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The empty chair: An Easter story

BY AL EARLEY

The four Gospels tell about the experience of a number of people on that first Easter morning.  One of the common things that was said by angels and Jesus was, “Do not be afraid.”  For example, Matthew records some of the women leaving the empty tomb afraid and joyful after hearing the angel’s announcement of Jesus’ resurrection.  And then they meet Jesus and fall to His feet and worship Him.  He says, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).

Fear of death is a very common thing in our culture today.  If you are struggling with fear of death it can be a great help to go deeper into your relationship with Jesus.  There is no better time to do this than at Easter since Jesus’ resurrection signals His victory over sin, death, and evil for us.  We need not fear death, and Jesus would love to tell us, “Do not be afraid.”  The Easter story below is about a man who became very close to Jesus and was not afraid of death.  I don’t know if it is true or where it came from.  But I have heard and read many similar stories.  I like this one especially and share it with you that it may bless your Easter celebration.

A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows.  An empty chair sat beside his bed. The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said.

“No, who are you?” said the father.

The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I see 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 minister shut the door.  “I have 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 went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer, until one day four years ago my best friend said to me, “Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus.  Here is what I suggest. Sit down in 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 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 minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church.  Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her Dad had died that afternoon.

“Did he die in peace?,” the minister asked.

“Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me 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 about his death.  Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

What are you afraid of?  Death?  Covid?  The silence of a lonely night?  Depression?  The sins of your past?  The circumstances of your present?  The battles that may be in your future?  All of the above?  Get closer to Jesus this Easter and listen for Him to tell you, “Do not be afraid!”  Jesus is the greatest miracle worker this world has ever known.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.org.