6’10, 235 pound Darrall Imhoff was a great basketball player. He was a two-time All American at the University of California, was a starter on that school’s 1959 team that won the NCAA championship, won a gold medal as a player on the United States’ 1960 Olympic team, and played twelve seasons as a professional player in the National Basketball Association. He was inducted into the University of California’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988, was inducted into the PAC-10 conference’s Hall of Fame in 2005, and had his jersey retired at the University of California in 2009. He’s also a member of basketball’s Naismith Hall of Fame as part of that 1960 Olympic team that won the gold medal.
But Imhoff had a bad night, a colossally bad night, on March 2, 1962. That was the night an even greater basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, scored 100 points in defeating Imhoff’s team in a game played in the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. That night Chamberlain was the starting center for his Philadelphia Warriors team, and Imhoff was the starting center for his New York Knickerbockers team. That meant that Imhoff had the difficult assignment of guarding Chamberlain. Needless to say, Chamberlain got the better of the match-up. After the game, Imhoff’s classic quote was, “I can’t have a nightmare tonight. I’ve just lived through one.”
While Imhoff’s line was humorous, there’s nothing funny about having to live through a nightmare. That nightmare could be you losing a loved one by way of death. It could be you being diagnosed with a terminal disease. It could be you losing your job. It could be your marriage ending in divorce. Nightmares, after all, can be different things to different people.
In the case of Christ’s chosen 12 apostles, one nightmare they had to live through was the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of their leader, Jesus. Every time Jesus broached the subject in the days leading up to His arrest, the apostles didn’t take it well. For example, in Matthew 16:21-23, when Jesus first mentions the subject, Peter takes Him aside and actually rebukes Him for even saying such a thing. Likewise, in Matthew 17:22-23, when Jesus again repeats the news, the apostles are “exceedingly sorrowful” upon hearing it. They thought, “Our Messiah arrested, tried, and crucified? There’s no way we will ever have to experience that.”
And yet they did have to experience it. Not surprisingly, they didn’t handle it well, either. Rather than hone in on what Jesus had plainly told them would follow His arrest, trial, and crucifixion — namely His resurrection! — they went into hiding, terrified that what had befallen their leader would soon befall them as well. They just couldn’t foresee the empty tomb because they couldn’t get past seeing Jesus hanging on that cross. To them, the notion that God could bring anything good out of Christ’s death was unthinkable.
Perhaps you are someone who has lived through a nightmare. As the old saying goes, you’ve been there and gotten the t-shirt. But tell me, have you made your way over to the empty tomb of that nightmare yet? What I mean is, have you reached a place where you can take your eyes off the bad and begin to live in the light of the good that God has brought out of the bad? If you haven’t, then you are like those pre-Easter apostles in that you are living in fear, disillusionment, depression, and probably a fair amount of anger. That, of course, is exactly where Satan wants you.
For God’s part, though, He wants you to press on through all the hurt and reach the other end of your ordeal. Why? It’s because He knows that’s the end where you’ll find the resurrection of your hope and joy. You see, the message of Easter is not just that God the Father resurrected God the Son; it’s also that God can resurrect you in the wake of that personal nightmare you’ve had to experience. Like those apostles, you too can move out of the closing chapters of the gospels and move into the opening chapters of the book of Acts, complete with a fresh wave of God’s empowering, The only question is, will you do it or will continue to fixate on your nightmare?