By Pastor Glenn Pease
Few people have ever been more lost than Dr. Robert Dykes and his wife Margery. Both in their late 20's and parents of two young children, they were presumed dead when their small plane went down in the mountains of the Wyoming-Utah boarder. Hundreds of planes searched in vain for nearly a week, and there was no sign of them. The temperature had been below zero every night, and they had no supplies, and so it was presumed they would freeze and not be found until spring.
But young George Hunt who had just completed his first cross country flight as a student pilot prayed for them as he went to sleep. He asked God to get them back to their family. When he went to sleep he dreamed. He saw a red plane on a snow swept ridge, and two people waving for help. He woke up and reasoned that he had that dream because he had been praying for the couple. But when he went back to sleep he dreamed it again. The third time he could see clear details of an area he use to hunt in. It was Painter's Basin and Gilbert Peak.
The next morning he went to the airport and took a plane he was not authorized to take. He flew to the place he saw in his dream. There he saw the red plane and the Dykes waving at him just as in his dream. He waved back and headed to call the Civil Air Patrol. He got chewed out for taking the plane, but when others flew over the area and confirmed his find he was forgiven. He joined the rescue party that spent the next 24 hours getting to the plane. There was much hugging and thanksgiving when they arrived.
The Dykes had all but given up. They had written notes as to who was to raise their children. All they had left was one candy bar. Mrs. Dykes said to young George, "When we saw your plane, it was the most wonderful thing. Our prayers were answered; a dream come true." They were brought back from certain death and given life with their family by means of a dream.
This salvation story is a mini example of what God did for all of us on Easter. We were all lost, and the whole human race was facing certain death, and not just physical death, but spiritual as well, which is separation from God. But God gave His Son a dream, and in that dream a vision of how mankind could be rescued and saved from that death which threatened to engulf them. The Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world. The plan of salvation was a dream of God even before He created man. He knew the consequences of making a free will creature, and He knew sin and death was inevitable. But it was worth it, for He had a plan of salvation that would be a dream come true.
In the Incarnation Jesus took flight from eternity into time to seek and save the lost. In the crucifixion he paid the penalty for their sin and took their judgment on Himself. In the resurrection Jesus fulfilled God's dream, for by this victory over man's last enemy, which is death, Jesus guaranteed that God would have a redeemed family for all eternity. Easter is the celebration of God's dream fulfilled.
When Jesus woke from the sleep of death,
And in His new body took His new breath,
The storm of darkness and doom He stilled;
With hope His disciple's hearts He filled,
And God's dream for man He fulfilled.
What Jesus did for God and man on that first Easter dawn is so awesome and so ultimate there is no way to adequately convey in words the wonder of it all. That is why we have cantatas and a world filled with beautiful Easter music. The Easter message not only has to be believed, it has to be felt, for the mind alone cannot grasp it all. When the Queen of Sheba saw the wisdom and wealth of Solomon she exclaimed, "Behold, the half was not told me." Jesus said of Himself, "A greater than Solomon is here." If words could not convey half the glory of Solomon, how much less can they convey the glory of our risen Lord?
Trying to illustrate the glory of the risen Christ by the use of words is like trying to illustrate the glory of the sun by means of a candle. That is why we see God doing some spectacular things that first Easter dawn, and adding special effects to the event. The violent earthquake, the angel rolling the stone back, and His appearance like lightning with clothes white as snow. No wonder the guards were so afraid that they shook and became like dead men. They were paralyzed with fear.
That first Easter had a real impact on those guards, for it was not just a message they were hearing. They were hearing the Son of God breaking down the very gates of hell and releasing man from the bondage to death. They were witnessing a victory more amazing than any Rambo movie could ever portray. Nature and super nature combined to bear witness to this cataclysmic event that shook up all of history. As the physical sun rose that dawn and lit up the world, so the Son of God rose from the darkness of death's night and filled the world with the light of hope.
Back in February of 1993 the Flight Control Center near Moscow reported the successful development of a space reflector. This aluminum-covered dish was used by Cosmonauts to reflect light from the sun to the dark side of the earth. With a 25 foot disc in space they were able to produce a 2 mile circle of light on the earth. In other words, they were able to turn 2 miles of night into 2 miles of day by reflecting the sun. The dream of man is to use this technology to eliminate the might and be able to keep daytime all the time.
This is one of God's dreams too, and He intends to dwell with the redeemed in the eternal kingdom where Rev. 22:5 says there will be no more night. Rev. 21:23 says the New Jerusalem will not ever need the sun or moon to shine, for the glory of God will be its light, and the Lamb of God will be its lamp. Verse 25 says the gates never need to be shut for the night, for there will be no night there. What we need to see is that this dream of God had its fulfillment when Jesus came out of the darkness of the tomb like the sun bursting from the womb of night. Paul in II Tim. 1:10 tells us that Jesus, "...has destroyed death and brought life and immorality to light through the Gospel."
The simple message of the angel at the tomb was, "He is not here, He has risen." You will never find Jesus in the place of darkness, for He dwells in eternal light, and that is where all will dwell who trust in Jesus as their Savior. If you are looking for Jesus, you will not find Him in the darkness. If you go to the tomb the only message you will get is that He is not there. If you look for Jesus in the darkness of pessimism you will only get the word that He is not there. If you look for Jesus in the darkness of despair, you will only get the word that He is not there. If you look for Jesus in the darkness of your prejudice, again it will be that He is not there.
Where will you find Jesus? You will find Him in the light, and only in the light. He is in the light of love, joy, peace, and all the fruits of the Spirit. In the light of the awareness of God's presence in your everyday is where you will find Jesus. You will find Him in the light of prayer and in the light of hope. Dr. Heyes tells of living through the long night of a dark Artic winter. But the day finally came when he walked to a high point to watch the sun rise for the first time in many months. When he saw it he was moved to shout, "Heaven be praised! I have once more seen the sun! He goes on to describe the reaction of others: "Off went our caps with simultaneous impulse, and we hailed this long-lost wanderer of the heavens with loud demonstrations of joy."
