That the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles. Acts 26:23
Not so long ago a brother pastor shared a story with me.
His story spoke of three melancholy friends who had just attended the funeral of an old buddy who had passed on quite unexpectedly. As they were walking away from the gravesite, one of the mourners morosely asked, "Boys, when your time comes, what would you like the preacher to say about you?"
One of the men replied, "Well, I don't know. I guess I'd like him to tell the mourners something like, 'Before us today lies a great humanitarian, an exceptional man who cared about his community.'"
The man who had originally asked the question countered, "Not bad. But I think I'd prefer the minister to say something like, 'We are mourning a man who was a great husband and father, a man who always managed to set an example for all of us to follow. He's going to be missed.'"
Both were still congratulating each other on the wisdom and rightness of those eulogies when they realized their companion hadn't said a word.
Treading carefully, lest they upset him in his reflections, they gently asked, "And, old friend, what do you think the pastor ought to say when you leave this veil of tears?"
The third fellow broke the somber mood when he replied, "That's easy. I'd like the preacher to say, 'Hold everything! Look, he's moving. Let's celebrate! He's alive!'"
I wonder how many of you are shaking your heads and saying, "That's a silly story."
Well, maybe so, but it's a story that has happened. It happened when Jesus stopped the funeral procession coming out of the city of Nain. It happened with Jairus' daughter, and it happened at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
Most importantly, it happened three days after Jesus had been crucified -- three days after Jesus had fulfilled the Law and resisted every temptation, three days after He had announced, "It is finished!" Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The stone was rolled away from the tomb, so the world could look in and say, "Hold everything! Let's celebrate! He's alive!"
For almost 2,000 years, Christians have been saying those words and celebrating their Savior's defeat of death. That's God's promise St. Paul shared centuries ago when he said, "I stand here testifying both to small and great, the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light ... " (see Acts 26:12-23).
That's just God's way of letting us know, with faith in the risen Redeemer, we can live our lives without fear. Because Jesus lives, we know the day will come when the Savior will raise our perfected bodies, and the angels in heaven and all the universe will say, "Look, they're moving! They're alive!"
And on that day there will begin a celebration that will never end.
THE PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, it is impossible for us to calculate all we owe You. Even so, we can give thanks. Today we rejoice that Your Son has carried our sins to the cross and defeated death. Now, because Jesus lives, we know we will also live forever. In the Savior's Name I give thanks. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries