Scripture: John 20:1-10. (Look up and mark up passage in your own Bible)
Easter—Resurrection—Sunday; what a glorious morning that first Easter Sunday must have been when they finally understood that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead! What a glorious day it is when we understand that Jesus has truly risen and is alive and with us today!
Trevor asked me to share a story of Christ’s resurrection power with you from my days as a pediatric (children) oncology (cancer) and HIV/AIDS nurse. Very early on in that career, at the National Institutes of Health, I started taking care of a young boy, 2 years old, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and was started on an experimental protocol. His name was Roger, not really, but let’s say it was, just for grins and giggles. Roger would change my life forever!
He was a bright boy that enjoyed all things boy…hunting, cars, trucks, dirt, He-man, GI Joe, etc. The first part of his 3 year treatment was a 3 month stay on the ward where he would get very sick when he received his chemo and then get serious infections because of the effects of the chemo. He and his parents were such troopers! They always had a smile, a funny story, and Roger was a typical little boy who always was laughing and playing. Roger, his family and I grew very close over those first three months as I cared for him on almost a daily basis. As Roger and his family would be at the hospital for treatments we would sometimes talk about faith, but his parents would say they “weren’t into that Jesus stuff”.
As Roger’s treatment continued past those first three months I continued to be his primary nurse at the hospital where he was receiving his ‘experimental’ treatment and he and his family and I created a very close bond. When he was able to be at home we would often chat with each other (the days before email) and visit. I was also in contact with his home hospital and his preschool to help them with the nuances of caring for a child with this form of cancer.
About a year after Roger’s treatment ended (he was about 6) he had a relapse of his cancer. It was back and now it was in his spinal fluid. Roger would receive another line for making blood draws easier and he also received an Ommaya reservoir, which allowed us to access his spinal fluid without having to do a painful lumbar puncture (which sometimes he would need at 5 minute intervals). He would begin what would be a 16 year journey of being treated for this disease. He had many side effects and the treatments were often painful. But Roger kept a sense of humor, a sense of hope and had an infectious personality that encouraged and lifted those around him. Roger had a passion for life. As he grew he desired to become a police officer and would go along on calls with his local small town police officers. He loved hunting and farming and was involved in the local hunting group and the local Future farmers of America. He met people from all walks of life and was an inspiration to them all.
Roger was also close with his grandmother; a grandmother with a strong faith in Christ. As he came into his teen years he came to ask questions about life, about his disease and the outcome of it and about death. He always had such good questions for me and we often had awesome discussions about life, death and this person his grandma told him about, Jesus. He had great questions and was never afraid to ask them. One day when he came into the clinic for a treatment, it was just he and I for some time in the room. He excitedly shared with me that at a church service the week before he had gone forward and accepted Christ as his savior (he was about 16). He was to be baptized the following week. How happy I was for him! Oh the joy I felt knowing that when his all too short life ended he would be with Jesus! Roger and I would have many wonderful talks after that about his walk with Christ, something ‘new’ he had read in his Bible and how he was trying to live for Jesus and to be strong so others would be able to see ‘the light’.
A few months later Roger was in for a checkup and was having a lumbar puncture. I was helping to hold him in the proper position, something I had done with Roger many times. But this one was particularly difficult…not a good sign. It was also very painful…also not a good sign. I remember vividly holding Roger, praying for him, whispering a prayer in his ear and trying to encourage him, and Roger, for the first time in all those years, crying. When the doctor was able to get some spinal fluid for a test, he took out the needle and gave me a look. That look, the one that confirms the feeling in your gut, said it all. My heart sank. Roger waited for the doctor to leave and sobbed. When he had finished he looked at me and said “I know it’s not good. I just want to make it through graduation.” I encouraged him, comforted him and hoped against hope that he would be able to do that. Later that day, lab results confirmed what we all suspected. His cancer was back again, and with a vengeance. We did what we could to get him to his graduation.
Roger was able to do that and much more in the next year and a half. It was like he was on a mission. He made it to prom, he got his driver’s license, he went to many Senior year events where everyone spoke amazing words about him and gave him awards, and commendations. And he graduated. He shared the graduation events with me on a clinic visit. His parent’s so proud of him. Roger told me that at the graduation he received a standing ovation….he was so shocked at this. But he told me that he stood up and told everyone there why he had made it….because of Jesus Christ and if anyone wanted to hear more to come see him. And they did. And Roger told them of Jesus and what He had done in his life.
He had been sharing the good news everywhere….with everyone he met. The whole little town that he lived in knew who he was, as did those in the little towns around him. And he told them all. He was living like he was on a mission…and he was on a mission…Jesus was his mission.
I would only see him a couple of more times after that. He would always talk to those in the waiting room and the treatment room about his life. He would encourage all of those around him with his life. And then he would point them to the One who gave it to him. Roger’s death came quickly, peacefully, and although those of us who love him and are left behind were in pain, Roger no longer was. Roger was now with his Lord and Savior, hearing those amazing words…”well done, good and faithful servant.”
Roger’s funeral was such a celebration of life. There were farmers, bikers, police officers, hunters (I could tell because they were the ones in camo) and military. There was a military flyover, a military salute, his parents were presented with a flag. The bikers had a special ceremony at the gravesite (it was a long and joyous funeral!). I had an opportunity to talk with many of the people there. Many of them recounted how they had met Roger and what he had meant in their life. And many told me that he told them about Jesus and wanted to know if I knew Jesus. You see, they wanted to be like Roger and tell others about Jesus, to be brave like him, to live like him…..on a mission for Jesus.
I personally can’t think of a better resurrection story; a better story of how someone wants to be a light in a dark world. I want to be like Jesus and shine light where the darkness is, I want to be like Roger, I want to be brave, I want to live my life like I’m on a mission for Jesus. Will you join me? Will you shine the light of Christ in a dark world….wherever that world takes you?
Father God, we pray that You will allow us to see Your light in the corners of our dark lives. That You will enable us to find Your joy, peace and love so that we may go out into all the world and share that light, love and joy with others. May You be the reason we give for our joy in times of darkness. Allow us to be brave and courageous for You! Thank You Jesus!