In the northwest corner of the city of Jerusalem stands the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional burial place of Jesus. Very early Christian tradition, ancient writings, and archaeological evidence points to this being the location of the tomb where Jesus was laid after his crucifixion. I spent a couple of hours there a little over a year ago, milling around the inside of that massive building with probably 300 other people.
And we were all very quiet. We tiptoed. We whispered. There’s a true sense of awe in that place. Reverence. Holiness. A genuine feeling of sacredness. It’s consecrated. It’s highly significant. And it doesn’t take long to realize the glaring truth that overwhelms the impressive backdrop.
Jesus is not here.
The beautiful 900 year old paintings are here. But he is not here. The 800 year old church building is here. But he is not here. The 2000 year old tombs are here. But he is not here. The chapels and candles and altars and shrines and worshipers and pilgrims and disciples are all here. But he is not here.The rock and the tomb and the caves and the songs and the stories and the history; it’s all here. But he is not here.
I’ve been to Elvis’ grave. He’s there. I’ve been to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s grave. He’s there. John F. Kennedy. Abraham Lincoln. I’ve never been, but I’m certain Grant is still buried in Grant’s tomb.
I’ve been to Jesus’ tomb. And he’s not there.
And because of that, we have hope. And confidence. And courage.
Yesterday our dear brothers Ken Phillips and Sam Hughey both passed from this life to the next. Two great warriors for Christ. Two great soldiers of the cross. Two great followers of Jesus. Leaders. Examples. And as disciples of the King, they have died. Just like Jesus. This weekend they will be buried. Just like Jesus. And just like Jesus, they will be raised. And they will reign at the right hand of the heavenly Father in the eternal Kingdom of God forever and ever. Just like Jesus.
Obviously, I didn’t know either one of these brothers very well. Ken was the very first song leader for the Pipeline/Legacy church back in 1959. I heard from a couple of people last night that Ken taught so many of our boys—boys my age and older—how to lead singing and how to pray and read Scriptures publicly. Sam always had a huge smile on his face and a smart aleck comment on his lips. He was so funny. I remember clearly the day he brought his baptismal certificate to me on the 50th anniversary of his new birth in Christ. Both of these men were so happy all the time. And both encouraged me every single time I talked with them. Both of them told me more than a couple of times, “Just keep doing what you’re doing. Just preach the Bible.”
I was struck yesterday in both hospital rooms by the faith and confidence and courage exhibited by Opal and Bernice. Both of these strong Christian women faced the moment of death with tremendous faith, truly happy for their husbands, each at peace in the knowledge that her beloved is basking in the presence of God, confident that her husband will live. What an encouragement. What a testimony.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that all who are in Christ will be made alive. Jesus goes before us. He leads us. And we follow. In his death. And in his resurrection.
They’re beginning to lay the bricks around the new worship center. Perfect match.
Cherokee Parks was drafted #12 overall.