Most of us have never been in darkness for so long that we cheered the rising of the sun. But we can imagine how precious it would be to see the light again after that long night. We can identify with the joy of those at the tomb who had suffered through the darkest weekend of their lives, but who now hear the good news that the Son of God has risen. Light has conquered darkness, and God's dream has been fulfilled. Had the angels said, instead of, "He is not here," but, "Welcome to the tomb of the world's greatest teacher. Come in and observe the body of this great prophet." The women would have not been as shocked, but would have tearfully viewed the body and carried the message of sorrow back to the despairing disciples. The sun rising that morning could have done nothing to dispel the darkness in their hearts that would never go away.
There would be no lights of Christmas, for there would no celebration of the birth of one who died a loser. Good Friday would be bad Friday, and Easter would not exist at all. If Christ had not risen, but stayed in death's prison, His life's story would be a nightmare rather than a dream fulfilled. But we do put lights at Christmas, and we do sing and rejoice in the beauty of the cross on Good Friday. We do celebrate Easter as well because Jesus was not there in the darkness of the tomb. He was alive and filling the world with the light of the Gospel of God's dream fulfilled. Annie Johnson Flint wrote,
How vain is our faith if the Christ be not risen;
How dark is the tomb if the Lord is still there!
How heavy our burden of grief and transgression.
How deep our despair!
Oh, justified faith is a finished salvation!
Oh, sure resurrection that comforts our woes!
Oh, glorious light in the valley of shadow,-
Because Christ arose.
Number one on the list of the seven wonders of the ancient world was the Great Pyramid. It was the most stupendous mass of masonery ever put together by man. It was four hundred fifty feet high using blocks of stone weighing 2 and a half tons a piece, and there were 2, 300,000 of them to pile on top of each other. Cheops, the Pharaoh who had it built, spent his life on this project using 100,000 men for 30 years to do the job. He lived for a place to be when he died.
Almost 3000 years later we see another tomb very famous, but very small by comparison. The tomb of Jesus was a mere hole in the hillside. It had one large stone rolled in from of the entrance. Jesus did not spend a dime on it, nor did He spend any labor on it. It was a gift. If you are only going to use something once, and for a very short time, it is wise to borrow or rent. That is what Jesus did with His tomb. It was no final resting place for Him. It was just a weekend getaway, and the result is that the stress of the New Testament is on the empty tomb and the open tomb. It played but a trivial and temporary role in the biography of our Lord. He was not a king who lived for a place to die. He was a king who lived for a place beyond the sky, and a place where He would take you and I, and all who love Him, to dwell in light forever.
But the fact remains that the Easter story begins at the tomb. It began in the silence and secrecy of the pre-dawn night. Jesus at an hour unknown to anyone but God came back into His body and rose from the dead. There is no record of the actual resurrection. This was a totally private event within the darkness of the sealed tomb. Alice Meynell in her poem Easter Night describes it.
Public was death; but Power, but Might
But Life again, but Victory
Were hushed within the dead of night
The shattered dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.
Jesus was alive and long gone before the stone was rolled away. The stone was not removed to let Him out, but to let men in to see that He was gone. Because Jesus came out of the tomb there is no escape from the tomb imagery in Easter. The Easter egg became so popular a symbol of Easter because it is like a tomb sealed out of which comes life. Easter eggs are still a popular custom, but seldom do we tell our children that they are also because they represent the tomb of Christ broken open for us to give new birth, life, and hope beyond the tomb.
The Easter rabbit falls into the same category. The rabbit lives in a hole in the ground like the tomb of Jesus, and out of it comes much life. A rabbit has 5 to 6 litters a year, and so if you have a few rabbits, you will soon have a lot of them. They are symbolic of life abundant out of a tomb like atmosphere. I haven't watched Bugs Bunny for years, but I see that my grandchildren do. Bugs is not consciously a symbol of Christ, but the fact is that he can be made to be such. He is pursued by those who seek to destroy him, but he always comes out on top with a victory over all the forces that seek to do him in. This is what Easter is all about. It is about victory over all the forces of darkness that sought to rid the world of Jesus once and for all. But instead, He came out on top with the victory. Isaac Watts wrote,
Wrapt in the silence of the tomb
The Great Redeemer lay,
Till the revolving skies had brought
The third, the appointed day.
Hell and the grave combined their force
To hold our Lord, in vain.
Sudden thee Conqueror arose,
And burst their feeble chain.
The point is, even the secular symbols of Easter, like the egg and the rabbit, are valid symbols that can be given biblical color. But like most symbols they become detached from what they are to symbolize, and they become objects of focus in themselves. As parents and grandparents we need to tie in the secular symbols with Scripture, and use the power of secular customs to support the Christian faith.
Most every comedy or cartoon is about good and evil in conflict, and the evil forces seem to be so powerful with their giant firecrackers, cannons and bombs. But the good guy, no matter how fiercely attacked, is able to outwit the evil, and the clever schemes backfire so that the evil ones suffer the very judgments they want to inflict on the good. This is all Easter theology, but we do not see it, and so we fail to teach our children that the Easter Gospel can be seen in cartoons, and in rabbits and eggs. The first challenge of Easter is to see life as victorious over death. We are to see it in nature, in cartoons, in our culture, and in God's Word. The more we see it everywhere, the more we will have an Easter spirit all year round. And the more we will praise our Lord daily for making it possible for God's dream to be fulfilled. His dream for us will be fulfilled as well if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. Believe this and see God's dream come true for you.