Death Died (Holy Week)

Easter 2015

I. Monday.

Most deaths quake the earth of at least one little person.

Death shakes humans up and we’re never ready for him.

If your mother dies, then a part of you dies with her.

Cruel, unnatural is her cold, immobile body.

Don’t get used to it. It’s wrong and awful. Shocking.

 

II. Friday.

One death quaked the earth, and the sun switched off for hours.

Time stopped, nothing was; just a young man and his father.

If your child dies, then a part of you dies with him.

“This is all there is”; so it’s merely weak, pathetic.

But I have to ask, why aren’t we more OK with it?

 

III. Sunday.

Death died, so did I. On that day, I gave up fighting.

At dawn, later on, something broke to let the light in.

Life lived once again and it changed this world we die in.

Sunday, on its way, though it’s nighttime watch for us now;

Stay up, wait with me, while we stand on this quaking ground.

a season of dying

I’ve been thinking a lot about death. That will happen, sometimes, in the midst of total normalcy and the endless forward march of time. Neither crisis nor an imminent sense of my own mortality brought about this reflection. It’s just part of being human, I guess.

Once the concept began moving to the forefront of my thought-life, it started arising in lots of contexts. Such as: driving on the freeway on a road trip, my only passenger asleep, and how utterly striking it suddenly became that one effortless flick of my wrist could end both our lives in an instant. And no one would ever know what happened. Or: if [that’s a significant “if”] we each get only one opportunity to exist, and for as short a time as the human lifespan, major decisions such as career choices and marriage partners are mindbogglingly weighty. If you pick a job or spouse that you end up hating, then you have to spend your life hating it–and then you never get to exist again. If you suffer from chronic pain or long-term depression and if this is your only shot at existence, then this is your only shot at existence. And: what if [x person in my life] died today? The world I inhabit would be fundamentally altered, and I’d have to keep living in it. But it would be a whole new world, forever. Etc.

Lent, the Christian season of fasting and repentance before Easter, is in some sense a season of dying. Fasting is the practice of “mortifying” one desire in order to enhance other ones (like when your sight is taken away so your hearing becomes acute). Repentance is a process whereby “you” die, and God remakes a new “you” in your place. This season of dying culminates in Good Friday, the remembrance of divine death itself.

And then Easter comes along. The resurrection of Jesus says a lot of things, if you’re willing to listen. Among them is the idea that there may in fact be more than one shot at existence. There is the idea that death may not be the end, but rather the entrance into a truer Truth, a truer Life. It is the shape of the Christian narrative and thus the Christian life: fasting and feasting, repentance and regeneration, humility and exaltation, death and resurrection.

I’ve banked my life on that narrative, not to escape the terror of life decisions and the fragility of existence–although one must wonder why it’s so universally disconcerting, if it really is the only option–but because a God who would die for me is not a God I can walk away from.

So, consider death. Consider how it ought to make us live. Consider the God who creates out of nothingness, resurrects from the tomb, and regenerates human persons so that we become, finally, alive.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2

meditations on Holy Week (4): the Risen Lord

If Jesus is really alive – if the resurrection really happened – then absolutely everything is changed.

Christianity is simple, and explosive, because it is based on recorded, investigated, historical events. It is not primarily a moral code, metaphysical explanation, spiritual technique, method for societal change, or anything else other than a story – a history – which demands a response. When Paul defined the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, he defined it in terms of historical events: the Messiah, in fulfillment of all the scriptures, died, was buried, was resurrected, and was witnessed. Because of these events, there is salvation. Period.

If it did not happen, Christians are to be pitied and disregarded – their faith is pointless. If it happened, every human being must come to grips with it. There can be no explaining away of Jesus or Christianity and no excuses if one admits that the events of Holy Week actually happened.

Thus, each of us must ask: did it happen? Did God come to earth, did he die, did he rise from the dead? If you want evidence for the resurrection, there’s plenty: Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Easter” and N.T. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God” are two books of which I am aware. Do a Google search and you will have no trouble finding resources. Some of the basic evidences are the authenticity of the gospels, the empty tomb, the eyewitnesses, and the endurance of the movement. If you’re curious, find out for yourself. I believe it happened; therefore Jesus is my Lord, my Savior, my all. What other response is there – if it’s true?

The resurrection of Jesus =

  • the cornerstone of the Christian faith
  • the center of New Testament preaching, e.g. Acts 2:24, 31-32, 4:2, 33, 17:18, 31, 23:6
  • the legitimacy of full-fledged confidence in Jesus and the Bible
  • the validation of the effectiveness and saving power of the cross
  • the preview of what the resurrection of God’s people will be like
  • the cause for hope in a world of chaos, in a body of death
  • the reason to fall down in worship of Jesus, to praise God with all of life, to hold nothing back from the cause of advancing the good news of Christ
In Exodus 15, as the Israelites walked out of Egypt as a free people for the first time, Moses and Miriam sang a song of praise and victory, saying “the Lord is a warrior.” Indeed, he is a warrior: he was at that moment on the shores of the Red Sea, and he is in the lives of his children today. Jesus fought sin and evil, he fought Satan, the prince of this world, he fought death itself, and won. “The Lord is a warrior” at the resurrection. That is hope, life, reality. That is everything.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26