Easter is just days away, and as you look at the Easter experience I want to invite you to join with me in looking at the day death died. Push beyond all the cultural activities of Easter — baskets and bunnies, egg hunts and other children’s activities — and press on to the very heart of Easter, the day death died.
For most people, encounters with the death experience begin very early in life. It was that way for me. I had the privilege of knowing and now for decades remembering all four of my grandparents. I vividly remember while I was still a preschooler the death of my Futral grandfather. Since I was only about four or five years of age at the time, I really didn’t understand what was taking place. We made a quick trip to the old family home. There were gathered all the kids and grandkids, and my grandfather was missing. Missing in that he was not there though they were preparing for his funeral.
I did not know him well though I remember him well. My grandfather and grandmother Futral had ten children — five boys and five girls. All of them were grown, married, and had kids of their own. You can see family gatherings quickly became a large crowd. I remember being with him at times and talking with him, though as I look back on it I wonder how he could remember all the names of all the grandkids.
They were fond memories. This was my first taste of death and grief. I remember the sadness that people had and my own parents talking about his loss and seeing my grandmother grieve. I realized that death is a difficult thing to deal with. It still is, but all of that brings us to this week — Easter week — where we who know Christ have the glorious privilege of celebrating the death of death.
You may ask where do I get the phrase, “death of death.” Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:26 as the Apostle Paul writes to us and says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Of course, the whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is the grand and glorious presentation of the resurrection of Jesus. Thankfully, Paul tells us that because of Jesus’s death and then His resurrection, death is overcome and dies ultimately to all of those who know Christ. Look at this experience three ways.
First, historically. Death has always been with us since our forefathers and mothers sinned in the garden and all of us join in the experience, sadly. From Adam to Moses to the prophets to kings and potentates, the final word came and he died or she died. Death has been with us.
Open your Bible and walk through Genesis, chapter five. It’s just a narration of the genealogy of our first families. Make a note in your mind (if not in your Bible) how many times it says, “and he died… And he died… And he died… And he died…” Read verses five, eight, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31, and every one of those verses after telling of a family and the growth of a family, says — and he died. Historically it is the truth of mankind. Your family, mine — and he died. Patriarchs, prophets, prominent people, paupers, all the same — and they died. While that is the reality, don’t stop there.
Second, look at the death of death hauntingly. The fact that we die is a haunting reality to every one of us. You can ignore it, but it will come. You can be disturbed by it, and it still will come. You can try to dismiss it or treat it lightly, but it still arrives. Listen to the writer in Hebrews 2:14-15, who says in verse 14 that Jesus took part in our fleshly experience, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Listen to Hebrews 2:15, “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Death is a haunting reality to the human race. It is Easter time and you and I have the wonderful privilege of celebrating the living Christ who came and set us free from the fear of death. I know death can be haunting, but I know that Jesus is heroic in His conquest of death on our behalf. That brings me to where we really need to focus about the death of death. Third, see it hopefully. I use hopeful not in just a sense of maybe He can take care of this. I sure hope so. No, it is triumphant. It is laced with the power of God. It is given in total confidence from heaven to you and me that Jesus has conquered death. It is not an empty thought or frivolous hope. He conquered death. He demonstrated it not long before He would go to the cross in that He came to Bethany to the burial place of Lazarus, his friend.
It was there in John 11 that Jesus spoke to the crowd after He had moved the stone that was over the grave of Lazarus. He spoke the words, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43), and Lazarus with his grave clothes still on came shuffling out of that tomb. Jesus announced to us, “because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Soon Jesus Himself would hang on the cross and take His last breath and be taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb, dead. Three days later, all the glorious prophecies of the past, all the pronouncements of Jesus Himself, all the wonder of the goodness of God came to reality for you and for me, for on Easter Sunday death died. Amen and another glorious Amen! Thank You, Jesus!
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral