“But” and Other Key Words

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man[b] must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened.11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened. – Luke 24:1- 12

You’re not supposed to start a sentence with the word “but.” My resources reveal, however, this to be an urban legend:

There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. – from The Internet

Certainly a great example of this is the opening verse of Luke 24: But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” “But,” indeed. The previous chapter is pregnant with anticipation. Jesus is betrayed, tried, tortured, mocked, scourged, sentenced, and crucified. His dead body is laid in a tomb, and the women watch where he is laid. His disciples watch all this as well, and on the Sabbath they rest.

The story would have a quite different ending, and the opening verses of chapter 24 would be quite different had the women discovered Jesus’ body in the tomb. They would have finished the process of anointing Jesus’ body, paid their last respects, and gone back to their homes…vowing never to have their hopes up so high as they were when Jesus came into their lives. The first word of chapter 24 – if indeed there would have been a chapter 24 – would most likely be “And.” “And they went to the tomb and anointed Jesus’ body, paying their last respects. Then they began re-evaluating their willingness to pin their hopes on itinerant preachers.”

“But,” Luke tells us, the tomb was empty when the women arrived. Jesus was not there. he had risen from the dead. This changes everything. “But” is called for – at the beginning of the sentence, and the beginning of the chapter. Jesus’ resurrection changes everything.

Where do you need a “but” in your life? My marriage is stale and near-dead…but. My job is at a dead end…but. My doctor says the situation is hopeless…but. My sin is too grave…but. My guilt cannot be assuaged…but. I have no hope of God’s help…but.

Peter went and saw the empty tomb and went away “wondering what had happened.” That would be a good call for us as well. Consider the empty tomb. Wonder at what has happened. Find the place in your life that the “but” belongs. Thank God for the victory of Jesus!

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