“… of all men most miserable.” Young men squirming uncomfortably in tight ties, sweat rolling down their backs under button-down shirts. Young ladies tugging awkwardly at hemlines, wincing in stiff new shoes. They wrestle not just with unfamiliar clothes, but also with unfamiliar feelings. Young ones aren’t accustomed to death. They are unfamiliar with funerals of their friends, strangers to their own mortality.
“… of all men most miserable.” Forty years invested. Thousands of sermons preached, untold hours of preparation, and immeasurable anxiety and anticipation. The old man has poured his life into those sermons, not for the sake of the sermon, but in hope that the words might find their mark in some hearer’s heart. What if, after all his effort, it was for nothing?
“… of all men most miserable.” Her whole life has been staked on this truth. She endured a difficult marriage because her Bible told her to. She turned the other cheek when she really wanted to get even. She chose a path with less income and even less recognition because it allowed her more time with her children and greater opportunities to serve her church. Was it all for a lie?
“… of all men most miserable.” That’s what Christians are if Christ was not raised from the dead – miserable. Miserable because there is no other hope for life beyond the grave, for a future after the funeral. Miserable because, if he is not raised, neither will we be. Miserable is what every Christian preacher is if Christ is not raised. Miserable because preaching is a useless waste of time – his time and that of his hearers.
“Of all men most miserable” is what every Christian is if the resurrection of Jesus is but a myth or a metaphor. Without Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s religion is a sham. And there is nothing left. That’s why the battle-scarred preacher Paul said “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
The good news – the mind-boggling, life changing good news – is that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed raised from the dead. Really raised. Paul personally saw him and was so convinced that he abandoned his career, gave up normal family life, left his home, and lived as a poor, often-imprisoned preacher to spread the news.
Of all men most miserable? No, of all men most blessed!
Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.