Jonesboro. Paducah. Columbine. The list goes on. Another school shooting after another school shooting. One was in Chardon, Ohio. And, you know, having spent so much of my life on high school campuses, my heart sinks every time. I see these all-too-familiar scenes; students running, crying, parents desperately seeking information, SWAT teams moving in, law enforcement briefings, shooter profiles, ambulances converging, and then those heartbreaking candlelight vigils.
I think it had to be one of the most like insecure afternoons of my life. Our committee had been meeting for two days at this hotel. Two days straight! We had a slave-driving chairman, and finally he said, "All right, guys, how about a couple of hours in the pool?" "All right! The pool! The sauna! We deserve a break today."
Over the years, we found a little tool that was smart to have if you were going to be spending time next to the ocean. They call it a tide table. It tells you what time high tide and low tide will be each day. That's good to know, especially if you're going to really set up shop for a while on the beach - which many people do. I've watched people bring their own little civilization to the beach with them: tarps and coolers and toys and appliances. You'd think they were planning to live on the beach. What's kind of fun to watch is the people with all that stuff who fall asleep somewhere between low tide and high tide. (You know where this is going don't you.) Slowly but surely, the waves start creeping up from the edge toward their civilization. You really should wake them up, but that wouldn't be any fun. Eventually, as the tide tickles their toes, they wake up only to find some of their civilization about to float away. It's panic city, man! But it didn't have to be that way. There's this little tool called a tide table that tells you when the tide...well, you get the idea.
It's only a story, but the point it makes is a reality not to be ignored. As the story goes, there was a day when the devil called an emergency meeting in hell. All his senior demons were there. The agenda: how to increase the number of people who were going to hell instead of heaven. The first demon to speak said, "Let me launch an all-out attack on people's belief in the Bible and Jesus as the Son of God. Before I'm finished, they won't trust either one, and hell will be full." The devil was impressed and he released that first demon to launch his doubt offensive on the future inhabitants of eternity. After an appropriate time, Satan reconvened his council of senior demons. He wasn't pleased, especially with demon number one. He said, "The number of people coming to hell is up only slightly since you tried your little strategy of creating doubt. This isn't working! We need a better idea."
Busy highway - heavy traffic - including those crazies who suddenly cross three lanes at once. You need your wits about you at all times. You need to be looking at what's going on all around you, you're looking ahead, you're looking out the rear window, you're checking your mirrors on the left and the right, trying to locate all the cars around you and even anticipate what some of them might do next. But even with all that, you're not seeing everything. Because there's one spot you can't see out the front window, the rear window, the mirrors. It's that dangerous spot somewhere on the back right side of your car. You know what they call it - your what? Yeah, blind spot. And seeing what's there could be the difference between getting home safely and not getting home at all!
It was April 2011 - turn on the news, it was "The Prince William and Kate Show"! You bet! Man, forget about world crises and cash-burning gas. Who cares about disasters and deficits? The handsome prince and the classy commoner were getting married! Actually, you know a lot of ways you could remember that if you wanted to.
There it was again, displayed for all the world to see; hundreds of thousands of people, willing to risk everything for one thing - freedom. Oh, it was a few years ago, but over the weeks in that square, we watched a powerful, real-life struggle for freedom played out in a place called Liberation ("Tahrir") Square in Egypt. Once again, as we've seen in other countries, there was this unquenchable passion to be free. And it changed the nation at that time.
J. R. R. Tolkien, one of England's literary greats from a generation ago, wrote about this fantasy world called Middle-Earth, and that world has captured the imagination of millions of people in this generation. His trilogy of books known as "The Lord of the Rings" has really been popularized through three blockbuster movies that were based on them.
The final book and movie, "The Return of the King," portrays this world where the armies of darkness, which are made up of these vicious subhuman beings, are moving to destroy the last bastions of human life in Middle-Earth. But as the rightful king of Middle-Earth begins to emerge, the humans are rallied to what becomes the decisive battle against this advancing evil.
It's actually a true story, courtesy of Ida Mae Kempel. The names have been changed. Jeremy was 12 years old and he was only in the second grade, but he was seemingly unable to learn. His body was kind of distorted, and he had learning disabilities. That was evident. And his teacher, Doris Miller? She often became exasperated with him because he was squirming sometimes and, you know, making funny noises. But at other times he spoke really clearly and distinctly. It was like a spot of light had penetrated the darkness in his brain. No one could have guessed that Jeremy would end up teaching his entire class and his teacher.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Easter Eggs."
Doris Miller finally became so exasperated with Jeremy that she asked his parents to come to St. Theresa's for a consultation. When she explained that it would be better for Jeremy and the other students if, well you know, if he were in a special school. His mother begged for Jeremy to stay where he felt safe.
After they left, the teacher struggled with what to do. She wanted to sympathize with the parents. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But what about the other students?
Well, God did something in her heart that day. She ended up praying for the patience to be what Jeremy needed. From that day she tried to ignore his noises and his blank stares. One day he limped up to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. And out loud, Jeremy exclaimed, "I love you, Miss Miller!" The other students kind of snickered and she was a little embarrassed.
Easter approached and Doris told her students the story of Jesus, and she emphasized the idea of new life. She gave each child a large plastic egg and she gave them an interesting assignment. She said, "Bring it back the next day with something inside that shows new life." Well, the children were excited, well that is, all except Jeremy. Doris saw no signs that he "got it." She was going to call his parents that night to explain the assignment. She forgot.
The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in this large wicker basket on Miss Miller's desk. Then came the time to open their eggs. Well, one had a flower in her egg, another a plastic butterfly, another one had a rock with moss on it - all symbols of new life. When Doris opened the fourth egg, she just kind of gasped. The egg was empty! Yeah, it was Jeremy's.
She was going to quickly set it aside, but Jeremy suddenly spoke up, "Miss Miller, aren't you going to talk about my egg?" Doris said, "But your egg is empty, Jeremy!" He looked into her eyes and said softly, "Yes, but Jesus' tomb was empty, too! Jesus was killed, but His Father raised Him up!" The recess bell rang and the children ran out to play. And that teacher cried.
Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the funeral home were kind of surprised by what they saw there. On top of Jeremy's casket, there were 19 eggs - all of them empty.
And now, our word for today from the Word of God in John 14:19 - something Jeremy really understood. Jesus said, "Because I live, you also will live." The tomb is empty. The arguments about the way to God end at that empty tomb. Our little, earthbound lives don't have to be small anymore when we open up to the power of the One who blew the doors off His grave, who died on a cross to pay for every sin we've ever done. Our questions and our fears about what happens after our last heartbeat are answered at that empty tomb.
Jesus is alive today! The question is, "Do you belong to Him?" Have you ever opened the door of your heart and said, "Jesus, I'm putting all my trust in You to be my Savior from my sin"? If you never have, don't go into another Easter weekend; don't do Good Friday without opening your heart to Him.
I'd love to help you with that, and I think you'll find encouragement to begin a relationship with Him right where a lot of other people have - at our website ANewStory.com.
Jesus has beaten what has beaten every other person who ever lived. And because He lives, you can live also...forever.