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I want to tell you a story—a true story.
The snow had draped everything in a pillowy blanket of white that looked like something straight out of a Thomas Kincade painting. As a country kid, I preferred being outdoors. So when the snow stopped, I layered up, put on my boots, gloves and hat and went out to stand in the middle of the glory God had put on display.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The roads were all but impassable, so I stood alone and uninterrupted. It was bitterly cold—the dry kind that freezes the lungs when you breathe. Everything was so still that the sound of my boots crunching through the surface of the snow muted as though I were in an acoustically perfect concert hall.
I stood at the end of my driveway looking as far as I could past the stand of blue spruces draped in snow to my right when out of the corner of my eye I saw something out of place. There in a 30 foot spruce I saw something amid the alternating layers of bluish-green and pure white that was the color of ash. Unable to make out what it was, I went over to investigate.
It was a bird—a motionless, gray, speckled dove—nestled on a bough right at about eye-level. It wasn’t until I was only inches away that I realized the bird was dead—frozen as it had landed, preserved.
With my gloved hands I picked it up and held it in such a way that if it wanted to fly away, it could. I thought about the Bible verses that say God knows the number of hairs on our heads, (Mt 10:30) how we are fearfully and wonderfully made, (Ps 139:14) how the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, (Ps 24:1) and how God cares for the birds of the field. (Mt 6:26)
I thought about my bird and though it weighed next to nothing, it was all at once heavy in my hands. This was God’s bird. He made it. He was there when it poked its little beak out of its little shell. He aligned its DNA to produce feathers. He gave it instincts to find food. He gave it flight. And He numbered its days—a number now expired.
I found myself caring for the little creature, even grieving a bit. I couldn’t shake the thought that in ways I couldn’t comprehend God loved that lifeless little bird. So I prayed. It started as a prayer of thanks for creation and for God’s attention to detail. But before I knew it, I was praying for the bird itself.
Lifting it up like a priest with his offering, I prayed, “God of all Creation, You gave this bird life and You have cared for it all its days. Now it is dead, but if You wanted, You could bring it back to life, right here and right now. It would take nothing—just a word. Not even. If it be Your will, raise this little bird up and give it new life.”
Then I looked at the bird in my hands through the vapors of my own breathing.
What ending to this story are you comfortable with? Knowing I have already promised you this story is true, how do you hope it ends? How do you fear it ends? Is there a part of you pleading, “Please don’t tell me the bird came back to life. I don’t know if I have a category for that, other than doubt.”
If I told you the bird awoke in my hands and flew away to God knows where, would that be okay? If I promised you I had no intentions of taking a shred of credit for it, and swore I’d recoil at even the slightest hint that I was in any way its healer, would it then be okay if I told you God raised that bird from the dead?
How you answer matters, because if you are a Christian, all your eggs (no pun intended) are in the basket of belief in the resurrection of the dead—not just in Jesus’ resurrection, but in your own as well. Jesus Himself said, “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
What is harder to believe: that God can raise a bird from the dead, or that He Himself has risen, and that He will also raise you?
Does the bird take flight? You want to know. Some of you might even say you need to know. Whether the bird rose to newness of life or not, if you are in Christ, the guarantee of the Gospel is that you will. The Maker of Heaven and Earth will scoop you up, cold and still, and warm your Spirit to flight.
How could I say such an audacious thing of the followers of Jesus? “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom 8:11)
Easter is a time for us to remember that we know how the story will end.
In Jerusalem 2,000+ years ago, we saw the first fruits of the resurrection. And it is a TRUE story: “IN FACT Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor 15:20-21)
This is not a promise I make to you today, but one God Himself has already made. And He has sworn by the greatest name in Heaven and on Earth—His own. Resurrection for the believer in Christ is God’s promise, and “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb 6:18)
Easter is the guarantee that the story of the follower of Jesus ends in resurrection—eternal life in face-to-face intimacy with the Maker and Lover of your souls. Nothing less.
Death has long since been defeated. Still, we wait with baited breath for the end to come. But for those in Christ, we already know what the end will be.
Russ Ramsey is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church Cool Springs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children. He grew up in the fields of Indiana and studied at Taylor University and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv, ThM). Russ is the author of the Retelling the Story Series (IVP, 2018) and Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017).