Two wonderful holidays punctuate our year—Christmas and Easter. Both are great mysteries—God’s awesome power and mercy manifested on earth. But I often think I understand Christmas. The manger, the little town of Bethlehem, the farm animals, the shepherds, and even the gifts represent the familiar material world echoed in countless movies, plays, paintings, and stories. I have something to hold on to, to “make it real.” There is something to wrap my mind around.
Easter is different. All we have is an empty tomb, and we don’t even know exactly which one. I can’t wrap my mind around Christ’s resurrection. And yet, without Easter, there is no Christianity story, according to Paul’s radical words: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). All I can do is trust the Holy Spirit by the power of God’s Word to reveal the truth of the resurrection to my spirit—and wrap my heart around it.
As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, we pray this month’s study in Today in the Word will help you see Christ more clearly. Should the world try to whisper to you, God is dead, our prayer is that God’s truth, love, and mercy will dispel doubt and discouragement. We pray that you will wrap your heart around the resurrection, as you keep Paul’s words in mind: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). To encourage you, we’d like to share with you a letter and a poem we received about a year and a half ago.
It came from Mr. Robert Damewood, a man of God and a faithful reader of Today in the Word, who is currently an inmate in the Colorado State Penitentiary. We’re glad this Easter presented an opportunity to publish our reader’s message and his creative pursuits.
I am a 64-year-old, justly incarcerated—having been imprisoned for the last 20 years as a consequence of sinful and criminal conduct. If, in His providence, God should grant me another ten years of this life, I may experience release from this environment—although that is not a primary concern of mine. Though, by trust in Christ Jesus and what He did in my place, I am in right relation with our Father and so forgiven for my criminal past, yet such forgiveness does not necessarily absolve me from the temporal consequences and due punishment resulting from my past wrongdoing. It took a while for me to own and face up to this reality and truth. Yet over the years, God has given me increased maturity and understanding—for which I am grateful.
Enclosed in this letter is a poetic adaptation I composed [over 14 years ago]. Over the years, I have copied it repeatedly and shared it with others. Having been, for some length of time,a reader of (and learner from) Today in the Word, I send it to you. Perhaps God will employ this verse to uplift, encourage, or bless someone. Know that I am grateful to all involved in the composition, production, and dissemination of Today in the Word. I thank God for you all and for your ministry.
(A Poetic Adaptation of John 20, Verses 1 and 11–18)
woman walked slowly, toward the tomb;
She felt the heartache of a Love lost too soon.
Her movement was joyless, sad and forlorn
In the darkness of that early morn.
She walked with sorrow deep
in her heart,
For her Lord was dead (or so she thought).
Tears of anguish flowed from her eyes,
As she wondered, “Did He really have to die?”
When she came to the place His lifeless form was
Where the entrance had been covered by a stone so great;
She gasped in shock and quickened her pace,
For she saw the huge stone had been rolled away!
In confusion and sorrow, with
She looked into the tomb and saw that His body was gone!
Stunned by the empty tomb that she had just seen,
The woman lost her strength . . . and fell to her knees.
she wept, two angels in white
Appeared and sat—in peace—nearby.
They looked upon her as dawn drew nigh.
For they had heard her heartbroken cry.
Then they asked her, “Why do you weep?
Who is it, woman, you so anxiously seek?
And what is this burden of grief you so heavily bear?”
So she answered, “They’ve taken my Lord . . . I know not where!”
Then she turned and saw, standing nearby,
A man who also heard her anguished reply.
With tenderness He asked, “Whom do you seek, and why do you cry?”
Again she answered, “They’ve taken my Lord . . . Him I must find!”
Then said He—one word!—her
And Mary voiced a cry of joy as recognition came!
For she knew then, it was Him (her Lord returned to Life again!),
Who she had thought was for all time slain.
So with joyous heart and happy
smile she ran,
To tell the others of God’s glorious plan!
With tears this time of joyful vision,
With renewed hope and mended heart, she proclaimed:
“Our Lord is not dead!
He is Risen!”
~R. W. Damewood