Mark 16:6 (ESV)
And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
The dreaded phone call came from Canada in the middle of a missionary term in Papua New Guinea. The housemaid answered and relayed the message to Rick when he arrived home for lunch. He says he will never forget her exact words: "Rick, sorry … your father is … what … dead." "Yes," she said in her usual shy way, "your father is … what … dead."
Surprised? Shocked! His dad had been well the last time he had talked to him just a couple of weeks prior. He and his mom had traveled to visit just the year before, and he looked as strong and healthy as ever. How could this be? How could he be dead?
With tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, he called home to his mom. Long distance phone calls from Papua New Guinea were of questionable quality and unreliable at best. It took him, as usual, the better part of an hour to get through. First, he had to dial and connect to a long distance operator (often a challenge in itself), then the operator called him back to confirm his phone number. An hour later, the operator placed the call and then called back to connect to him after the receiving party answered.
During that hour, memories of his dad flooded back — of a father who never deserted him, of a devoted father who would give of himself for any of his children; a father who gave them his all.
Finally, he got through to Canada. Surprise! "Hello!" Came his father's usual cheery voice. And in an instant, he realized in quite a different way how important his father was to him. His dad, who he had thought was dead, was alive! Surprise!
He never did find out whose father had died, and how the misdirected phone call had reached his house. It was a moot point compared to the thrill of knowing that a loved one whom he thought might be dead was alive.
He recalls that incident, as it turns out, was a blessing, for in the ensuing time before his father actually died ten years later, it allowed him time to make peace with him, and to tell him of his gratitude and love for who he was and the example that he had been for him.
As much as hearing his dad's voice and knowing that he was alive was a surprise and relief to him, imagine how much of a surprise it was for the disciples and friends of Jesus to learn that He was alive! Unlike Rick, they had actually witnessed Jesus' death, a horrible, cruel, and humiliating death that would have led them to believe that He was never going to be seen alive again.
Earlier on that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and Mary came to the tomb where Jesus' lifeless body had been laid. The gospel of John says that it was still dark. John could have been speaking both literally and metaphorically, for there was darkness over all the earth before Christ's resurrection. Without His resurrection, our lives would still be lived in darkness.
If we live with no promise or understanding of life to come when our earthly life is over — if aging, pain, and death have the final say — then this is a dark world indeed.
But because Christ has risen, because of His resurrection and His promise of eternal life for each of us, we, too, can live confident that better days are always ahead!
Dear Lord, May we live lives worthy of Your sacrifice for us, and live with the confidence of eternal life always. In Jesus' Name, Amen!