"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
~ John 14:1 -7
It's hard to believe how time continues to move on, and when we have lost someone close to us, how time changes.
My stepmother was a dedicated elementary teacher, a fun-loving person, and an organizational queen. She would often leave notes for us, letting us know what she had planned for dinner, what to pick up from the store if she needed something, and even notes on notes about when bills needed to be placed in the mail.
She absolutely loved her grandchildren. It was so funny, for someone who had never given birth to a child, the number of children through her years of teaching, two stepchildren, and then grandchildren, seemed to complete her life.
Over a decade ago now, she learned that she had a rare blood disease that seemed to change without any real notice into leukemia, and she died. It was an absolute shock for many, including me. Although I had made several trips to see her during her treatments, nothing really prepared me for the phone call I received from my dad letting me know that she had died.
To this day I can tell you exactly where I was, and what I was doing at that moment.
When events in our lives happen that change us, we remember them.
It's strange how the mind can sometimes team up with the heart to work through our grief. For the next year, when one of our children would do something interesting, or say something that made me want to share with her, I would even catch myself starting to pick up the phone and dial the number to home.
Slowly over time, I realized that she was never going to answer the phone again.
I can't imagine what it must have been like for those who watched Jesus die, be placed into the tomb, and then be told that he was gone.
Grief has an interesting way of changing you. The disciples are so upset that when Jesus does once again appear to them, they only see a stranger.
When they realize he has really risen, he disappears from their sight.
I can't even begin to wonder what I would ask if I had been part of these initials visits by Jesus after rising from the dead. What would you ask, say, or do?
Being who Jesus is, he tries to comfort those that he sees. Jesus has just been publicly beaten and crucified right in front of everyone! There is no denying, these people have just gone through a terrible experience, and the first thing Jesus says is not to let their hearts be troubled.
It's like a friend saying, "It is okay" when your own world seems to be falling apart.
He then tells those present that he has seen heaven, and that there is a great mansion, with many rooms. So many rooms that there is one for each of them... in fact, for all of humanity. Not just then, but even now, and in the future!
I always seemed to be challenged after Easter as a pastor, because the "big day" had occurred. On Easter we told one another "He is Risen!"
Well that is true, but Easter doesn't end there. There is more ministry, more lessons, and so much more to the story!
He returns with the message of hope. Don't let your heart be troubled. You are going to be with me in heaven, and it is so much more than I can even begin to explain.
While the Easter story is about the ONE who rose from the dead; the Easter story is also about our story with the ONE who came so we might experience life eternally.
I cannot deny that I still experience grief when I have lost someone I love, I do embrace the risen Christ in the days following resurrection. Those, are perhaps the most important of all the days of Jesus' ministry, because those are the ones that teach us that there is so much more than just living and dying.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.