The old man greeted me kindly and offered a cup of coffee as I entered his home. He and his wife were members of our congregation, but due to health issues they hadn’t attended in years. Eager to get to know them, I accepted the offer for coffee and took a seat at their table. “How did you meet?” I asked, as the old woman brought me a treat from the kitchen. The old man laughed, and replied, “How much time do you have?”
Just before 8:00 a.m. on December 7, 1941, a young man on the deck of the USS California was setting up folding chairs for Sunday service. The California served as the flagship of the United States Battle Fleet in the Pacific Ocean, and the young man was proud to be counted as part of her crew. As he placed chairs into neatly organized rows, he heard the ominous sound of planes approaching. At 8:05 a.m. a pair of torpedoes struck the California, and the ship rocked violently. The young man was knocked unconscious. The next thing he remembered was being shaken awake and told to abandon ship.
The old man said to me, “I couldn’t hear them. My ears were still ringing, my head still throbbing, but I knew what they were trying to tell me, the ship was going down!”
The young man followed his fellow sailors over the side of the California and into the warm waters of the Pacific. As he swam to shore the California sank to its grave.
Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
The Bible tells us the greatest love story that has ever been told. Within its pages we learn about a God who loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son to take on flesh, and to give his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Mary and the disciples of Christ were probably not surprised by the death of Jesus. He had told them on several occasions that he would die, and they had witnessed first-hand the rage of the world against him. Yet, death was not the only thing Jesus promised. He also told them that he would rise again.
Today, if you visit Pearl Harbor, you will not find the USS California at the bottom of the ocean. After the attack on December 7, salvage efforts patched her hull, pumped out the water, and raised her back to life. She returned to the continental US and was outfitted for war.
“That’s where I met her,” said the old man, looking across the table at his bride, still smitten after all the years. “She was a Rosie the Riveter,” he said, “… and I told her I’d come back for her.”
As Jesus’ disciples gathered in Galilee, he appeared to them, but something had changed. He was now the one who had conquered death, and all power and authority in heaven and on earth belonged to him. As Jesus ascended into heaven, he charged his disciples to take his message of love to their neighbors and the nations, but he warned them it would not be easy.
Is your life as a Christian easy?
Do not shrink back from the battle, but keep the faith. Whatever trial you endure, whatever heartbreak comes your way, know this: the one who has conquered death has promised to come back for you, and he has never failed to keep his word.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Editor in Chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.