“So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:64)

Erik Weisz was born in Budapest on April 24, 1874 to a Jewish family. Weisz arrived in the United States just over four years later with his parents and brothers. The family changed their name to the German spelling Weiss, and Erik became Ehrich. They settled in Appleton, Wisconsin where his father served as a Rabbi and later moved to New York City in 1887. As a child, Weiss took several jobs, making his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist, “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.” .” Later he became a professional magician, soon to be known as Harry Houdini. Initially he had little success, so he began trying out escape acts and was performing with great achievement by the early 1900’s. He would free himself from handcuffs, chains, canvas bags, coffins and straitjackets, sometimes hanging from a rope or suspended in water. The greatest and most sensational of all Houdini’s escapes was without doubt his ‘Chinese Water Torture Cell.’ In this trick, Houdini was to escape from an extraordinary contraption resembling a fish tank, filled with water, while he was placed head down in full view of the audience.

Houdini reappeared from many a desperate situation and anticipated he could also do so from the grave. But then on October 31, 1926, death laid its hands on Harry Houdini never to escape. Before dying, Houdini told his wife Beth that If there was any way out, he would find her and make contact on the anniversary of his death. He said he would communicate the message “Rosabelle believe,” a secret code which they agreed to use as it referenced their favorite song. For ten years on his birthday, she kept a vigil before a candle-lit portrait of Houdini believing and waiting for a signal from him. On the Halloween of 1936, Bess and a group of Houdini’s friends gathered in Hollywood for what would later become known as the ‘Final Houdini Séance.’ After trying to reach the late-magician’s spirit for over an hour, Bess finally acknowledged to a worldwide radio audience, stating these words: “Houdini did not come through. My last hope is gone. I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me, or to anyone…The Houdini shrine has burned for ten years. I now, reverently… turn out the light. It is finished. Good night, Harry!”

The expression of loss of hope that Houdini’s wife so profoundly expressed is often the sentiment articulated by far too many of us. As the followers of Jesus celebrated His arrival in Jerusalem on what we now refer to as Palm Sunday, their hope for a Messiah was soon shattered when He died on a cross by week’s end. While drawing his last breath, Jesus declared “It is finished” (John 19:30). However, the difference between Houdini’s wife giving up all hope and uttering those same words was that for her, it was indeed an end. For Jesus, it was only the beginning of hope for mankind. When He said, “It is finished,” He did not say, “I am finished.” As Jesus died, His spirit was released, removing the debt owed by each of us—the debt of sin. Three days later, His empty tomb was more than mere deception. Had Jesus Christ not died and risen again, we would have been lost and doomed to everlasting separation from God. But because of His suffering, each of us has been extended hope and the offer of eternal life.

What do we do when things fall apart and we’ve lost all meaning for whatever comes next? This is exactly where the disciples found themselves when Jesus was crucified. They did not understand the hope of His pending resurrection, even though Jesus had told them (Matthew 17:23). The lesson for all of His followers is that God can bring wonderful things out of the darkest moments of our lives. He surrendered His Son to death so we could have life, and He will not abandon us. While many of us enjoy a good magic trick from time to time, we appreciate that distraction is the key to a trick’s success. Houdini once said – “What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.” The Apostle Paul stated it differently: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54). The Risen Christ will always seek to draw us away from the illusion that there is no hope. You can count on it!

REFLECTION: Can you think of a time when God brought you peace and newness when you thought it was too late?  How does Easter and the rebirth of the earth through Spring offer new hope in Christ Jesus?



  1. verna moist

    That’s an amazing story–have never heard it before—how sad to have no hope—but how wonderful that “Death has been swallowed up in victory” for we Christians—-Easter is my favorite day of the year—the Easter service is much too short for the joy we feel—we need to carry it through the year. Thank you for another message that touches my heart.


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