By Tommy Rush
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in cemeteries. You may not know it, but there are approximately 200 cemeteries in Natchitoches Parish alone. I’ve conducted funerals in many of them over the years. The first church that I served as a pastor was in rural Alabama and it was surrounded by a large cemetery. There were probably 300 people buried in the cemetery and on any given Sunday I preached to about 50 people in the church. The church was located at the top of Simmons Mountain in North Alabama, so often we would open the windows during worship and enjoy the mountain air. Some Sundays it seemed there was more response outside the window than inside the church.
Old Cemeteries have always intrigued me. When I’m in a cemetery, I often walk around and read the tombstones. I look at the names and dates and always wonder what the person’s life was like, what their family was like and consider what may have been the cause of their death. One of the oldest cemeteries in the entire country is the American Cemetery located here in Natchitoches. The American Cemetery contains graves that date back to colonial times. If you have ever taken the tour to hear the stories, you would realize there’s a lot of history behind those tombstones.
Graveyards are a good place to look for history, but a strange place to look for hope. However, the greatest story of hope that’s ever been told, actually took place in a graveyard. There’s an empty tomb near a small mountain outside the city of Jerusalem. Every Easter millions of Christians gather in cemeteries around the world to praise God for that empty grave where Jesus was buried. On the first Easter morning, Jesus walked out of His grave and conquered death to give eternal life to all who would believe.
The Glorious Resurrection of Jesus brings eternity to our broken world…to our suffering…to our hospital rooms…to our funerals, He infuses our darkest hours with hope. Peter called it “blessed hope and living hope.” He writes in I Peter 1:3, “In His great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Every time I take one of those walks through a cemetery I’m grateful that the grave could not hold Jesus down. For all who have placed their faith in Christ, the sentence, “When I die,” doesn’t have a period at the end. You don’t have to put a question mark there either. Because Jesus rose from the grave and defeated death, that statement for every believer ends with a comma. A comma means it’s not over, there’s more. Praise God life doesn’t end at the grave. It begins there! Happy Resurrection Sunday!