Jane has lived through two pandemics. She was born in 1918, the year World War I ended and the great flu epidemic swept across the globe. Now approaching the age of 103, she is cheerful and content. She looks forward to spending eternity with the Lord, and jokingly exclaims, “I don’t know why the Lord still has me here!” When all is said and done, Jane’s soul is at peace because she trusts in the Lord.
After retiring from a long, respected career as the principal of a large elementary school, Mark served with me on the administrative staff of a Christian college. He was a leader in his church and a beloved father and grandfather. Mark seemed in good health when we met for a late-afternoon conversation. All of us who knew him were shocked when he died suddenly the next morning. After returning from the hospital that day, I sat at Mark’s desk. Sticky Post-It notes listed the tasks he planned to fulfill that week. No one had realized his time on earth was almost over, but we took comfort in the assurance that when all was said and done, Mark was ready to be with the Lord.
TOWARD THE DAWN
In the New Testament, James compares our lives to “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). No one ever impacted the world more than Jesus of Nazareth, yet his physical life on earth was short, spanning only 33 years. Life’s brevity would be enormously depressing if not for the promise of resurrection and eternity to come.
At the Cairo Museum in Egypt, I viewed the contents of King Tut’s tomb. The burial chamber of King Tutankhamen contained a treasure trove of dazzling jewelry, statues, weapons, clothing—even a chariot. Tut’s mummified body was well-preserved in his solid gold coffin, yet all the glittering jewels and gold couldn’t obscure the stark reality that the king himself was dead and gone.
Not so with King Jesus. His empty tomb contained treasures of a different kind—the glory of God, not the glitter of gold. Grieving visitors came to Jesus’ tomb in the early morning; one translation says it was “toward the dawn” (Matthew 28:1, English Standard Version). When we belong to Christ, that’s our vantage point. No matter how dark things get, we’re moving toward the dawn.
Jesus spoke often about his own resurrection, but its full impact didn’t dawn on the disciples until after it happened. He predicted it would take three days to rebuild the temple of his body (John 2:21), compared his resurrection to Jonah’s startling return after a three-day burial at sea (Matthew 12:38-40; 16:1-4), and stated plainly that he would rise again on the third day (Luke 9:22). The visitors to Jesus’ tomb found his graveclothes neatly arranged the way a carpenter would fold up his dustcloth after completing a project (John 20:5-7). Afterward he provided “many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3).
Death wins skirmishes every day, but in the end, the battle belongs to the Lord. We don’t know whether our time on earth will end slowly or abruptly. But when all is said and done, on the day we die, nothing will matter more than what Jesus said and did.
Personal Challenge: Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and he made it personal by asking her, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). What is your response to his question?