Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Moments: An Easter Reflection

About five years ago, my family traveled to Japan. When the last day arrived, we were reluctant to leave the tropical island. Standing on the shore of the East China Sea, my husband urged me to take a long last look. “After all,” he insisted, “we will probably never return to this place.”

That day, I stopped what I was doing and carefully examined the exotic scene: the green moss covered coral reefs, the grey blue water stretching as far as I could see, the sea shells littering the white sand. I took a deep breath and concentrated…this was my last glimpse of Okinawa.

Last moments are meant to be savored because they may never happen again. But all too often last moments have a way of sneaking up on us. We don’t realize they are the “last” until they are gone.

In 1998, my dad died of a heart attack at the age of 60. His death stunned my family. There were no last moments. No last chances to say good-bye, to tell him how much we loved him. He was with us one moment and gone the next. Even when I try to remember the last time I spoke to him, the exact words are not clear. It was one of those ordinary conversations, and I did not appreciate it until it was past. My last moments with my dad were in a hospital room, when he was already on the other shore.

At this Easter season, we remember the last moments of Jesus’ time on earth. For the disciples, the moments leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross were marked by shame and fear. I am sure the disciples remember those hours with regret. Why did they fall asleep during those last moments in the garden? 

Couldn’t they have remained alert in his time of need? I am sure that Peter probably played over and over those last hours before the crucifixion. He may have recalled in excruciating detail each denial of His Savior. The Bible says that three times he denied knowing Jesus.  Three times!

I am sure the disciples wished those last moments had been different– that they could have stood up for Jesus, testified on his behalf, carried the cross, waited while he breathed his final breath. But they did not. Their last moments with Jesus were not proud ones.

So imagine their joy a few days later when Jesus rose from the grave and walked up to them. In that one magnificent moment, those last moments of shame were erased! Here was their Savior, in all of His glory. They had one more chance, one more last time!

This interaction with the resurrected Jesus was not marked by shame and regret but by forgiveness and challenge. Jesus commissioned his followers, sending them forward. This was not the end, he seems to say, this is only the beginning. “Go, and make disciples."

The day after my father died, I was searching for piano music to play at his funeral. He was our church pianist, and his all-time favorite hymn was the old gospel tune, “Victory in Jesus.”  As I opened the piano bench to find the sheet music, I noticed a bright yellow post-it-note he had placed on top of his hymn book. He had hand-written these words in capital letters: “My Hope Is in the Lord!”

My last moments of sadness suddenly were transformed by a convicting sense of peace. My dad was not gone forever. My last moments with him would not end with this grave, because as believers in Christ, we know that this is not the end of the story. This life is only the beginning. I will see my dad again in Heaven.

As you celebrate this Easter with your family, I urge you to stop and savor the treasures you have been given on this earth. But we must also remember to look to our Risen Savior as a promise. When we believe in Him, when we look to the promise of Easter morning, we are reassured that this is not the end, these are not our last moments.

In Christ, this is only the beginning.
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