Archives For death

Open empty tomb. Watercolor painting

The day of Jesus’ resurrection has always been an orienting point for Christians. From the beginning, it was the day for their weekly gatherings. Later it became a pivotal day in the annual Christian calendar.

Prior to Easter each year, we reflect on Jesus’ perfect submission — from His victory over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness to His ultimate act of obedience on the cross. We examine our own devotion and deal intentionally with the temptations and distractions that keep us from full obedience.

Then, on Easter, the commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection pivots us from contemplating the humility of the suffering Lamb to celebrating the power of the risen Lamb; from identifying with the crucified Servant to exalting the victorious Savior.

This shift is rooted in the events that occurred on the very day of Jesus’ resurrection, beginning with the question posed to the women who went to His tomb: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

Easter posture is not, however, merely standing and facing the resurrected Lord. It is standing and facing our future because of His resurrection.

It is true that the question had something to do with their location at the tomb. Luke reports, however, that the women had “inclined their faces to the ground” and that this posture prompted the messengers’ question. Why? Because early Christians knew they lived in a world governed by the words of Genesis 3:19: “You will eat food by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it; for you are dust, and you will return to dust.” The women’s posture that morning was entirely reasonable in light of these words. Each and every body laid in a tomb would return to the ground, the dust.

A change had occurred that morning, however, that the women’s posture did not reflect. Jesus’ resurrection had brought about a new posture. The women should not be inclined toward the ground looking for Jesus but standing and facing Him as their risen Lord.

Easter posture is not, however, merely standing and facing the resurrected Lord. It is standing and facing our future because of His resurrection.

Forty days prior to Easter, some Christians have ash placed on their foreheads and hear the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” They are reminded of the brevity of life and the urgency of present obedience.

The question is good for you to hear: Why do you seek for the living among the dead?

If you have been to a funeral this past year, you don’t need an ashen symbol to remind you of the brevity of life or that death still grips creation. As you inclined your face toward the body that was to be placed in the ground, you were confronted with the fact that this is not how God created that person. The eulogies testified to the fact that there is no one in the world who spoke, sang, laughed or loved like the one whose body lay in the casket.

It is at just this point where the women’s lesson is vital for us because the Easter posture is a posture of hope. Death results in the body returning to the ground — for now. Sorrow and grief are real — for now. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, however, we can stand and face our future with hope. The apostle Paul says it this way: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Are you struggling to face your future? Maybe you have experienced a great tragedy in your life: the death of a friend or family member, a diagnosis of a terminal disease. Maybe the loss of someone or something that has provided security has shaken your confidence in the future: the betrayal of a close friend or spouse, the loss of a job. Maybe anxiety is just your persistent struggle; you struggle to face the future even in the absence of crises.

The question is good for you to hear: Why do you seek for the living among the dead?

Allow the fact of Jesus’ resurrection to give you the confidence to face your future. With His resurrection in mind, stand up and face your future with hope.

Christopher Graham is assistant professor of theology at Criswell College and its program director for the master of divinity degree and master of arts in theological and biblical studies. This article is adapted from the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

O, Death

ib2newseditor —  April 10, 2017

Rolled away stone.

Several years ago, my father died on the first of April, just a few days before Easter. And so each year now, April and Easter roll in and bring me an emotional mixture of grief yet hope, sadness yet joy. At this time of year, I acutely feel both the promise of life, and the inevitability of death.

When I returned home from my dad’s funeral, the church I was serving as interim pastor sensitively asked if I would be ready to preach as soon as Easter Sunday. I assured them I wanted to. I believed, deeply, in resurrection and eternal life, and I was eager to declare that boldly from the pulpit, both for the congregation and for myself. I wanted to publicly join the Apostle Paul in defiantly asking death where its victory and sting are, now that Jesus has conquered it.

But I was also still feeling immersed in the reality and pain of my dad’s death, and my sermon outline showed it. My first three points were simple, and somber. Death is definite. Death is designed. Death is difficult. I preached those first three points through the misty eyes of fresh grief.

If I could get through this sermon, maybe, just maybe I’d find hope.

Of course, I was working my way to a fourth point, and a hope-filled conclusion. Yes, death is definite, and designed, and difficult. But death is also defeated! I knew that to be the ultimate truth, the ultimate promise, the ultimate miracle. Yet during those painful days, it was as if I needed to admit those first three points as much as I needed the assurance of the fourth.

I needed to acknowledge, in fact to proclaim, the inescapability of death. Everyone needs to understand that everyone dies. I also needed to place the providential plan of death squarely at God’s feet. Because of our sin, it is God’s good and merciful design that everyone dies. And I needed, from my own deeply personal experience that year, to acknowledge how terribly painful death is, especially for those who lose someone they dearly love. If we do not have a sound theology of death, we will not have a sound theology of eternal life.

