If you are a Christian, you don’t have to feverishly tick off items on your bucket list as if “you only live once.” You can give your life away for the sake of others, knowing you have a thousand lifetimes to enjoy in the life to come. Today, Barry Cooper revels in the glory of Christ’s resurrection and ours.
We can be fairly cavalier about death when we’re young. But once you feel it brush past you the first time, you’re never quite the same.
For me, it happened 2001, in a hospice in southern England.
My mother died at the age of sixty-three. Stomach cancer. It was the morning of September 15, 2001, when she died, and of course four days before that, it was 9/11. I remember there was a little TV at the end of her bed, so I sat there beside her, watching in disbelief as the twin towers turned to dust right in front of my eyes. And then, immediately to my left, despite my best efforts, my own mother was effectively turning to dust with them.
And obviously, this is a cliché; I’m almost embarrassed to say it. But when something like this happens to you, you realize something: no one lives forever. Not even the ones you love the most. Not even the ones who love you the most.
Not even the young, the rich, and the powerful; those men and women who got up as usual that Tuesday morning to go to work in New York and had no idea that their lives would be over by lunchtime.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ life was over by 3 p.m. two thousand years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem. The execution was very public; it happened on a cross, right in front of his loved ones, and also His enemies. The religious leaders shouted up at Him, “He saved others . . . but he can’t save himself! . . . Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matt. 27:42).
But as we know, Jesus did not come down from the cross. He died. A Roman soldier thrust a spear deep into His side just to make sure He was dead. An expert Roman executioner pronounced Him dead. His corpse was taken down, anointed with spices, was wrapped tightly in strips of linen, and finally buried in a tomb.
So, were the religious leaders right? I mean, if someone can’t overcome death Himself, how can He possibly offer life to anyone else?
But the historical account doesn’t end there. Because Jesus didn’t end there. The overwhelming testimony of the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament, the death-defying boldness of the previously terrified disciples, and the explosive growth of the Christian faith that radiated out across the face of the earth and is still continuing today—all of it ought to make us seriously consider the claim that after three days in the tomb, Jesus demonstrated that death could not keep hold of Him.
In the forty days following His death and burial, Jesus appeared not just to His immediate disciples but to hundreds of people. He spoke with them; He interacted with them; He even ate with them. This was no ghost, no hallucination.
He was physical. He was real. He was tangible and touchable. He was alive.
Now, what difference does this “resurrection” make?
To our fear that we can’t be forgiven for the things we’ve done wrong, the resurrection says: All of that was paid for by Jesus, and the price has been accepted. Romans chapter 4 says that Jesus was “raised for our justification.” In other words, the resurrection is proof that the Son’s life and death on our behalf were accepted by the Father.
To all of our regrets about the past, the resurrection says: Your best days are ahead of you.
To our anxieties about the future, the resurrection says: Not even the worst that can happen to you, not even death, can separate you from the life you now have in the risen Lord Jesus.
To our losing a job, or suffering financial problems, the resurrection says: The most valuable treasure you have can never be taken from you.
To our fears about getting older, the resurrection says: You are one day closer to a glorious, indestructible body, as unimaginably different from our present bodies as an oak tree is from an acorn.
To our fretting about getting as much money or attention or fun as we can in the here and now, the resurrection says: You do not have to live as if “you only live once,” feverishly trying to tick off all the things on your bucket list. You can now afford to give your life away for the sake of others, knowing that you’ll still have a thousand lifetimes to enjoy in the life to come.
If you put your trust in Christ, you are united with Him, and that means you are going where He has already gone. First Corinthians chapter 15 says that you will triumph over death because He already did. Your body will be resurrected just as His has already been.
And the resurrection doesn’t just guarantee life to you if you’re in Christ.
It also guarantees life to the entire universe. “Behold,” says Jesus, “I am making all things new.” So this ravaged and ailing world we’re now living in will also be made right, made perfect, rescued from its slavery to decay. A resurrected creation, filled with resurrected creations—the resurrection of Jesus is the trailer, the teaser of this coming reality.
If you love Him, the One who defeated death, then you will truly live. And not just after death. Before death too.