Death is one of the things that superstitious people believe will happen to them if they discuss it. Death is among the top taboo subjects that Americans purposefully avoid. Talking about it is considered depressing, even if it’s done in an indirect, abstract way. But in tandem with taxes, it’s the only thing that will be experienced by everyone. “No one gets out of life alive,” says the lyrics of several songs.1
In a week where nearly one-third of the world’s population2 celebrates historic religious events, it should be noted that death is major factor in each episode.
Both stories, Passover & Easter, show death as a major player in their respective narratives. Without it, Jews & Christians have nothing to commemorate.
Years ago I remember hearing a doctor on the radio talk about his time in medical school. He experienced a profound “ah ha” moment regarding mortality when he saw the cadavers of both a rich man and a poor man, suspended mid-air on a device in a medical examining room. Both had lived very different lives. Yet here they were, equal in death.
Many people who have been on the brink of death say that they “saw the light” when they were declared clinically dead. Medical science explains this away as a dying brain’s ‘last grasp’ attempt at clinging to life, firing thousands of neurons simultaneously that the individual is cognizant of. The implication of such an explanation infers the lack of existence (soul) after the body’s death. This mindset has profound implications for how one’s life is lived.
Death sucks, plain and simple. The death of a loved one is tragic. It is heart-breaking and life altering for family and friends, especially when it comes unexpectedly. The great hope of the Judeo-Christian holy book, however, is that our world of calamity is not the way things were intended to be for humanity.
Had it not been for the death of the Egyptian firstborn as punishment for disobeying God, there would be no Passover. Without the cruel, torturous death of Jesus Christ on the cross — a tool of execution utilized regularly by the Romans for those they considered to be criminals — there would be no “Good Friday” or resurrection Sunday, a day that is now referred to as Easter.3
Death is a separation of the soul & spirit from the body.4 There are two deaths that came upon mankind as a result of the Genesis garden story: 1) the immediate spiritual death of the human progenitors (Adam/Eve), which broke their direct interaction & banter with the Creator; and 2) that which came later, physical death, the consummation of their rebellion. But later in the same holy book, the Bible, we are told that someday death will die. In other words, that most dreadful of consequences brought about by disobedience — death — will not happen anymore. This seems impossible because it is all we know. But there is something inside us all that stirs when this topic is advanced. The Creator built an innate knowing of ‘eternity’ into our being.5 So as much as we deny, then attempt to perpetuate this self-lie by consoling one other with talk that ‘there is no afterlife,’ we all know that death is not the end of us.
The word “cemetery” is an old word used by early Christian writers to suggests a “sleeping place,”6 implying that dead-believers were merely asleep, a temporary situation to be rectified by the Messiah’s Second Coming.7 This was not to imply that the deceased souls were trapped in their dead bodies. But rather it described the “state of the dead” as far as interaction with the living was concerned.
There’s a high degree of anxiety about death for all people. The only ones who welcome it are those who crazily ascribe to ‘something’ beyond themselves (ie: Japanese Kamikaze-pilots in WWII or Muslim homicide-bombing terrorist) or those who have given up hope and think that “the unknown” can’t be as bad as their life (ie: suicide).
To the Christian, Jesus’ resurrection is of utmost importance to the belief system. His death was the pay back for the wrong done in the beginning of man’s story and for all the wrong done since. If the resurrection did not occur historically, Christianity has no substance whatsoever.
However, there is tremendous evidence that it did indeed happen.8 In fact, Princeton University Professor, Dr. James Charlesworth, who is a scholar and researcher in ancient manuscripts, said the only thing he was absolutely sure of beyond any doubt is “the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 9
This fact of the resurrection, combined with one’s personal faith, gives great hope that death truly is not the end. It is merely a consequence that will someday be no more.
1. One song this line is heard in is Guns N’ Roses’ “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” Also, I recently learned that it was a line (then later a book title) in a 1968 song by The Doors called “Five to One.”
2. Estimate of the world’s population of Jews & Christians. See http://www.pewforum.org/2017/04/05/the-changing-global-religious-landscape/pf_17-04-05_projectionsupdate_grl310px
3. The “good” in Good Friday comes from Jesus’ death, which happened on a Friday. While this may sound odd, without His death (aka “sacrifice”) — as animals used to be slaughtered and offered as a sacrifice to God, which were temporary appeasements pointing forward the death of a pure man, the Christ — mankind would never have a way to make amends to his Creator for wrong. So without his resurrection on Sunday, his death would have been tragic. But it’s good because of his resurrection.
8. One recent contribution is by Lee Strobel, the former legal editor at the Chicago Tribune, and his book “The Case For Christ.”
9. He said this at a lecture entitled “New Ways of Looking at Sacred Texts Regarded as ‘Apocryphal’ or ‘Pseudepigraphical’ “ that I attended at Houston Baptist University on March 2, 2017.