Summary: Our hope is in the Lord who died, rose and lives.
Text: Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. (Matthew 28:9)
“Greetings” is a wonderful word in that it projects a warm gracious or pleasant feeling of friendship and love. Usually when someone greets you, they are happy to see you and this is reflected in the greeting or welcome. In another sense, they are complimenting you for your arrival.
We greet relatives and friends when they come to visit us. We are happy to share time with them and we try to make them feel at home. We could greet them at the airport, at our front door, at the super market, at church or any number of other places. The main point is that we are happy to see them, so our greeting is positive.
Did you ever think about the greeting you get when you visit a cemetery? What type of greeting could we get at a cemetery? Maybe you never thought about it before, but there are greetings in a cemetery.
I remember when I was a young boy living in the hills of Southern Ohio where coal-mining was a big business. We didn’t have any material possessions, but we had a lot of love in our family. We didn’t have many places to go nor did we really have good transportation to go anywhere far away. I remember one place we visited quite often. I never really thought about it, but now I understand a little bit more.
Throughout the year, and especially on holidays, our family would visit the cemetery. Dad would trim the grass or weeds around the graves of relatives and mom would put fresh flowers in a vase at the base of the tombstone. It is interesting now that I think about it, that we visited in the morning hours. I didn’t give it too much thought, but now I am thinking about it.
In the morning it was quiet beneath the trees, the sun had just come up and there was a sense of peace. I remember the greeting we received from the squirrels as they scampered through the trees and over the ground. They didn’t talk to us of course, but it seemed like they were happy and full of life.
Then I remember the rustling of the leaves brought about by the soft gentle breeze. In the fall of the years, the leaves were going through various color changes and the ones that dropped to the ground would crunch beneath your feet as you moved about. As the leaves floated down through the air and as they crackled beneath your feet, there was a sense of welcome as if they did this because we were present.
Next, I remember hearing the chirping of the birds as they communicated with one another. I remember seeing robins, cardinals, sparrows, blue-jays and other kinds of birds fly from tree to tree. Some of them were singing or whistling beautiful melodies. Their chirping and singing were sounds of joy and happiness that made us feel as though they were extending their greetings to us.
On Decoration Day or Memorial Day, we were always at the cemetery very early because there would be a parade coming through. The music and drum cadence was a greeting that uplifted our spirits, brought us to attention and reminded us that there were many people buried here who gave their lives so that we might be able to share these moments of greeting with those in our presence.
Everyday we are greeted by someone. In fact God greets us every morning as we open our eyes to see all the things around us that He has provided. As we sit on the patio drinking our coffee, we are greeted by His creation. We are greeted by the rising sun giving us a brand new day to enjoy and appreciate.
On the Thursday before the Crucifixion took place, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples in the Upper Room and instituted the Last Supper. A little while later, He prayed and agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. Within a short time, the betrayer and soldiers approached Jesus and arrested Him.
He went through a very quick trial during the night, was disowned by Peter and deserted by all the others. “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head.
“They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. Then they spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him” (Matthew 27:27-31).