When I was growing up in Houston, our family lived across the street from a widow named Mrs Roberts. Her husband had recently died from a sudden heart attack. Alone, afraid, and facing an unknown future, her grief knew no bounds.
In the weeks that followed the funeral, my mother watched Mrs Roberts leave the house every day to visit the grave of her husband. Each day as she left her lonely home for the cemetery, her despair deepened. You see, our neighbour was a fine, morally upright woman—but she had no personal relationship with Jesus. Over the years, my mother had attempted to reach her with the gospel, but Mrs Roberts was never particularly receptive. And because she had no hope in Christ, she had no hope in His resurrection, no hope of any happiness in life, and certainly no hope of an eternal, peaceful home in heaven.
I’ll never forget the day my mother said to me, “Charles, I want you to pray that Mrs Roberts’s heart will be open to what I have to say.” And within a few minutes, she made her way across the street with a batch of warm cookies and a pitcher of lemonade. That very afternoon, Mrs Roberts listened to the good news of Christ and embraced the truth: because Jesus rose from the dead, death has no claim to any final victory. But Christ—and those who believe in Him—will live forever.
Stop for a moment and think about this: What if Jesus’s resurrection was a fraud? What, then, is the meaning of your fleeting life on earth? As Mrs Roberts looked back on her delightful years with her husband—years that ended so suddenly, so confusingly to her—she had no answer. And her futile graveside outings only further deepened her hopelessness.
Let’s face it. If Jesus didn’t arise that first Easter morning, lay aside His burial wrappings, and leave the tomb to walk among those who loved Him, nothing really matters. Let me write that another way. If Jesus didn’t come back, alive, from the dead or if His resurrection was a hoax, then nothing—absolutely nothing—has any meaning at all. Any blessing we enjoy will come to a sudden, heartbreaking end. Any good work we accomplish will either decay or quickly become obsolete. When our life has passed—a mere twinkling of a moment when compared to the eons before and after us—any impact we leave will be washed away like footprints in wave-washed sand. Furthermore, we waste our time trusting in and praying to some strange, dead Saviour. The apostle Paul wrote it this way:
If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. (1 Corinthians 15:14–19 NLT)
How pointless our belief would be in a dead Lord! How futile to trust a lying God! How fleeting is any happiness or any meaningful future or any hope that only ends with death!
On the other hand, because Christ has indeed risen, we have every reason to live well, to worship God, and to savour the blessings we enjoy today. Why? Because these earthly blessings are only a taste of so much more to come.
What does the resurrection give us? I suppose the benefits are many, but for now, let me mention only two:
First, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is our promise that the life we live is not in vain. We have significance both temporally and eternally. Our lives have purpose beyond the eighty-or-so years we spend on earth because the living God has promised us that our investments in eternity will not return empty.
Second, because Jesus conquered death and because of our faith in Him, we now anticipate victory over the grave. Jesus’ triumph over death gives us the courage to endure all temporal tragedies and the wisdom to relish every earthly delight. His victory over the final evil, death, assures us that nothing is too dead for Him to revive. So whatever our circumstances, we can be confident that better days are coming. Furthermore, we have no fear of our own death!
Mrs Roberts embraced this truth the day my mother returned with an empty pitcher and a full heart. But the widow’s trips to the cemetery didn’t stop. Instead, her reason for going changed. In her many gravesite visits, she had noticed other people weeping over and talking to cold stones, trying in vain to cling to the relationships they once enjoyed. She understood their despair . . . but now she held a truth they desperately needed to hear and believe.
With her little New Testament and a few well-chosen words, this transformed woman comforted mourners as they wept, then offered them the very message that had given her life meaning and hope: Jesus Christ rose from the dead! Strange as it may sound, she became a “cemetery evangelist”! In place of despair, she now had hope . . . enough hope to share with many others the rest of her life.
And that’s our hope, isn’t it? Jesus’ resurrection promises that we, too, will be resurrected one day . . . never to die again.