A favorite story of mine appeared in an article in People magazine in 1991 and told the story of Ruth Dillow of Chanute, Kan.
One day in February of that same year, Dillow was called from her sewing machine at the National Garment Co. and ushered to the boss's office.
And it was the worst kind of news.
It was revealed to her that her son, Private 1st Class Clayton Carpenter, a tank mechanic, a day earlier had stepped on a mine in Kuwait and was killed instantly by the blast. Ms. Dillow, 46 at the time, just fell apart. "He was dead" were the only words she remembered them saying.
After a sleepless night and a miserable day, the phone rang late that evening. Ruth wasn't quite prepared for the far-off voice that announced.
"Hi, Mom. This is Clayton."
Ruth froze. "Are you sure this is Clayton?" she blurted. "You've been declared dead."
Her mind racing, she feared she was being tricked.
"Come on, please believe me, this is me," Clayton pleaded.
Clayton was calling from a hospital in Saudi Arabia, he explained. He had been lightly wounded -- in the foot and the hand -- but he wasn't dead, he insisted.
It took some time, but finally his mother believed. Then she started to shake with convulsive joy. Her boy was alive -- can you imagine? This mother's story presents us with the wonderful benefit of believing without seeing.
Belief in something not seen is difficult to embrace. But this touching story demonstrates that a mother's broken heart was healed because she ventured out and believed the voice on the other line.
How do you feel about believing in what is not seen? Is there ever a time that it makes sense to believe even though you cannot see?
Let's go back nearly 2,000 years ago to the first Easter.
The friends of Jesus also experienced the great pain of the reality of "he is dead." All their hopes and dreams of a new direction for their future ushered in by their trustworthy leader were dashed.
Mary Magdalene was headed to the tomb to pay her respects and was the one that discovered the rock was rolled away and the tomb of Jesus was empty. Mary ran and reported to the disciples Peter and John, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" (John 20:2b). Insult to injury -- someone had broken into the tomb and stole the body.
Upon hearing this troubling report, John and Peter bolted for the tomb. John outran Peter. Once at the outside of the tomb, John found strips of linen lying around that had been used in the burial of Jesus. A moment later Peter ran past John without delay into the tomb, finding the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head.
No transcript exists of their responses but someone must have said, "What is going on here!?!"
Now it must be noted that Jesus had shared prior to his crucifixion on several occasions that he was to suffer, die and would be raised from the dead. While the evidence was there of something out of the ordinary, something incredible, John 20:9 says, "They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead." There was great hesitancy to believe the Jesus had actually risen from the dead.
A little later Thomas, one of the disciples, had been informed of the report that Jesus was alive and he said (John 20:25), "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Not many under the duress of a situation like this could articulate as plainly and directly as Thomas. However, perhaps we can relate to "doubting Thomas" and his attitude of "I will believe it when I see it."
The climax of the story comes in John 20:26-28, "A week later his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'"
Thomas' reaction (John 20:28) to this interaction with Jesus was, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus then said to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Those who believe and trust in the resurrection of Jesus will have great benefit both now in this world and in the era to come.
Jesus' appeal to those who would consider turning their ears to him is, "Come on, please believe in me! This is true!"
Imagine what would happen if you ventured out and truly believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
You would find forgiveness from your sins and leadership for your life. And my belief is that you would not regret the benefits of believing!
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 9:30 a.m. Sundays at the Petoskey Cinema and 11 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City elementary. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.