My story goes back more than 15 years, though in many ways it seems like it just happened yesterday. It happened on this same Saturday – the one between Good Friday and Easter – when I was officiating a basketball game for some high school guys in the church gym. We were several minutes into the game when one of the players cut through the lane and got pushed. I called the foul – but the player fell to the ground. At first we all thought that he was goofing around, making the foul seem worse than it actually was. But then I realized he wasn’t acting. He was struggling for breath. In the next few seconds his body went rigid, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he started convulsing.
I immediately called for help, and the coaches came running. But by the time they reached the player, he was no longer breathing. Someone ran to call 911 while the coach tried to administer CPR. Within minutes the paramedics arrived and the boy was rushed to the hospital – but he never regained consciousness. He was gone.
We were stunned and shaken. Things like that aren’t supposed to happen to healthy, athletic sixteen-year-olds. But it did. As I stood there in disbelief, it was if someone started whispering in the back of my mind. I can still hear it today as I did back then. “He is not here, for He is risen.” It was the words the followers of Jesus heard when they went to the tomb on Easter morning. And it was those same words that I was hearing. Maybe I was hearing those words because Easter was the next day. Or maybe I was hearing those words for a different reason.
A few days later the viewing was held for Quincy, the young man who died. Literally hundreds of teenagers filled the church auditorium where he lay. And then his cousin stood up to speak. With a clear voice she told of the day that she and Quincy had stood on the back porch of their house and Quincy had trusted Christ.
“He is not here for He has risen.”
That was the whisper. Now I knew. Quincy was no longer lying on that floor. He had risen. He had risen because Jesus had risen – and he had Jesus.
That is the story of Easter. Death, as heart-wrenching as it was in that instance and still is, is not the end. It is merely the beginning – because 2000 years earlier Jesus defeated death. He walked away from the tomb and gave hope to us all.
“He is not here for He is risen.”
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