Frank Clements dreamed of flying airplanes from the time he was a little boy. During World War II he joined the U.S. Air Force, became a 2nd lieutenant and was soon flying dangerous missions over the English Channel into France and Germany.
Everyone in his hometown of Big Spring, Texas and the Fourth Street Baptist Church, where the Clements family had been members for years, was proud of Frank. Pastor Elmer Dunham related that the church prayed for Frank often and tried to get reports back about his welfare, but feedback was sparse.
One day the tragic message came to Big Springs that Frank Clements was missing in action. Mr. Clements was working in his repair shop just off the side of his garage, but when he got the news about Frank, he and his wife dropped everything and went straight to pastor Dunham and the three wept and prayed together.
Not long afterward they got the dreaded telegram. “Greetings, we regret to inform you that Frank Clements was killed in action over the English Channel. We extend our deepest sympathy.” The Clements family was devastated. The town of Big Springs had a memorial service, and since west Texas people are close, the whole town turned out for his memorial.
They placed a single red rose on the empty casket and the entire community mourned Frank’s death. The problem, however, was it was a case of misidentification. Lt. Frank Clements from Big Spring, Texas was not really dead. Another pilot with the same name had been shot and killed.
Frank from Big Springs had also been shot down but he had survived the crash, was picked up by allies after several days at sea, and taken back across the channel in a boat. He knew nothing about the other Frank Clements or the wrongful death notice. But because he survived such an ordeal the military gave him a leave to go back to the states.
Frank was a young man – not yet twenty years old and decided not to call…he’d just surprise his parents. That’s pretty typical – especially considering he didn’t know they had received wrong information and were mourning his passing. He chose just to surprise them.
Frank took a passenger ship that took over a week to cross the Atlantic, then a train from the East Coast to Dallas, then a Greyhound bus to Big Spring, Texas. When he got to the bus stop, he felt like walking so he took his big duffle bag and started walking home. He didn’t come in contact with anyone he knew along the way. He went to his house, heard activity in the repair shop next to the garage, walked up, stood in doorway and watched his dad, whose back was turned to him, for several seconds as he worked at the bench.
Then Lt. Frank Clements simply said, “Dad….” His Dad froze. Again he said, “Dad!” The old man turned and saw his son and couldn’t believe his eyes! He ran to him, hugged him, crying his eyes out with joy. Frank couldn’t understand what was going on. They had always been the type to just shake hands, but his dad wouldn’t let go of him. Finally his dad let go, stepped back and looked at him one more time, raced inside to tell his wife and then ran down Main Street of Big Spring. Texas, hollering, “He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive!”
The next day the Paper in Big Spring, Texas carried a huge front-page headline that read: “Lt. Frank Clements returns- Alive!”
Jesus Christ actually died and returned from the grave. The women who came to the tomb were alarmed to see an empty tomb and an angel. (See Mark 16:5.) Mary Magdalene was shocked when Jesus appeared to her in the garden. The two on the road to Emmaus were stunned when Jesus revealed himself to them, and the disciples in the Upper Room couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t wait “go into all the world and preach the Good News” to all who would listen.
Someone suggested that Easter can be summarized in one word, “Surprise!” Surprise, Satan! Surprise, Caiaphas! Surprise, Pilate! Surprise, unbelievers! Surprise death! Jesus is alive! Death is conquered! Sin is defeated! Hope is alive! What a wonderful surprise!