The smile on his face was ear to ear. “I have a gift for you,” he said. He was carrying a large potted plant when he met me at the back door at church. His wife said, “Tony thought you’d like this. He has one at home.” I asked what kind of plant it was. He told me it was a fig tree. “A fig tree?” I asked. “I hope they aren’t hard to care for because I have a brown thumb.”
Never was a more true word spoken. I killed that tree. I watered it and put it near the window. I gave it plenty of sunlight. Despite my best efforts, one by one, the leaves began to fall off. I panicked. I was sure that the tree had died when the last leaf dropped. I was heartbroken and a little embarrassed. What was I going to tell Tony? I beat myself up for my inability to do what was needed.
I left the tree where it was. Every time I walked by it, the guilt washed over me. What could I have done differently? How could I have changed the outcome? Those are the questions we often ask in the aftermath of a tragedy. Regret and disappointment fill our minds. There are no easy answers. We live in a fallen world. Sometimes even our best efforts aren’t enough.
Thankfully, everything doesn’t depend on us. I can’t tell you when it happened, because I didn’t notice it at first. Maybe that’s because I had given up hope. My mind saw what it wanted to see. Every time I walked by the tree I just assumed it was dead. Then one day I noticed that three new leaves had sprouted from the stalk. How could that be? It was impossible!
The preacher in me immediately made the connection between the tree and the Easter story. When the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, they thought they’d find everything as they left it on Friday. Jesus had died and was buried. They expected to see his lifeless body. When they came to the tomb it was empty. They did not understand what had happened. Dead people don’t just get up and walk away.
Yet, they should have known. They had witnessed the raising of Lazarus days earlier. It was like a premonition. They didn’t connect the dots. Jesus told them that he was going to suffer and die. It was all part of God’s plan of salvation. He was going to die for our sake but he’d be vindicated as he was raised from the dead. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they die.”
Luke 24:5 tells us about that first Easter morning. The women were standing at the tomb. They were confused and upset. That’s when the angel says, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” In other words, “He’s not here! He is alive! Go and tell the world the good news.” We’ve shared that story every Easter morning since. It is the reason that we can always hold onto hope.
Jesus is alive. Easter reminds us that God is not done writing our story. It may look like a tree is dead, a future dream shattered, a road blocked or worse. But Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:26 “That with God, all things are possible.” So hold on. Do not give up. The same God who raised Jesus from the dead has the power to give life to your situation no matter how hopeless it may seem. If you are ever in doubt, just remember, that Christ Arose!
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.