A Sunday school teacher had just finished telling her third-graders about the resurrection of Jesus. She told the class that Jesus was put in a tomb but came back to life. Then she asked the class, “What do you think the first words of Jesus were when he came out of the tomb?”
One little girl was waving her hand back and forth, so the teacher called on her. The little girl stood up and proclaimed, “Ta da!”
When Jesus died on the cross, he conquered sin. But when he rose from the dead, he defeated death. Death is not a subject we usually want to discuss. But when you get down to it, that is what Easter is all about. Easter is about the death of death, because Jesus came to conquer death.
Some people assert that Christians have their heads in the sand and don’t deal with reality. To the contrary, I think Christians deal more honestly with death than most nonbelievers do. We talk about it. We discuss it. We wrestle with it. But it seems to me that nonbelievers don’t even want to use the word death. They will use other terms for it, such as “passed away” or “expired.” Or maybe they’ll make light of it, saying that someone has “kicked the bucket” or “cashed in their chips.” Death is a hard subject to grapple with.
Reflecting on his father’s death, actor Bradley Cooper told a magazine editor, “All of a sudden I was like, ‘Oh, right, I’m going to die too.’ Here it is. It’s not in a book. It’s not in a movie. … It’s someone you love dying in front of you. I was like, ‘OK. This is death. And this is going to happen to me one day.'”
As I have said before, the statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of every one person will die. We have to face it, because only those who are prepared to die are really ready to live.
Life goes by so quickly. And I have noticed that it seems like time accelerates as I get older. I read an article recently that said the reason for this is because we had most of our major life experiences when we were younger. But as we get older, we settle into a routine. We don’t have that many new experiences, thus life seems to accelerate. So the proposed solution in the article was to have more new experiences in life. However, I think most of us rather would take a nap or go back to our comfortable routine. Life goes by so fast.
My generation, the baby boomers, celebrated our youth. One of our theme songs was “Forever Young.” I am amazed the Rolling Stones are still touring. Time is not on their side. My generation has gone from sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to nip, tuck and Botox. That is the reality. We have gone from acid rock to acid reflux.
Then there are the people who are in denial about their age. They don’t want to admit they are getting older. Just a thought: If you are 65, you cannot – you should not – shop at Forever 21. All the anti-aging lotions and potions available to us are not going to extend our lives one day. We can eat organic and drink wheat grass juice all we want, but someday life will come to an end.
I read an interesting article about a woman from Texas named Pearl Cantrell was celebrating her 105th birthday. When asked to reveal the secret to her longevity, the mother of seven replied, “I love bacon. I eat it every day. It’s got to be crispy.” I like that approach.
Easter is a day when we mark the death of death. Death died when Christ rose. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26 NIV).
I once heard a pastor talk about what happens when honeybees sting. It’s a one-time experience for them because once they sting someone, they will not survive. Not only is the bee’s stinger left in its victim, but part of the bee’s abdomen and digestive tract are left there as well, along with muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the bee shortly after it stings.
In the same way, when Jesus died on the cross, Satan thought he had succeeded. He thought he had stung Jesus and had a role in his death. But the sting of death was Satan’s own defeat. As the Bible says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55 NIV).
For the believer, the sting of death has been ripped out, because at the cross, Jesus took the stinger out of death. Of course, people still die. I’m aware of the horrible things that are happening in our world. I’m aware that just this week, 31 people died and at least 250 were injured in the Brussels terrorist attacks.
Personally, I have had to look at death up close when my own son went to heaven. Just a few days from now, we would have been celebrating his 41st birthday. We probably would have kidded him a little about getting older. Instead, it will be a sad day.
I understand that we die. I understand that our bodies go into a grave.
But this Easter, 2016, I have hope because death is not the end. Yes, our bodies will go into the ground when we die. But our souls will live on forever. And the Bible says that one day, our bodies will be resurrected as well. Death is not the end of the road. It is only a bend in the road. When Jesus died and rose again, he rendered death powerless. It was the death of death.