An Easter Extra


I’m not the one you want to ask about Terry Schiavo’s situation. After all, according to all the professional pundits and the know-it-alls who expound on talk shows and in letters to the editor, since I don’t know the lady and never heard her express her wishes about not wanting heroic measures to prolong her life, I am not qualified to register an opinion. Which makes me one of the few not chiming in on the matter. Until now and only here.

God bless this poor lady and her grieving parents. In my early morning walks on the Mississippi River levee, the prayer I send up most often on their behalf is, “Father, thy will be done.” I think of that terrific promise in Romans 8:26 that sometimes we do not know how to pray as we should, but in those cases the Holy Spirit does our praying for us. I’m cashing in that red card right now. “Lord, pray for this lady and her parents, please.”

I am not normally a merciless person, but I have to tell you, I feel zero pity for the husband. As soon as I learned that while his wife has lain there between life and death, he has fathered two children with a lady he is not married to, that did it. I’m outa here. At my house, that fellow has zero credibility.

Odd that this issue is coming to a climax at Easter, isn’t it. At the very time we are all rejoicing in the hope of eternal life, some are calling for an end to this lady’s life.

I do not have all knowledge on anything, but if I were a wagering man, I would bet you that most of the people who favor unplugging the feeding tubes are the same ones who defend what they euphemistically refer to as “a woman’s right to choose,” and the rest of us call killing the unborn.

I think if I were in favor of stopping people from being born and hastening the exits of those who made it, I would see that as reason to pause and think about what this says about me.

I pray that the Lord who knows best will cause the right thing to be done.

Friend of mine called about Easter the other morning.

Grif teaches a Sunday School class in the Washington, D.C., area, and needed me to jump start his thinking on the events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and its meaning for us. I told him that many years ago, I served on the staff with a pastor who would do the same thing. Couple of weeks before Easter, he would call me in. “Talk to me about Easter.” I would say, “If there is anything I have gone to seed on, it’s the importance of Jesus’ resurrection,” and start talking. Ten minutes later, he would interrupt, “Okay, I’ve got it now.” On Easter Sunday, he would deliver an excellent message, but I was never able to identify even a germ of a thought that I had planted. He just needed me to get him started. As did Grif.

Here is what I told my friend Grif.

Few years ago, I ran across Etta Shuber’s 1943 volume “Paris Underground” in which she told how she and a Parisian friend worked for two years smuggling downed British airmen out of Nazi-occupied France. She told how the Germans had sealed the borders, not letting anyone leave the country. But in one little French town straddling the border, they noticed the population dwindling.

Some of the citizens in that little village had remembered that at the back of the town’s cemetery was an old gate in the wall that had been sealed for a hundred years. They opened up the gate, and thereafter, when they went to the cemetery for a funeral, they would just keep walking right on through the back gate into the land of freedom and sunshine.

When I read that, all the bells went off. I realized that this is what Jesus accomplished for mankind by His death, burial, and resurrection. He opened a gate on the back side of the cemetery. We still go to funerals and graveyards, but we don’t stick around. We go right out the back side into the land of freedom and life and sunshine.

And then I told Grif about the Sports Illustrated article from November, 2001 (I’m fairly sure). After the Arizona Diamondbacks staged an amazing comeback to defeat the Yankees in the World Series, the sports magazine ran a little article on “the ten greatest comebacks of all time.” On their list they had the time Muhammad Ali returned to boxing after an absence of several years due to his draft resistance. They had Elvis’ return after a TV special in 1975, and the resurgence of Japan and Germany after World War II. And Truman’s defeat of Dewey in 1948. But the number one greatest comeback of all time, according to Sports Illustrated, was: “Jesus Christ, A.D. 33. Defies critics and stuns opponents by rising from the dead.”

Then I told Grif of one little insight about the resurrection of Jesus he might not have thought of. “Remember in John 20 where Peter and John run down to the empty tomb? Inside, what do they find?” He said, “Jesus’ graveclothes?” I said, “And what does that tell us?” Grif said, “That Jesus had risen bodily? And had new clothes?” I said, “It tells us no one stole His body. Which is what a lot of opponents have charged over the years, that the Jews or Romans or even the disciples stole the body. But we know they didn’t for a lot of reasons, but number one is those graveclothes. If you are going to take a body that has been dead for several days–without embalming–you don’t unwrap it. You might throw another quilt around it, but you sure wouldn’t unwrap it!” Grif said, “I never thought about that.”

At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke writes that following Jesus’ resurrection, over a 40 day period, He “showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs.” We’re talking solid stuff here, folks.

Ultimately, whether Terry Schiavo–and you and I–lives another 50 years or dies next week matters very little. What does matter is what happens immediately following that last breath.

As a result of what Jesus did and what we celebrate this weekend, all who put faith and trust in Him go to be with Him in an existence absolutely beyond our greatest expectations, called in Scripture both abundant and eternal life.

I hope you will go to an Easter sunrise service. If you have a choice, pick one held in a cemetery. That’s the best place to celebrate the resurrection from the dead. Sort of, in your face, death!

5 thoughts on “An Easter Extra

  1. Dear Brother Joe,

    You have once again so eloquently spoken about the Terry Schiavo situation. It grieves my heart to hear of the anguish that her parents and siblings are going through. Also thanks for the story of the Paris Underground. I love that picture of us walking into eternity-from death to life. By the way-hope you had a great birthday. You are so beloved by soooo many people. Gail

  2. WOW!!!!! That was powerful and it certainly should get anybody thinking. As I draw closer and closer to that day, not knowing what is coming or when it will come, comments like yours really hit home and I thank God for that day when he raised Jesus and defeated DEATH and the day when I felt like I would absolutely being torn into pieces if I did not walk the isle and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

    Thank you,

    Bob King

  3. Once again, your message was such a blessing to me! We just returned yesterday from visiting our son and family over Easter in Columbus MS. I thought of you as we drove past First Baptist…our youngest grandaughter is in daycare there. We were given a birthday gift by my son…..a night in the Lincoln Inn..a Bed and Breakfast ….also enjoyed touring the Friendship Cemetery…just missed the starting of the Pilgrimage, but were able to tour 2 homes and take a driving tour of many others. Hope your father had a wonderful birthday!

  4. Its been a long time,but I still miss those insights regarding the Word. Glad you are healing and will soon be well again. You are greatly loved by we two. B. and B.

  5. Joe,

    I read your articles each week and they are fun because they usually reflect

    your up-bringing in rural Alabama. Should I be able to compose as eloquently

    as you I think my stories might be worded a little stronger and perhaps

    directed more toward the parents of today’s generation.They are too

    all-fired busy making money to have at least two(or more) cars, a lake

    house,a big mansion that’s a house and not a home, and kids disciplined by

    Dr. Spock’s standards. Without knowing any more than you wrote about the

    three that stole the truck and were shot, I’d be willing to bet my last

    dollar that they were from parents that either over-provided for them or

    never took the time to explain, maybe with a good peach limb, the difference

    between having fun and destroying someone else’s property. My Dad never

    whipped any of us (there were 5 children)but boy my Mama made up for those

    Daddy didn’t administer. I did administer discipline to our own three

    children and I can say it didn’t warp their young and tender personalities.

    I sincerely believe that all(weak and the strong) children when they reach

    18 or finish High School should be required to serve either in the Military

    or as a public servant at least 1-2 years under a tough displinarian

    (preferably a Drill Instructor) that will explain right from wrong and the

    consequences of disobeying the rules.

    You keep those good stories coming.Ya heah!!!

    Bob Dreher

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