Saturday, March 30, 2013

FREEDOM FROM THE FEAR OF DEATH


 
Today is Resurrection Sunday. We are reminded of the empty tomb where Jesus was laid after his death on the cross and from which he was resurrected. Christ’s resurrection points to our own resurrection. It also grants us freedom from the fear of death.
 
It is true we all must die physically, sooner or later. Yet the promise to us who have trusted in Christ is that we will be raised and clothed in a new body. Paul tells us, “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44). Before Christ's resurrection, death implied an end to life but after his resurrection a new hope is given. Therefore, Paul writes with confidence in 1 Cor 15:55, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where O death is your victory? Where O grave is your sting?” This is the new perspective that we can see from Paul’s message.
 
As a young man, my friends and I used to catch scorpions. These were big, ugly 6-inch scorpions and we would cut off the scorpion stings. After that, the scorpion was released and we would let it run over our bodies and heads. It was still a scary sight because sometimes, the scorpion would raise its claws or its tail as though ready to sting. While it seemed like a fearsome sight, we knew the truth. The scorpion stings were gone and so there was no need to fear the venomous sting any more.That is exactly what Paul is telling us. The sting of death and the grave is gone. The Terminator has been terminated. That is what Jesus’ resurrection points to us. To every Christian, death is but a gateway leading into a fuller and more beautiful life with God. There will be no sorrow but joy because God is with us forever. We may grieve because of the separation with our loved ones but the separation is temporary. It is like sleeping in different rooms. You will wake up one morning and there is your loved one together with you.
 
Does this mean we Christians need not weep when our loved one dies? When someone dies we feel sorrow and lost. We miss them terribly and may even feel regret for things not said or said. We will feel all sorts of emotions and thoughts and it is not wrong or un-natural to admit and own these feelings. However, our grief also encompasses the hope of the Gospel, the hope of the bodily resurrection. That is why Paul reminds us in 1 Thess 4:13, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” Amidst our feelings and thoughts as we experience the separation of a loved one through death, let us remember the Gospel and our resurrected Lord. Let us remember what that means for our own resurrection and for the loved ones we mourn. Finally, let us be confident and assured that a day is coming when death will be utterly overthrown - the sting forever removed. For this reason, at the Christian funerals over which I officiate as pastor, I will always point to the eternal hope we have in Christ and remind those left by the dead to remember that this is only temporary. There will be a permanent reconciliation at the resurrection of all of us.
 
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” I Cor 15:57.

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