from the book Promiseland, written by Dawn Miller
April 17, 1987
And a fine Easter it has been. Preacher out did himself on the service, and giving one of the most beautiful sermons I’ve ever heard, too. I hope and pray I can remember his words just as he spoke them to us so I can keep them in this journal to read on . . .
We sang “Rock of Ages” and Amazing Grace”, and once we finally got seated, Preacher stepped up to the front. He looked all about the tent, smiling at people, nodding, and as soon as everyone got settled and quiet he began.
“I come from a long line of storytellers, . . .
But the best storytellers are those who fire your soul with their words, who leave you with, not just a story to remember, but a different way of looking at life–of living life. Jesus was such a man, and it’s in His honor that I bring you my story for this Easter Sunday.
“Over the years a lot of folks have asked me the same question:
Why? Why did He go through with it?
Why didn’t He just call out to God
and tell Him to stop all of the madness?
After reading the Scriptures more times than I can count,
I came to the same answer every time,
He did it for love.
“Now remember, this is just a story of sorts.
I pray it does justice to His name.
So now I want yo to close your eyes, and just imagine . . .
“Imagine Jesus walking up that lonely hill called Calvary . . .
Memories begin to fill Jesus’ head as He forces His pain-wracked body on. He stumbles once but rights Himself and continues to walk, remembering. He sees anger, then brokenness and doubt, through the eyes of men desperate for a forgiveness they feared they would never have – the very men who would walk with Him.
Then come the memory of fishing . . .
He can hear the slap of a net against the water again, see the childlike amazement on His friend’s faces, hear the laughter of a wedding, and remember the loving sister who fell at His feet, weeping pitifully for her brother.
So beautiful was the human spirit when it loved.
“So many more images come to Him in His memory, and He realizes He has fallen in love with each and every one of them . . .
He stumbles again under the heavy burden on His back then feels the grasp of a firm hand and sees His Father’s love staring out at Him through the eyes of a man dressed in a soldier’s’ uniform.
“There are so many who are lost, he thinks,
so many who need to be found . . . My life for theirs, Father . . .
And with that thought He is given a vision of what would come to pass through the ages. He sees an old man who drinks too much because he’s seen too much ugliness in the world. The old man wakes in a snowdrift one night, lying on his back. He begins to cry, calling out to Jesus. A drop of blood falls on this man,
and Jesus sees him being helped up by a scraggly boy–a boy who would later give him a Book that would open his eyes to beauty again.
“Jesus takes another step, and as He does, He sees a fallen woman who cries herself to sleep at night when no one else can hear her–but He hears–
and as she drops to her knees, another drop of blood falls,
and suddenly the woman is a laughing mother of four who travels at night to the worst brothels around to tell young girls she understand their life–and she knows Someone who will treat them better–a man called Jesus . . .
“Jesus nods, thinking, yes, He understands.
Then He lies down willingly as soldiers begin to nail Him to the cross. They begin to hammer, and the pain must be unbearable,
but it’s as if Jesus is distracted by something.
His head is turned, as though He’s listening.
Somewhere in the distance He can hear the laughter of a child,
drowning out the sound of hammering, drowning out the pain,
as a lilting little voice sings strong and sweet,
echoing through the centuries:
‘Yes, Jesus loves me . . .’
“As the hours go by, Jesus feels His heart swell with the love that so many would ponder over the years to come.
Why? they would ask.
But, then, they hadn’t seen what He had seen.
He closes His eyes and with a a great sigh.
He says the words that would make it happen,
the words that would give us a chance
to be all God meant for us to be,
“It is finished.”
Preacher, who had a distant look on his face as he was telling the story, seemed to come to us then, and he looked around the tent. It was so quiet you could’ve heard a pin drop.
“But He wasn’t finished with us, ”
Preacher said, his voice thick with emotion , and I saw his eyes travel the crowd, . . .
“He had only begun to show His love. Peter found that out.
I can only imagine how heartbroken he was, sitting in that boat a few days later, tormenting himself over denying Jesus. Then he spotted a man standing on the shore.
‘It’s the Lord!”
he heard John exclaim–and yet he didn’t flee.
Instead , he plunged into the water and began to swim toward Him for all he was worth. Because Peter knew–
that no matter how bad he had messed up,
he would be forgiven, he would be loved . . .
“My prayer for all of you this Easter
is that the next time you’re feeling like running away–
you dive into the water instead–
and that you love each other like Jesus loves us.
Love like you’ve never been hurt before.”