The calm waters are peaceful, restful, and inviting. But you can’t really appreciate them unless you’ve been through the rough waters and have been made just a little bit smoother by them. It’s not a painless process, but often needful. It makes us more approachable, more understanding and compassionate. And, it makes us more sought after for skipping stones on a calm lakeshore. What more could you ask for?