Death is not something we usually bring up in everyday conversation. It’s not polite. Some may recall Woody Allen’s words: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying”. Yet death is the certainty we all face, which is why literature, film and philosophy so often dwell upon themes of our mortality. But it’s rare that anyone claims they can do anything about it – death is taken as an inevitability.
But does death need to be the end of life?
Life had been heating up for Jesus in Jerusalem in the weeks before his arrest and crucifixion – the Jewish leaders had attempted to stone him (John 10:31) for his apparent blasphemy. So he left the city for the region east of the Jordan river. There he learned that his friend Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, was dying in the village of Bethany, near Jerusalem.
Learning that Lazarus had died, and against the advice of his disciples who feared the Jewish leaders, Jesus returned to Bethany where he was met by Martha. In the course of talking with her he made this amazing assertion:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” ( John 11:25).
It’s important we notice what Jesus was saying. He didn’t say, ‘I promise resurrection and life’, or ‘I procure’, or even ‘I bring resurrection.’ He said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ Unless he is one with God, he is the worst charlatan of all.
Pointing out the options we have about Jesus, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The witness of Jesus’ own resurrection and the New Testament, the evidence of history and the existence of the Christian church, all point to the conclusion that Jesus’ words are the truth. Dr. John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, has said in a recent article that can be found at the Australian national broadcaster (the ABC): “The Christian gospel is based squarely on a miracle. It was the miracle of the resurrection of Christ that started it going, and that same miracle is its central message.”
The question that Jesus put to Martha at the time of Lazarus’ death, he puts to us today: “Do you believe this?” If you do believe this, what change has this made to your relationship with Jesus? How will this affect your life including conversations with people you meet at work and in the wider community?
A prayer for Easter: Almighty God, you have conquered death through your dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ and have opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant us by your grace to set our mind on things above, so that by your continual help our whole life may be transformed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in everlasting glory. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Easter Day)