I was doing some preseason scouting for wild turkey when I came across a long-neglected graveyard on a lonely ridgetop in Carter County.
A leaning tombstone stood among briars and saplings. I could not make out the names, but the dates of death were legible, as was an inscription: “Loving father. Loving mother.”
For nearly 90 years they have waited for the resurrection.
A while later I visited three Greenup County cemeteries, all lying within five miles of each other, and looked on the gravesites of my father, mother, sister and brother, as well as those of our only two sons, who died within less than a year of each other. Kendall was killed in a truck-car accident in December 2014, and Kelly died of a heart attack on the way to the hospital in December 2015.
Driving on home, I turned on the truck radio and listened as over the airways came the words of an old, old song: “The family who prays will never be parted, their circle unbroken in Heaven shall stand.”
My mind was stirred with thoughts of two timeless questions:
Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead? Is there life for us beyond the grave?
I submit that there is unquestionable proof that the answer to both questions is a resounding “Yes!”
The empty tomb is the standard that separates Christianity from all the other paths men have sought to follow in seeking their Creator and the hoped-for life after death.
The Apostle Paul, who persecuted the early Christians before he himself became a believer, tells us, “… Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the 12.
“That he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Luke, the physician, who was not one of the apostles, took up his pen some 25 years after Christ’s ascension and undertook “to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you … that you may know the truth.”
In his other writing in the Book of Acts, Luke wrote, “To them (the apostles) he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them 40 days, and speaking to the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Jesus was dead when they took him down from the cross. The Scriptures say he had given up the spirit. They laid His body in a tomb, sealed it and posted a guard.
Those who came to the spot early on the first day of the week found the stone rolled back, the tomb empty.
The Roman guards, when they told the religious leaders what had taken place, were given money to spread the story that the disciples had come by night and stolen the body while they slept.
But after the disciples had seen Jesus beaten and hung on the cross to die, they cowered behind locked doors, no doubt fearing that they themselves might be put to a horrible death on a cross. Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus.
Then, after they saw the resurrected Christ and watched him ascend “to prepare a place,” they turned that part of the world upside down with their bold testimonies.
You know as well as I that there is no way they would have spread the Gospel for a liar, an impostor, a dead man.
Jesus told Martha, the sister of Lazarus, whom he was about to raise from the dead after he had been four days in the grave, “I am the resurrection and the life; he that liveth and believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. Believeth thou this?”
My folks who have gone on did. So have many of yours, more than you might realize.
The Scriptures promise a great family celebration – a reunion – yet to come. Our loved ones who have gone on, with their faith in Christ, have already discovered what lies beyond the veil.
The Scriptures tell us that when humans die the body returns to the dust, “but the spirit to God who gave it.”
It also tells us that “The God who raised the Lord from the dead will also raise us mortal men (and women) by his power.”
The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians, Chapter 15, speaking of believers, tells us, “… for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we (believers who remain alive at the time) shall be changed.”
Officials sought to slay the apostles to stop their preaching of the Resurrection. Gamaliel, an eminent doctor of the law, stood up in the midst of the council and urged judicious caution. If this new doctrine was of God, he said, they could not overthrow it. If it were of man, it would perish of itself.
The doctrine has not perished.
Reach G. Sam Piatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 606-932-3619.
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