Death is a thief. Not only does it steal life, but it robs its victims of peace and hope as well. It stakes its claim on hapless humanity and sinks its teeth into their psyche, draining away vitality and hope. And how could it not do so? What hope is there if there is no hope beyond the failing of our fragile forms? What is there to give purpose and meaning to life if all we have is the here and now, a world of vile selfishness and ugly hate?
But what joyful delight is there to be found in the awesome Person of Jesus Christ! When Jesus spoke about death, He was speaking as One Who knew what He was talking about!
“Jesus said…, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26a ESV).
Consider that Jesus was sent from the Father (John 12:44) and that He was returning to the Father in order to prepare a place for those who would become His children through faith.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in Go; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 ESV).
There is a goal for which you and I were created to strive. There is a place for which you and I were made to dwell. There is a life awaiting us that transcends what we call life here, oppressed and broken as things are on planet Earth. Death may pass by, its shadow darken our doors, but it has no claim and no hold on those who belong to Jesus.
Jesus came and died as if He were a mere mortal, facing death down in a final duel. While some who saw Him die scoffed and laughed at the foe supposedly conquered, He arose to new life, conquering death once and for all. While some who saw Him die sorrowed and lamented at their Lord savagely crucified, He arose to new life, bringing with Him and eternal life for all who would believe in Him. And not only that, His own resurrected life became the wellspring of life for anyone who belongs to Him.
What good news then is found in the story of Jesus!
“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown (through death) is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable…. This imperishable body must put on the imperishable, and the mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ 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” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 42-44, 50, 53-55 ESV).
We can stand strong then because we know that we already have victory. Our loved ones in Christ are NOT lost to us, stolen from us by the greedy claws of death, but have slipped through its fingers, to be taken up into an eternal home in heaven where they even now await our glad reunion with them!
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV).