A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said. “No, who are you?” “I’m the new associate at your local church,” the pastor replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?” Puzzled, the pastor shut the door.
“I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head.” “I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.” “So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked. “Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, in fact, beyond strange–kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”
David wrote in the Psalm:
My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies.
Since Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit, the final enemy of God’s people has been death. As Paul teaches us, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26), and it was on this day that Christ did battle with death for our eternal lives. It is silent in the Church, but the final and greatest battle rages below. We are not required to fight in this battle because of this great work of Christ. It is one he fought and won alone, so that when our time on earth reaches its end, we can lay our heads… we can place our lives in his hands and rest assured that he will escort us into that Heavenly Kingdom.
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead, and rose from there to glory, grant that your faithful people, who were buried with him in baptism, may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life. Amen.