|Image from Jesus Film Project|
Saturday, April 20, 2019
No Resurrection, No Hope
A few days ago, while thinking about the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry, my thoughts strayed across the memory of a Holy Week many years ago, as if I had brushed up against an evil spider lurking in a cobweb within the darkest recesses of my mind.
Easter came early that year: March 27, 2005. I had been born again nearly 5 years previously, on April 17, 2000, by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). On the Thursday of Holy Week in 2005, my husband and I were in New Orleans to compete in a ballroom dance competition.
The city, festive as always, was blooming with spring flowers and enticing with sounds of jazz and brass bands wafting through the breeze. The weather was balmy, perfect for strolling through the French Quarter and admiring the intricate iron work of the historic buildings and the precious art objects in the windows of antique shops.
We were staying at the Ritz Carlton where the competition was taking place, the elegant ballgowns and sparkling Latin dresses adorning the already beautiful interior, replete with tasteful, fragrant floral displays and Easter décor. In the city, hotel and ballroom, the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the mood was jovial.
But my heart was heavy, sinking like a stone to the pit of my stomach. My thoughts could not escape the darkness of the events surrounding Terri Schiavo, a young woman with severe brain damage and a family embroiled in a bitter struggle over her right to live or to die. Her husband had moved on with his life and had children with another woman. Yet he refused to relinquish legal guardianship of Terri to her parents, even though they offered to pay all her expenses.
I was one of the very few neurologists who, after thoroughly reviewing her complex medical records and videotapes, believed that she showed signs of meaningful interaction with her environment and especially with her parents. I had signed an affidavit to that effect in support of her parents, who had appealed to the courts to have her feeding tube reinserted after Terri’s husband won the legal battle to have it removed.
But after the “Palm Sunday Compromise” on March 20, which was emergency legislation to get the case moved to federal court, on March 25 the courts refused to reinsert the feeding tube. It had been withheld since March 18, meaning that Terri would be deprived of food and water and allowed to die from starvation and dehydration.
My heart went out to her parents, for I could not imagine the agony of knowing your child was deliberately being starved to death, and watching as her body shriveled away and her eyes sank deep into their sockets. Even worse would be the feeling of helplessness to intervene and knowing that your child’s pain was senseless and through no fault of her own.
Even for me, that Holy Week was perhaps the most poignant of my life, as it so vividly brought to mind the suffering of Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God led to the slaughter and betrayed by those He loved and trusted. And the pain that Mary must have endured at the cross, not only watching Jesus’ life ebb away, but knowing that her perfect, sinless Son, the Messiah, God Himself, was unjustly condemned to a horrific death and brutally tortured by those He came to save.
Meanwhile, protesters and prayer warriors gathered around the hospice facility where Terri was dying; the media were ablaze with arguments from both sides; and the courts and legislature continued to suppress any last hope of Terri’s parents that she would be allowed to live. President Bush spoke out for legal protection of those who had no voice of their own, and the Pope criticized US law for allowing such inhumane treatment and for not upholding the sanctity of human life.
On March 27, Easter Sunday, while Christians everywhere celebrated the resurrection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6, John 21:14, Romans 8:34), Terri received the Last Rites, in keeping with her Catholic background. She passed into eternity a few days later, on March 31.
Despite the burden of these events, my heart found hope anew in singing God’s praises on Resurrection Sunday, for the risen Christ is victorious over death and brings hope to the suffering and once hopeless who have trusted Him.
I don’t know whether or not Terri Schiavo was saved, for only the Lord knows the hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). I do know that had Jesus Christ, God the Son, not taken on human flesh (John 1:14) to pay the ransom price for our sins (Hosea 13:14, Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6), and had He not conquered sin, death and the grave by rising from the dead, that there would be no hope for any of us (1 Corinthians 15:13-58).
Praise the Lord, Christ arose! Now we who trust Him have a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a blessed hope in His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13), and the assurance that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord! (2 Corinthians 5:8). If He calls us home before the Rapture, We will pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4) directly to our home in Heaven (John 14:1-4), where He awaits with outstretched arms!
And if we are blessed to still be living when He returns, we will not even taste death (Luke 9:27), for we shall be instantly transformed into glorious bodies like His (1 Corinthians 15:35-50), to meet with Him in the clouds and forever be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and our loved ones in Him!
Because of His resurrection, there is hope! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia, Amen!
© 2019 Laurie Collett