I learned that year that death is like a terrible, dark canvass, but a necessary one on which the story of resurrection and life can be brightly and beautifully painted. Without the reality and severity of death, the promise of resurrection and new life means very little. It is the depth, and finality, and “no exceptions” nature of our mortality that makes resurrected life so supremely valuable.

In other words, I had never valued Jesus’ resurrection more profoundly than when my dad died. The true victory and joy of Sunday is for those who have experienced the loss and despair of Friday.

So if you are entering April or Easter this year with a fresh experience of death, don’t be afraid to feel that pain deeply, with a holy grief. Only through death could Jesus remove the penalty of our sin. Only through death to our old selves can we be raised to a new and abundant life. And only through the death of our earthly bodies can we receive our new heavenly bodies.

As I learned eleven years ago in a profound new way, Easter is of necessity a matter of both life, and death. But because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can stare death right in the face and ask where its victory and sting are. Death is simply a role player in the Easter story, a story that ends with the greatest victory in all of history—victory in Jesus.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

The death of death

Meredith Flynn —  April 18, 2014

Charles_Lyons_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Charles Lyons

I wish you could meet Richard.* When our church moved into the hulking former Masonic Temple, squatting on a Kedzie Boulevard corner, the guy I would come to know as Richard hung out with a crowd of 20 guys in front of our building each evening.

This was their hood. This was their corner. Now, many years later, Richard has confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart the Lord Jesus.

He’s in my Grow Group that meets every Thursday night. The week after Easter we were bemoaning that Richard had to work the previous Sunday. He’s a security guard at a hospital, which has served this dangerous Humboldt Park neighborhood since the early 1900s.

He was recounting the hectic happenings at his ER security post on Resurrection morning.

“Yeah, we had two rape victims come in, then we had two other girls who were hit and run…” His hands were waving. “Then we had a shooting victim brought in.”

Right about here I interjected, “This is all Easter morning?”

“That’s right,” he affirmed, voice rising.

“Then the Monsters* (local gang whose turf surrounds the hospital) started gathering outside the ER door trying to get in to finish off the guy they shot but failed to kill. We had to put a call into CPD (Chicago Police Department) for some help. On top of that, two overdoses came in.”

While all that was going on, about a mile and a half north, Armitage Baptist was lifting praises to the resurrected Christ. We were declaring the good news that Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is victory over sin and death. He’s in the life-transforming business. That very morning, almost a score of sinners
confessed Jesus as Lord in our services.

Cities are centers of death. The wages of sin is death. Cities … more sinners … more sin … more wages of sin … more death. I can’t help but think of the crime, the plagues, the fires, the wars that have wreaked havoc on cities throughout history.

Even natural disasters are more dramatic and more death-dealing when they hit cities. Think of the tornado in Joplin, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Biloxi, and Hurricane Sandy in Long Island.

Think of Jerusalem – ravaged, destroyed, blood soaks every square foot of its rocky soil. Several hundred years before Christ, the Babylonians decimated the city. Several decades after Jesus, the Romans brought great horror to the sacred city.

Jerusalem – The city. The city that is the center of the earth. The city central to God’s grand plan. On one dark Friday it is again the center of death. This death is the death of all deaths. Three days later death is conquered in a city, the city.

Could it be with all the devastation Satan has hurled at humanity in cities and through cities, that God chooses the city purposefully as the place where death will be conquered?

“O death, where is your sting, O grave where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks
be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Rosa,* new to our Grow Group, sat in stunned silence as Richard talked. Which, if you knew Rosa, was an awfully rare occasion. There had been a knock as our group assembled. The door was flung open. Richard entered the tiny living room seemingly filling it. Rosa told me later, “I recognized him right away! I don’t know if he recognized me, so I just introduced myself.

“Pastor, Pastor, he’s the guy who told my son that he was going to kill him!”

“When was this?” I asked.

“Over 15 years ago. Right out in front of church!”

It seems Rosa’s then-teenage son had some kind of run-in with Richard. Rosa had literally feared for her son’s life, taking precautions to avoid the big guy that ran the hood.

Not having seen him for years, she had the spiritually jolting, emotionally shocking experience of sitting that night studying the Word of God with the very man, now her brother in Christ, who had threatened the life of her son. And doesn’t God often take it up one more notch? Rosa’s son now works at the hospital because Richard helped him get the job!

Jesus is the death of death in the city.

Charles Lyons has pastored Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago since 1974. This column first appeared in the Baptist Bible Tribune.