It was in church on Easter Sunday in 1979 that the 15-year-old me, in the middle of the singing of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," lifted my eyes to heaven and whispered, "Ok, God, I'll trust You." Today I'm going to let Peter Marshall, 1950's Chaplain of the US Senate, be my "guest blogger" to help me express what Easter became for me on that day: the day I first let my own life's story become caught up in the Great Story of the gospel, which Dr. Marshall retold so often and so well. So here is a section I have abridged from perhaps his most famous sermon.
THE GRAVE IN THE GARDEN
Three years before, the Master had called them to become fishers of men. Now that His fame had died away, they would once more become fishers of fish.
Their King crucified like a criminal. Their Messiah ending up-- not on a throne, but on a cross, hailed as King on Sunday, and dead like a common thief on Friday.
They remained the despairing survivors of a broken cause, as they stumbled blindly down the hill, their eyes filled with tears they could not stop.
They were the very picture of men without any hope.
Utterly crushed. . . beaten. . .
disappointed. . .
In their faces there was the stark, dreadful look of hopeless despair.
Jesus was a dead man now, very much like any other dead man. The Roman authorities were satisfied that they had seen the last of this strange, troublesome Dreamer.
Thus they left Him on Friday evening-- just before the Sabbath began, His dead body hastily embalmed,
wrapped in bandages on which a hundred pounds of myrrh had been hastily spread. . .
the tomb closed with a huge stone and soldiers standing guard around it.
Then came Sunday morning.
The first rays of the early morning sun cast a great light that caused the dew drops on the flowers to sparkle like diamonds.
The atmosphere of the garden was changed. . .
It was the same garden. . . yet strangely different.
The heaviness of despair was gone,
and there was a new note in the singing of the birds.
Suddenly, at a certain hour between sunset and dawn, in that new tomb which had belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, there was a strange stirring, a fluttering of unseen forces. . .
a whirring of angel wings
the rustle as of the breath of God moving through the garden.
Strong, immeasurable forces poured life back into the dead body
they had laid upon the cold stone slab;
and the dead man rose up
came out of the grave clothes
walked to the threshold of the tomb,
stood swaying for a moment on His wounded feet,
and walked out into the moonlit garden.
We can almost hear in our hearts the faint sigh, as the life spirit fluttered back into the tortured body, and smell in our own nostrils the medley of strange scents that floated back to Him
of linen and bandages. . .
and close air and blood.
Then came a group of women as soon as they could, bringing spices and materials with which to complete the hasty anointing of their Lord.
They came with all the materials with which to anoint a dead body,
and when they came to the grave in the garden, they found that the stone had been rolled away from the door of it, and the grave was empty.
Here is John's account of what followed:
"But Mary stood without the sepulchre weeping. . . and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."
There were two names spoken, "Mary," and "Rabboni."
She heard her own name spoken as only one Voice could speak it-- gently echoing in the garden.
And there was her "Rabboni" -- the breathless "Master!" as she saw His face.
Christ had spoken her name, and all of heaven was in it.
She uttered only one word, and all of earth was in it.
Then, what happened?
Suddenly Peter is facing the foes of Jesus with a reckless courage. Why, this does not sound like the same man. The truth is, it is not the same man. He is different--
very, very different.
The disciples of Jesus were scattered
with a sense of tragic loss
and then, in a few days, they were thrilling with victory, completely changed.
The were all thrilled beyond fear in the stupendous knowledge that Christ was alive,
and they went about rejoicing in a joy beyond pain.
Happy Easter to my readers, wherever you are. Thank you so much for coming and reading.
Peter Marshall, Mr. Jones, Meet the Master, Fleming H. Revell Co. (1950), pp. 101-114.