Will We Rise?

Christ Arose – Low in the Grave He Lay

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

He Lives

Thus reads the French inscription on the tomb of Edward the Black Prince, in Canterbury, England, who died in 1376.

Such as thou art, so once was I. As I am now, so shalt thou be.[1]

Whether written or not, such are the silent words of every man, woman, and child in every cemetery, every mausoleum, and every inch of land and sea in which a mortal has passed into immortality.

Henry and Bessie Bowling of Beckley WV had a son, Billy Frederick, who was born one hundred years and two weeks ago. The young couple had lived through a terrible time in human history, surviving the “War to End All Wars” and the Great Influenza, the deadliest pandemic in modern history.[2] Now, finally, their future looked bright.

How heart-wrenching when, just two years later, Billy was laid to rest. His mother wept. His tombstone read, “Gone to be an angel.” Twenty-one years later, and only 53 years old, Bessie laid down beside her son. Her tombstone said, “She now sweetly rests.”

Our days are deeply troubled. America splits down its racial, sexual, and moral seams. Those who hate the people of Christ gloat over our failings and proclaim the fall of the Church. Justice has faded, and now Americans are guilty until proven innocent. The fury of the Evil One grows and the days seem dark.

Everyone who rests in a cemetery whispers to those of us who stand here, “Such as thou art, so once was I. As I am now, so shalt thou be.” We imagine our breath failing, our bodies rotting, and our eyes going dark. Our hearts quake.

Jesus Christ, in His body, conquered the grave. He died, and rose bodily from the dead. He lives forever, without pain, without fear, without injury, and without death. As He did, so can we.

But how are Bessie Bowling and her son Billy now? 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

  1. Their bodies were sown as perishable bodies, but they will be raised as imperishable bodies.
  2. Their bodies were sown in dishonor, but they will be raised in glory.
  3. Their bodies were sown in weakness, but they will be raised in power.

Today, Billy is not an angel, but he is a Man, a Man as his God made him to be. Billy stands before Christ and in the company of his fathers from the dawn of time. Billy fears nothing, knows perfect joy, and serves God fully. Billy places his foot on the necks of evil spirits before whom he would have cowered on earth.

Today, Bessie does not sleep sweetly, but she walks as a Woman, a woman as God made her to be. She enjoys the fellowship of her Lord and her mothers, daughters, and sisters. Bessie is enveloped in the arms of Jesus, the Lover of her soul. Every tear has been wiped away from her eyes.

Save the few facts on their memorial stones, Bessie and Billy have faded into history. A few descendants may remember them today, but those men and women will themselves sink into the dust and be lost. Despite the reach of the internet, I was able to find little about Bessie and Billy. Our lives, too, will be forgotten on earth soon after we depart.

Speaking with the voice of the world, Napoleon said, “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” Bessie and Billy have a remembrance greater than any history book. They need no remembrance, they need no earthly glory, they need no acclaim from men. Why, because they are living forever. Ultimately, followers of Jesus Christ will never be forgotten because their days never end.

On Easter Sunday, we who are living would do well to visit a graveyard, a place where our bodies will soon decay. All the good and evil in our lives will fade compared to the light and power of the Eternal One. The sin which drove us to the grave will be washed away by the blood of the One who conquered the grave.

What about you? Will you rise again?

Will your remembrance be as a man or woman who walks upright in everlasting light?

Will your remembrance be only in the dusty pages of a history book which no one will read?

Such as thou art, so once was I. As I am now, so shalt thou be.

You and I will die. We will one day be sown in weakness and dishonor. Will we rise in glory and in power? Will we rise with Christ and in Christ? The choice is yours.

[1] Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, the Calamitous 14th Century (New York: Knopf Random House, 1978) 295.

[2] Compared to the killing power of the Great Influenza (1918-1919), the current COVID pandemic is a wooden club against a machine gun.

 

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