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On Higher Ground

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By Bill Horner

Reminders of the Resurrection in the beauty of springtime

 

“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12).

Alright, someone enlighten me—are they properly called “daffodils,” “jonquils,” or “narcissus”?  The first time I can even remember recognizing this pretty yellow harbinger of spring was as a nine-year-old.  Our fourth grade teacher at Chilhowee School in Knoxville, Mrs. Murray, referred to them as “jonquils.”  Good choice.  I’ve always thought that name was more elegant than the other two options.  And I have always welcomed the sight of these flowers in March, for they are a sure indicator that the winter is past and spring has arrived.

Dogwood trees in full bloom are also a sign of the dead of winter yielding to the new life of spring.  In fact, a legend regarding this tree claims that it was once as large and straight as the mighty oak.  However, it was greatly distressed to be used for the cross on which Jesus died.  Therefore, according to the legend, the Lord took pity and decreed that the dogwood would henceforth be much smaller and twisted, not fit for a cross.  And its springtime blossoms would be shaped like a cross, with red nail prints at the end of each petal and a crown of thorns in the center.

Of course, we do not know which kind of tree was used for the cross, and the above legend is surely a made-up story.  Nevertheless, this fascinating blossom and the jonquils and other signs of new life in the spring are symbolic of resurrection.  The Lord seems to delight in giving us such object lessons of spiritual truth in the world around us.

This past weekend we observed Easter Sunday.  But just what was it we were celebrating on that day?  A few years ago a prominent church leader from New Jersey publicly espoused the view that Jesus did not arise from the dead bodily but only figuratively, in the wishful thinking of His followers.  So was His resurrection literal or figurative?  Did He really step out of a cave-like tomb in the Middle East?  Or is His body still lying on a stone slab somewhere while only His memory lives on today?

I once overheard two coworkers talking about archaeology in Israel.  Kay claimed that workers had recently discovered the body of a crucified man in a tomb.  “They are investigating to see whether it might be the body of—” she began.  She never finished her sentence, for Bob immediately interrupted and retorted, “I’ve got news for them!”  Bob knew they were wasting their time, that it could not be Jesus’ body, for He had physically stepped out of His grave.

The most simple, natural reading of Scripture leaves no doubt.  “Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’  She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’  Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’  She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” (John 20:11-16).

This passage and numerous others assure us that Jesus physically arose and conquered death for His followers.  And every year in the spring He gives us vivid, living color reminders that there is indeed life, even after death.  So whether you call them “jonquils” or “daffodils” or even “narcissus,” let their appearance remind you that He too is alive.