"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’" (Luke 24:1-5, NIV)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
There was little left to do that Friday afternoon. The last criminal took less time to die than most, so the soldiers began to pack their simple tools—the hammer, sword, and their spikes—and prepared to go home. The crowd had witnessed several executions and, although the one they called "King of the Jews" died in a peculiar manner, the outcome for him was still the same.
Yet before he died, that man said words no prisoner had ever spoken. He mumbled, "Father, forgive them." Who was he talking to? Forgive them?
Then the man said, "Today you shall be with me in paradise." Whoever heard of a dying man promising another criminal a place in paradise?
And at the last he said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Most people standing at the foot of that cross probably were confused, maybe awaiting something unexpected.
But it was all over. They took down his lifeless body, placed him in a borrowed tomb, and everyone went home to rest.
Everyone but God!
After men had done their worst, when humans thought they had prevailed, God acted! The result was that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his followers and others. He arose! He lived! Death was not the end; it was the beginning.
This is the meaning of the Easter story for us: God still has the last word. Nothing is over until God says so!
We need to remember that in this holiest of all Christian seasons. Because God was not content to let things rest as they were on Calvary that Friday, God will not be content today to let evil, human greed, sin, sickness, and death have the last word!
The Resurrection is true, and God, the God who was in Jesus Christ, is the decisive factor on which we can depend. If we leave God out, our lives have no future. The very next time you determine nothing good can come from a dire situation, remember that you serve a God who "neither slumbers nor sleeps," and who is working all day long to bring good out of bad.
Beloved radio commentator and Tulsa native Paul Harvey wrote about the Methodists of Swan Quarter, N.C. They had no church in which to worship, but the only property available was a plot of low-lying land on Oyster Creek Road. For years they begged a wealthy landowner to sell them a lot on high ground, in the center of town, but time and time again they were denied. With no other options, they finally began construction in the only place they could.
The white-frame church was a sturdy building, propped on brick pilings. On Sunday, Sept. 16, 1876, a dedication ceremony was held for the completed building.
But three days later, a terrible storm lashed Swan Quarter. By nightfall Wednesday there was wide devastation, and the Swan Quarter Methodist Church—the whole building, intact—literally was afloat. Flood waters had lifted the entire structure from the brick pilings and were carrying it slowly down Oyster Creek Road and into town.
Despite efforts to prevent it from drifting farther, as dozens watched in amazement, the floating church made an inexplicable right turn and continued down that road, as though the chapel had a mind of its own.
Then, in the same seemingly deliberate manner, the church veered off the road and toward a vacant lot. In the center of that lot, it stopped moving.
When the water receded, that church was on the very property for which the congregation had pleaded to purchase. The next morning, the landowner presented the deeds to the Methodist minister.
It’s not over until God says so!
Take courage! You serve the One who can take the powers of this world and bring them to naught, who can lift the fallen and allow them to soar on eagle wings, whose holy wisdom is unimaginable, whose love is inexhaustible, who can take even death and restore life. You serve God, so watch out. Anything can happen!