Unexpected Encounter

he-is-not-here-he-is-risen-screen-shot-2013-03-12-at-3.56.06-pmby Nancy Tichy, Author for KidZ at Heart International

It was a beautiful garden and we happened on to it quite by accident.  Rainfall that had come before our arrival had brought spring blossoming even though it was only February.  We were a very small group of travelers – two young parents with daughters, aged seven and five.  We met the keeper of the garden that day, a gentle, welcoming man who shared his faith in Jesus and offered practical hospitality: a hostel in another part of the city managed by German Lutheran sisters.  He knew they would make room for us.  But before leaving, we spent an hour or so in this secluded place, wandering under warm sunshine along its winding, fragrant paths and meditating on familiar Scripture passages that described what took place here on resurrection morning so many centuries before.

The keeper of the Garden Tomb no longer lives, but the place still offers pilgrim memories to those blessed to visit it in Jerusalem.  Thanks to modern technology, glimpses are even available for virtual walks online.  Visitors to the Garden Tomb can still imagine being among those who came that morning so long ago looking for their dead rabbi and discovering our risen Lord.

As I pull up this memory now, I imagine myself as Mary Magdalene.  So distracted by her grief, she didn’t recognize Jesus at first; she mistook him for a gardener.  And then, he spoke her name and her tears vanished with the glad recognition.  Of course, the physical presence of Jesus is not in that garden now.  Two angels had proclaimed it.  “He is not here.  He has risen!!”

I share this story with you because we now know that Jesus is at the Father’s right hand, praying for us.  Yet, by his Spirit, we can still experience his presence and assure our children that he is truly with us wherever we are.  I’m wondering, however, if you, like me, are a bit like Mary – saddened that we live in a culture that seems to work every which way to hide our Savior from us – to blind us to his presence – to keep us from hearing him call us by name.  Oh, it offers attractive substitutes – fanciful story characters, new clothes, good things that sap our energies and distract us from heaven’s realities.

I hope you agree that we don’t have to give in to these alluring influences.  But we do have to be intentional with ourselves and our kids when we have them still at home with us.  We can gently, but firmly say no to the temptation to crowd the risen Savior out of our schedules.  We can set aside blocks of time in the coming days just to be quiet with him.  We can even take courage and ban the media in all its ever enticing ways from our homes this coming weekend.  There’s still time to surround our families with worshipful music and visuals.  We might simplify our menus and make way for focusing again on Jesus’ work on the cross and his victory over death, bringing bright hope into our everyday lives.

God will help us make our homes places where the sign, “He is not here!” does not apply.  Homes where the ever present, risen Savior is daily experienced by family members and recognized by visitors from without.  I so long for this to be true in my life – in my family.  How about you?

I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned.

I only know at His right hand stands One Who is my Savior.

Yes, living, dying, let me bring my strength, my comfort from this spring,

that He who lives to be my King once died to be my Savior. 

W.J.Kirkpatrick (1838-1921)

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