My Aunt Patsy just passed away a few hours ago and in a few days we will celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord. Aunt Patsy was a strange mix of compassion, unbelievable generosity, intelligence, stubbornness, and mental illness. We loved her but sometimes interacting with her was a challenge. Always sure she was afflicted by a host of diseases, always telling us the things that were wrong with her when we called and getting angry if we tried to speak positively, she lived to the age of 89. It appeared that her mental illness killed her as she withdrew from all contact with people (refusing to accept our calls) and willed herself to death by not eating and drinking.
Hers was an extremely sad death but in a few days we will celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord. Although her mental illness robbed her of much joy and peace, I believe Aunt Patsy knew Jesus Christ as Savior. The reality of the resurrection means that Aunt Patsy has peace and joy now and that one day she will have an unbelievably wonderful existence in a new, resurrection body. All who know Jesus Christ as Savior will!
Death in our Mission family seems to have been unusually present recently. Many have lost loved ones, especially parents, in these last few weeks and months. But the reality of the resurrection more than overshadows the sadness and separation of death!
John MacArthur quotes an unknown author, writing of death:
There is a preacher of the old school but he speaks as boldly as ever. He is not popular, though the world is his parish and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language. He visits the poor, calls upon the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion, and the subject of his sermon is always the same. He is an eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could, and bringing tears to eyes that never weep. His arguments none are able to refute, nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of this appeals. He shatters life with his message. Most people hate him; everyone fears him. His name? Death. Every tombstone is his pulpit, every newspaper prints his text, and someday every one of you will be his sermon.
Easter reminds us that death for the Christian does not have the final say. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, considers the implications of the overwhelming victory secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
- Our Gospel message of forgiveness of sins is true and real (vss. 12-19). 1 Corinthians 15:17 (ESV) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
- The risen Christ leads our way through death to life (vss. 20-28). 1 Corinthians 15:23 (ESV) But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
- It makes sacrifice in this life worthwhile (vss. 29-34). 1 Corinthians 15:32 (ESV) What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
- It holds wonderful promise of a glorified body (vss. 35-49). 1 Corinthians 15:49 (ESV) Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
- And perhaps most glorious of all, our Lord’s resurrection foreshadows the ultimate removal of death (vss. 50-56). 1 Corinthians 15:54 (ESV) 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.”
The reality of our Lord’s resurrection has clear implications for our life and ministry. We ought always to regroup within the truth that Jesus lives when the pain and separation of death assails us. Every celebration of Easter ought to reinforce our Christian perspective on life and death and life after death. Every realization of the many perishing around us, of the many who have never heard the Gospel message ought to drill the burden to reach them with the Gospel deep within our souls as we continue to serve our risen Lord:
Our labor for Jesus Christ is completely worthwhile!
1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV) 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.
May you and I, as we experience the death of a loved one, be strengthened in our resolve to serve Jesus as we celebrate His resurrection!