Editor’s note: The following is a story written by Betty Hendrick, who wishes everyone a blessed Easter.
Alexander breathed deeply, enjoying the new fragrances of the spring season. Standing under the branches of the dogwood tree, he examined the brilliant white blooms. The tree trunk and branches were somewhat twisted, but those blooms…..shaped like a cross with touches of red toward the center. In God’s time, that shape would define sacrifice and salvation in a manner which would change history.
Looking at the large inn and attached stable, Alexander sent morning prayers to the God whom he had served from childhood. Like many of his Jewish relatives and friends, he waited for the coming of the Messiah as promised in scriptures.
Levi, the twelve year old apprentice, exited the stable. Alexander, speaking kindly, said “Levi, I have a message you must deliver to the rabbi, but do not tarry. We have much to do today because Passover time is nearing!”
Responding and receiving the message, Levi answered, “Yes, sir; I will do my best for you and I will be right back!” His master smiled as he watched the energetic lad leave the property on his way to the rabbi’s house.
As he watched until Levi was out of sight, Alexander’s mental feet traveled back to the time when as a twelve year old, he had experienced the usual events that a boy might enjoy, but he limped badly because of an injury suffered when he was ten. The doctors had offered some degree of hope for a full recovery, but that had not come.
Alexander’s father owned a small inn and some semblance of a stable in Bethlehem. The years of family life and occupation passed. At a rather busy time in the city, a young couple arrived at Alexander’s father’s inn. She, weary from travel and expecting a child, waited as patiently as she could while inquiries were made for accommodations. ”Sir, we have traveled from Nazareth and have come here for taxation reports and are very weary. Do you have a place where we may stay?”
“No, young man, my inn is full—–however, I do have a small stable in the back where you may sleep. It is not much, but the hay is fresh and clean and there are a couple of animals which should not disturb you.” Thanking the innkeeper, the couple went to the place to get as comfortable as possible.
During the day and into the night, Alexander helped as much as possible. In the late hours of the night, he went to check on their guests.. As he approached the stable, he noticed a small company of shepherds who seem to be fascinated by a baby in the makeshift crib. Getting just close enough, the twelve year old lad squeezed in between two shepherds. As if by divine direction, Alexander knelt, forgetting that standing might be a real challenge! He saw that the guests had brought simple gifts and wondered if this baby could be …..could he be the promised Messiah?
Realizing he had no gift, Alexander whispered to the baby’s mother, “I’ll be right back!” Standing and starting to walk away, he was surprised that he did not limp! Thinking it was nothing, he took several other steps….again, no limp! Somehow as he had knelt before this special child, his infirmity had been healed. Going to his room, he selected a lovely piece of wood which he had fashioned into the Star of David, that familiar symbol of God’s care for the Jewish nation. When he returned to the stable, he gave the carving to the mother with these words, “This gift is very small, but it is from my heart.” Accepting the present, and remembering directions from an angel, she smiled at the boy and reminded him of the importance of giving our hearts to God.
That night, as Alexander would come to know, was one which changed history. Years passed on, his legs and feet remained strong as he moved to Jerusalem, set up a business which was profitable and he became a leader in the local synagogue. In God’s time, the One who was promised began his ministry at age 30. Word of this prophet spread quickly—–his was not a flashy, selfish ministry…..no committee work, just traveling about with truth as fulfilled in scripture and giving the work primarily to twelve men, all but one whose hearts would be captured by the love to the Savior. (Isn’t it interesting that when we choose to believe as given in the Word of God, our hearts truly are captured by grace and we know freedom beyond boundaries of life?)
When Jesus was 33, the anger of the opposition grew louder. So it was that at Passover time, Alexander, his family and Levi began preparations for this tradition so well kept within the Jewish community. The innkeeper kept up his duties as a religious leader, yet there was a void in his heart. Being curious, he listened as the young speaker spoke of new life….of a path which departed from traditions in some ways, yet fulfilled so many of the prophecies.
He was leading a donkey into the stable when two men approached. “Sir, the Master has need of a room in which to observe Passover with his disciples. Do you have such a place?”
“Indeed, I do. You and your leader are welcome in this place as my guests. See? Here is the room—prepare it as you need to do So it was that in God’s time, Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover feast. Alexander listened quietly as Jesus talked of upcoming events of his own death and heard those chilling questions coming from each man who asked “Lord, is it I who will betray you?” However, in addition to those predictions, Jesus also reminded them how much God loved them and would keep believers in safety throughout eternity.
Alexander knew why his heart had that void, so in his quiet way, he prayed, “God of our fathers, I believe what I have heard from this one who is your son. Help me to share the good news, first to my Jewish family and friends.”
The direct result of his prayer was not to be fulfilled immediately. Jesus had entered Jerusalem that week, riding a lowly donkey and hearing the shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Late in the night when the time with the disciples was finished, the Son of God went to a quiet garden to pray “Thy will be done.” A company of soldiers came to arrest this rebel, a trial filled with mockery was carried out, and those shouts of joy became “Crucify Him!”
As history records it, on Good Friday, Jesus was suspended between earth and heaven, arms outstretched to include all who would accept this supreme sacrifice. Alexander went to the place of execution, his eyes brimming with tears because, although Jesus had promised He would go to prepare a place for believers, this death seemed so final! (Another point of interest: why is it that burial insurance is sold on the basis of “final arrangements” instead of final earthly arrangements?”)
On Sunday morning, that wonderful day we have come to note as Easter, word began to spread that when the women and men who were disciples had gone to the burial tomb, Jesus was not there. Two men, described as angels, asked “Why seek the living among the dead? He is not here…..He has risen just as He said.”
According to the Bible, the risen, living Lord was seen by more than five hundred witnesses (I guess that destroys the “Jesus is dead!” assumption, doesn’t it?”
One of those witnesses was Alexander. He was standing under the branches of the dogwood tree, looking at the blooms which had taken on more meaning. He had made a decision, no matter what the cost, that he would honor the Savior. Looking in the distance, he saw a man approaching. As the man came nearer, Alexander realized this was his living Lord! Bowing immediately, he whispered “My Lord and Savior!”
As Jesus reached down to stand Alexander on his feet, He asked, “Do you remember a gift you offered as a twelve year old boy? Let me show you something.” Pulling back the robe so the neck could be seen, the Savior said, “My mother gave this to me to remember who I am and always to use ability to honor God.” There, on the blood-stained chain, was the Star of David which Alexander had carved. “Thank you, Alexander, for this gift. The promise I made to the disciples is the one I make to you: I will be right back!”
For centuries, believers have waited, some not so patiently, for the Lord’s return. Some folks, forgetting what scripture says that only the Father knows the time of that return, have sold their possessions, stood on a mountain somewhere and waited…and waited….only to return to the valley, hearing the voices of critics. It is true that evidence of the Second Coming is around us, yet as one my favorite pastors reminded us, “We are not on the time and place committee, but we are on the preparation committee.”
As human beings often do, we are consumed by time. Some folks live by the clocks, or their Smartphones, switch the television channel to watch the latest news, especially of the stock market reports and worry….worry….worry. Life would be much simpler if we would remember that God invented time, the end of which is in divine hands. We do need to use the gifts we have been given to share the best news of hope beyond this life. When faith falters or confidence crumbles and the ship upon which we sail in life’s sea seems ready to sink, there is no need to abandon the ship. As we are reminded in song, “The Anchor Holds.” The Christian life is not so much about use of time and talent, even for good causes and not about deeds we do, thinking we are in charge of the universe. It is about relationship to the One who is the Light of the Holy City . He made the promise when He said “ I will be right back!”
Have a glorious Easter—celebrate the promise!