Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

Not too long ago, I heard an old fairytale about a wicked witch who lived in a remote cottage in the deep forest. When travelers came through looking for lodging, she offered them a meal and a bed. It was the most wonderfully comfortable bed any of them had ever felt. But the cost to experience a few sweet dreams didn’t come cheap.

You see, this was no ordinary mattress. This was a bed full of dark magic, and if you were still asleep in it when the sun came up, you would turn to stone. Then you became a figure in the witch’s statuary, trapped until the end of time.

This witch kidnapped a young lady and forced the girl to serve her, and though she had no power to resist the wicked woman, she did have a real heart and it had become more and more filled with pity for her victims.

One day, a young man came looking for bed and board and was taken in. Horrified at the prospects awaiting this valiant individual, the servant girl could not bear to see him turned to stone.

She had an idea and put it immediately into practice. With no hesitation, she began to throw sticks, stones, and thistles into his bed. It made the bed horribly uncomfortable. This was going to be no ordinary night.

The young man was miserable. Every time he turned over, he felt a new painful object attacking him. Though he cast each one out, there was always a new one to dig into his skin.

He slept very little, and when he concluded that there was no more sheep to count, he finally got up, feeling weary and worn, long before dawn. As he stumbled his way to the front door, the servant girl met him and was shocked when he berated her cruelly.

“How could you give a traveler such a terrible bed full of sticks and stones?” he cried and went on his way. “Ah,” she said under her breath, “the misery you know now is nothing like the infinitely greater misery a comfortable sleep would have brought upon you. Those were my sticks and stones of love.”

Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, and during His ministry to us, He never had a good night’s sleep. The Bible tells us that He didn’t even have a bed. But the Lord wasn’t here on vacation, he was on a mission.

The enemy had been hypnotizing God’s creation into thinking that we needed to do things our own way in our own time to taste the good life. The result of that bad advice was our hearts not finding peace and quiet but our souls turning into stone.

Jesus had compassion upon us and decided to take upon Him the curse that Hell had meant for us.

Jesus didn’t go to sleep, He went to the cross. He didn’t wear a nightcap, but a crown of thorns.

His body was beaten, splinters filled his crevices. Nails pierced His hands; a spear was thrust into his side, soldiers made sure that Jesus knew intimately every excruciating bit of pain and shame.

The irony was that Jesus could have checked out of our dumpy motel on his own anytime He wanted. He traded in the praise of angels for the insults of our ignorance. He lived in obscurity and He died in what looked like the most tragic failure in history.

Love chose Him and grace drove Him and because of Jesus, and because of Easter, we don’t have to fear nightmares anymore.

When I was a kid, I used to be afraid of having to go to bed. First of all, my parents sent me to bed way too early, long before I was sleepy.

In those hours, until my eyes would close, I worried about what might happen if I should die before I wake. Sweat would pour from my 6-year-old self as I pleaded with God not to send me to Hell.

I bargained and promised the Lord that I would turn over new leaves until my branches were bare. Eventually, I would doze off and the anxiety would be put aside for another night.

I remember my first Easter that I truly knew who Jesus was and what He did for me. Words can’t express how new my heart felt and how excited I was for the journey that God had laid out before me.

Over the years, I realized the hard way that love doesn’t allow me to sleep in. And I am at the age now where I can thank God for the sticks and stones of love that He put in my bed so that I would not snooze to lose.

Easter has taught me to rely on Jesus and instead of turning to stone, He now rolls those rocks away. Easter promises a wake-up call like no other.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, and self-salvation give you night fever.

God-sufficiency, God-centeredness, God-salvation takes us miraculously into a bright new day that no matter what happens here will never end there.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.