The Death of Death in the Death of Jesus
Easter can be a fun holiday when you have little kids. You can dress them up in fancy clothes and take lots of pictures, hide plastic eggs with candy and money in them and film them when they scour the room in search of them, and even let go a little when it comes to chocolate consumption. Even if you're into the religion stuff, it can be an easy and breezy weekend, what with triumphant hymns and inspiring sermons and oh-so-cute attempts by the little ones to sing resurrection songs.
But I am reminded of the true meaning of Easter every time I talk to a friend of mine who suffered a great loss on Easter many years ago, and for whom Easter is not a happy occasion but an annual marker of that life-altering devastation. I try to make sure to check in with him around this time of the year each year, just to see how he's doing, and to be with him as he mourns. Some years we talk, and some years there is silence; but every year is painful, and I don't get the sense that the pain has abated any over time.
I apologize for the intentional blurriness in details here, I hope you'll understand. But the point is that life can sometimes be cruelly painful. It is impossible to sail through without getting bit, given that we are all human, and prone to sin and to be sinned against. And some wounds are far deeper than others, shattering lives and making it seem impossible to pick up the countless jagged pieces and be made whole again ever.
It is not in most peoples' worldview to consider the life of a once-popular itinerant preacher man, who met his end by the cruel means of the contemporary powers he was unable to overthrow, and evaluate it as triumphant. Nor is it in many peoples' worldview to believe in an enemy of our souls, who takes twisted delight in the wreckage that he wreaks on our lives and that we wreak on each others' lives.
But this is my worldview. I cannot maintain a veneer of moral acceptability in my own life, nor can I explain away the corruption in my soul and in humanity. This may seem unnecessarily pessimistic, but I believe it to be realistic: there is no hope for mankind, or for me, again the enemy of our souls and the sickle called death that he wields with cruel efficiency. On any given day, he does not always strike a fatal blow, but he can leave us mortally wounded; and my friend is but one among a carnage of broken souls who have been thusly pierced.
But the tomb was empty that day. Which I believe to mean that the death of Jesus was actually the death of death. For me, for my friend, for any who have been pierced, and left in vain to pick up the pieces of a shattered life, our wounded state is not the final outcome. If there was no resurrection, there is no hope; but if there was a resurrection, then death is not the end, and nor is the brokenness that leads to death. For the empty tomb is a down payment that keeps us until that glorious day when the enemy of our souls will be vanquished once and for all, our wounds healed for good, and the limitations which keep us from true living finally and forever removed.
And so I tell myself that I will hang in there. And I tell my friend that I will hang in there with him. And I tell the enemy of our souls that he may have gotten his swings in, but he is doomed to being cut down one glorious day. And until that glorious day, I myself will get my swings in, against death and for life, in the confidence that death will soon be defeated and He that defeated death by His death will soon triumph. Because that is what Easter is meant to mean.