Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 1, 2018
Because He’s alive heaven’s gates are open wide
Jesus died on Friday. The next day, Saturday, was a terrible day for those who loved Jesus. It was a day of sorrow and numbing bewilderment. God was silent on Saturday. Jesus’ dead body lay in a dark, cold tomb. Hope was swallowed up in sadness.
Before the scattered disciples could celebrate the glory of the resurrection on Sunday, they had to endure the silent agony of Saturday. Try to imagine how the disciples felt. The voice of Jesus had been stilled and his Father was silent. Jesus was dead, his life a failure. His dream, their dreams, had ended in disaster.
We all know what those silent Saturdays feel like when death has claimed someone we loved. Numb with paralyzing grief, we hear nothing from God and we wallow in despair. I remember the heartbreaking Saturday after our son died. God was silent and we felt helpless and abandoned by the God to whom we had prayed so fervently.
But God does not leave us to sit in the sadness of silent Saturdays. Saturday must give way to Sunday – and Sunday brings hope to restore our souls. God speaks again! He pours his love into our hearts and breaks the hold of sorrow. Sunday symbolizes the coming of God to wipe away our tears, comfort us with his strengthening presence and galvanize our faith to believe in the resurrection. We find a way to handle the harsh silence of Saturday because Sunday is coming!
During my journey I have known men and women who refused to allow silent Saturdays to rob them of their faith. My friend Nathan Hamilton was such a man. As a young man Nathan fell in love with Jesus. He devoted his life to Jesus, using his gifted voice to bless others.
Nathan was not a preacher but he was sold out for Jesus. He supported his family by repairing chairs. But he did more than fix chairs; he repaired souls while he was repairing chairs. In hundreds of home, while working on a chair for a customer he would quietly ask permission to sing a song for the home owners. Many were so blessed they would invite him to sing another song, and while some of them were wiping away tears, Nathan would continue praising his Lord Jesus in song.
Nathan’s body died a little more than a year ago, but those of us who loved him did not lose him because we know where he is. No one is lost if you know where they are. After a year of heartbreaking suffering, Nathan ran ahead of us to the Father’s House where he now sings in the greatest choir in the universe.
During the last chapter of his life, about seven years, Nathan served as worship leader for our traditional worship services at Saint James United Methodist Church. What an honor was mine to serve alongside Nathan as he directed our choir and led our congregation in worship every Sunday! We miss and remain grateful for the way his singing touched our hearts and for the wonderful way he led people to worship our Savior. I miss Nathan especially at Easter.
Every Easter Nathan walked into the sanctuary at the end of my sermon and sang the inspiring song, “He’s Alive!” The song is a testimony of the Apostle Peter. In the song Peter tells about his dreadful Saturday, how he had been unable to sleep, rising at every sound, with fear and sorrow gripping him. He hears the gate rattling. Hearing a voice calling, he goes to the door and finds Mary who breathlessly tells him that she had been to Jesus’ grave, found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty!
As Nathan continues the story in song, he has Peter saying John assumed a miracle had occurred but he could not embrace the idea for he had “seen them crucify him” and “I saw him die.” Peter then sings of the guilt and shame of denying that he even knew Jesus’ name. But the song turns for us with the word “suddenly.”
Here are the words: “Suddenly the air was filled with a strange and sweet perfume, light came from everywhere, drove shadows from the room and Jesus stood before me with his arms held open wide and I fell down on my knees and I just clung to him and cried. Then he raised me to my feet and as I looked into his eyes the love was shining out from him like sunlight from the skies. Guilt in my confusion disappeared in sweet release and every fear I ever had just melted into peace.”
Then, with passion and power Nathan’s voice erupted with the precious words, “He’s alive, Yes He’s alive, Yes He’s alive and I’m forgiven, heaven’s gates are open wide, He’s alive, Yes, He’s alive, Oh He’s alive and I’m forgiven, heaven’s gates are open wide, He’s alive, He’s alive, Oh He’s alive and I’m forgiven, heaven’s gates are open wide, He’s alive, He’s alive, I believe it, He’s alive, sweet Jesus!”
Nathan won’t be with me Sunday, physically, but he will be with me in my heart, in my memory, and that will be enough for my soul to be richly blessed. I know I will see Nathan again and then, with a perfected voice, I will join with him to singing praise to Jesus. In the meantime, I will keep on telling all who will listen that Jesus truly is alive, and because he is alive, the gates of heaven are open wide.
Death could not keep him in the ground! He is alive! Believe that and you are only two steps away from peace with God! The first step is to believe he’s alive. Believe that he alone can turn the sadness of Saturday into the joy of a life-changing Sunday. The second step is to accept his forgiveness so you can be ready to walk through the wide open gates of heaven. Right now, this very minute, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead can give life to your mortal body and make you alive to God!
He’s alive! And because He is, heaven’s gates are open wide! + + +