Eight years ago this month, Lisa, along with sons Ryan and Andrew, joined a group from the Jersey Village family for a trip to Mexico to visit with the congregations and preachers that we were supporting. After a week there, they drove back to the States and, upon crossing the border, stopped for gas. While they were filling up, Lisa noticed a small kitten darting under cars and basically trying not to get ran over. She picked the kitten up and brought it back home with her. So was the beginning of our family’s relationship with our new pet, Marley.
When we got Marley she was so small that she barely had her eyes open. She was a palm sized fur ball with ear mites, parasites and just about every other stray cat disease and infirmity. After a round of shots and some meds, she was good and healthy. Today, Her Royal Highness sleeps in our bed every night, has blankets on various pieces of furniture that she can curl up to take a nap on, and gets canned food for breakfast and dry food for dinner – every single day – and don’t be late! She has complete and free run of the house. No cat ever more fully won life’s lottery!
Marley never did a single thing to deserve going from deserted and alone to the life of luxury. When I think about the amazing transformation in her life, there are definite similarities between Marley’s story and the story that you and I are living out today (minus the occasional fur ball!). We’ve gone from being lost, without hope and without God, in the world to being invited to live in a mansion! Just like Marley, we’ve never done anything to deserve this great gift, but receive such a gift we have! We have the promise of resurrection and eternal life in God’s house, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us to live in the presence of the Father forever and ever.
There is, of course, one major difference in our stories: Marley happened to be at the right place at the right time: Lisa has always had a soft spot of strays, for which I am living proof! However, our salvation was no mere accident or simple case of good fortune. Instead, God planned before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) how He was going to rescue man. At just the right point on the timeline of history, He sent Jesus into the world to seek and save the lost (Galatians 4:4,5; Luke 19:10). Jesus came to the world, lived a perfect and sinless life, so that He could be the One true sacrifice for the sins of men (1 Peter 3:18). On the cross, He paid the price we could not pay, He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12 NKJV). Jesus, and Jesus alone, freed us from the bondage of the devil.
This Sunday the world celebrates Easter. I, for one, welcome this celebration! Any one thing or any one reason that causes men to stop and consider Jesus is an opportunity to teach them about the love of God! That great love was manifested by the coming of our Lord, who has appeared to all men bearing God’s great salvation and grace! The New Testament church recognizes Easter every Sunday when we partake of communion; remembering the Lord’s body and blood and commemorating His victory over sin and death. This great gift is certainly something that we should focus on all the time! After all, if Jesus didn’t go to the cross; if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead; if the tomb of Christ wasn’t empty that Sunday morning some 2000 years ago, then what point does life have? If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV).
This Sunday morning we will focus on four things that the empty tomb still means to us today: its peace, its power, its potential and its promise. What I hope is that this lesson isn’t just a once a year message that provides a temporary excitement or comfort, but instead, is one that is to be celebrated every single day of our lives! After all, it is a message that tells of our hope and our victory! It reminds us of the day when we will leave the world of fear and uncertainty to go and live in a heavenly mansion forever! Not because we deserve it, but because Christ died for us, was buried and rose again on the 3rd day, defeating sin and death for all who love and obey Him!