Reflections on Death and Resurrection

Reflections on Death and Resurrection

Easter is the most important event in the Christian calendar. It is even more important than Christmas. On Good Friday, the Lord Jesus suffered and died for our sins. Then, on Easter Sunday, God raised Jesus from the dead for our justification. Easter, therefore, is the basis of our new life with God. No other event is more crucial for the Christian faith than Easter.

Easter also brings us face to face with the reality of death. Someone has said, “There are only two things certain in this life: death and taxes”. Even if you can imagine a country without taxes, everyone is going to die. Death is a “fact of life”, a very sobering fact indeed! Death is the great equaliser. Whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, strong or weak, everyone is going to die, sooner or later. Therefore, in the face of death, one is confronted with the great questions of meaning –

Where am I going? Is there life after death? Is there hope? Or what comfort can we take in the face of death?

Well, we may look in several places to find comfort. The comfort that some Western philosophers will give us is that death is the absolute end, and so there is no reason to grieve for those who have died or to fear death. According to Sartre, we are all heading towards “nothingness”. And according to Freud, “The goal of all life is death”. But this philosophy contains no comfort at all. The comfort that others may give us is, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. But this is an empty comfort. In this case ignorance is definitely not bliss! And, more recently, the comfort that some scientists would give us is the cryopreservation of the human body, and the promise of future technology. But this is a very cold comfort to say the least!

Human beings are confounded by death. In many societies it is a taboo subject. In Australia people do not like to talk about death, because they have no hope. In China too, doctors rarely, if ever, tell their patients they are going to die. In China there is a saying, “A person’s death is like the extinguishing of a lamp” (人死如灯灭). There is no hope. The world offers very little comfort in the face of death. For many death ends all; it ends all our joys, it ends all our friendships, it ends all our aspirations. In short, it ends all our tomorrows.

Thus, in the face of death, one is reminded of the preciousness of life. Despite our scientific and materialistic age, most people would agree that life is more than food and clothing. Man is more than just what he eats. Instead, most importantly, human life involves personality, character, values, art, culture and relationships. These are priceless commodities! We are happy when a baby is born. We delight in art and literature. We value virtues such as loyalty, perseverance and sacrificial love. And most of all we find serenity and joy in our intimate family relationships. These are universal human experiences and values. But then death comes and indiscriminately takes our loved ones from us, and we know that the same fate awaits us too. Death is not natural; death is an unwanted intruder. So, we shed tears at funerals and wonder about the meaning of life. We all instinctively know that life is too precious to end in death.

But then, what does the Bible say? It triumphantly announces the good news of Easter,

He is risen! He is not here!” Mark 16:6

In Christ there is a new resurrection unto life. The inevitable result of human life in our world is death. But the result of life in Christ is resurrection! Here we find the great comfort of the gospel for Christians. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). There is hope! Death is not the final end. Death is not the last goodbye. Death is not the concluding word. The good news of the angels on Easter morning is that there is life after death.

In another place, Paul says,

God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him (i.e. those who have died as Christians)” 1 Thess 4:14

Likewise, these words imply that death is not the end of the Christian. They are not heading towards “nothingness”. For if Christians who have died will come with Jesus when He returns, it means they are with Jesus now. Therefore, death is only a temporary departure, it is not the final goodbye. Christians, then, have a wonderful comfort and a great expectation in the face of death. They are not losers by death, but in fact great gainers! For Christians, death is not the end, but only the beginning of a greater and happier life in heaven with God and one another. For them, death is the door to a land of everlasting glory. Therefore, Paul can say,

For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” Phil 1:21

Only a Christian can say these extraordinary words!

No other religion or philosophy comes close to giving us such a tremendous comfort in the face of death. But what’s more … this comfort is not only wonderful, but it is also true! We can be certain about this hope. How can we be so confident? The resurrection of Jesus proves it. History cannot deny that “Jesus died and rose again”. In fact, to deny the resurrection of Jesus is to deny history itself. The tomb in the rock under the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is still empty, the bones of Jesus are still missing and the experience of Christians throughout the world still proclaims,

It is true! The Lord has risen!” Luke 24:34

The message of the resurrection is trustworthy! During this Easter time, will you

confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” (Rom 10:9)?

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