Mistaken Tragedy

With Remembrance Day just over, many of us will have thought of ancestors who fought in the first world war a hundred years ago. Let me tell you of the strange situation surrounding Christopher Johnson, my great uncle from Pine Creek, Manitoba.

He enlisted in 1918, just a couple of months before the war ended, and served for one year. Soon after his training began in Quebec, he fell ill with the flu and was soon hospitalized with pneumonia for several months. While there, an unfortunate mistake was made. Family members re-count that official news reached home that Chris had passed away. This, of course, was a great tragedy and the family began to mourn. However, his father and brothers believed there must be some sort of mistake, so they took the long train ride to Quebec and found him alive and recovering in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. Apparently, the army had Chris mixed up with another soldier named Johnson. The family had been put through a terrible experience for nothing. Smiles were large six months later when Chris was finally discharged and came home. If anything good came from it all, he married one of his nurses and they eventually had six children.

The Gospels tell us how Jesus’ disciples were distraught when He died on the cross. The apostles scattered, and his mother and friends tearfully watched Joseph and Nicodemus take the body down and bury him in the tomb. None of them were prepared for the resurrection. The book of Luke records the joy people felt when they saw Him again. Mary Magdalene and others “returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest;” “He has risen!” (24:6-10). Peter “marveled at that which had happened” (v12), and the two men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus also reported to the apostles that “The Lord has really risen!” (v34). Sorrow had turned into joy.

Of course, there’s a difference between these two incidents. My uncle Chris was the victim of a tragic mistake and hadn’t died at all. But there was no mistake about Jesus. He had been dead for three days, then rose again victorious. This is why we can have hope of life after death, and why we remember Him every Sunday.

– Tim Johnson