Emily, during her delirium and near-death experience in Our Town, believes herself already dead and is loitering around the cemetery among the familiar tombstones of friends who had died and gone before her.
Not too long ago my wife and I visited the little Oklahoma country cemetery that holds our grave lots. All around our lots were stones bearing the names of those we have known in past years. I wondered when we would be there with them and when the entire family of those who have gone before would be with us awaiting the trumpet. Hope is the glorious mortar of families in the process of aging and dying. But death is not the lonely, final promise for those who've died in Christ. Easter is the majesty of life. It is the fulfillment of the hope of seeing the face of our dear Christ. He is as Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, that first-goer, The Pioneer, who came back from that land whence supposedly no traveler ever returns.
But Jesus did it.
And His victory has made Him the Great Enabler to allow us that same victory.
He is risen! But His triumph over His own tomb has furnished Him with no real distaste of tombs.
Every Easter I find myself humming under my breath an old hymn that we used to sing in the church of my childhood. The hymn went: "I won't have to cross Jordan alone. Jesus died all my sin to atone. When the darkness I see He'll be waiting for me. I won't have to cross Jordan alone."
In December of 1997, I faced a series of minor medical problems. In the space of a month I had an abscess in my jaw, a kidney infection, a mild case of the shingles, and I dealt with my ever-demanding cholesterol problems. Upon the return of my abscess, I had a root canal and, ultimately, I triumphed, at least temporarily, over all these minor aches and pain.
But for a month or so they came so furiously upon me that I was not altogether sure I would ever be free of them. I was at length, however, as good as new . . . well, nearly new. But the month of hurried maladies has reminded me that the time will come when I will not be able to outrun all the physical problems that will require my life. Of course, I like to put far off the evil day and tell myself that it is likely some comfortable distance away.
But then Easter always reminds me that Jesus saw the curtain ringing down when He was half my age. Then He closed His eyes in death, confident that His Father could be trusted to wake Him on Sunday. And so He did.
This is the glorious fruit of His promise. Someday, He who felt the cold stone slab will walk into my tomb and wake me as surely as His Father woke Him. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" . . . even there I shall know His unforsaking presence.
Christ is present in the graveyards of this world. There He waits till those who have known and hungered see the goal of their existence.
Dare we really be so naïve as to suggest that in a world where cloning and gene manipulation is common that Jesus is coming again? Of course, we can. It is our glory! It is our hope! We shall indeed stand in His presence complete, and the Christ Whom God raised from the dead, will be there when the flowers have faded and the tears have dried and are forgotten.