Easter is just a few short days away. Easter! The time of joy, resurrection, new life, and celebrating hope restored!
I think we are all drawn to spring and the new life that seems to proclaim the good things to come. I love seeing the tulips and the return of bright colors back into the dreary landscape, reminding me of the approaching summer.
I think it's safe to say we all love resurrection and new life, and this Sunday we get to celebrate the most wonderful news in all of history: Jesus has won the victory over sin and has risen from the dead in order to conquer death forever!
But, there are some very important things that happen in the next few days before that victorious resurrection: Jesus suffers and Jesus dies.
We sure love new life, but, what about death? If we are honest, I think death is the last thing any of us love. Death is a big deal. Death brings sadness. Death brings an end of what was. Death comes hand-in-hand with suffering. Death is not something we run towards. It’s something we flee from at all costs.
But Jesus? I stand in awe as I see him resolutely set out toward Jerusalem, knowing that suffering and death awaited him. I marvel as he willingly places himself in the will of sinful men that condemn him to death and then takes up that cross and walks up Calvary to die. He could have used his power and walked away from the whole thing - at any moment.
Jesus understood something we so often forget: Without death, there is no resurrection.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” - John 12:23-28
You see, in the death of Jesus, what had been (the old covenant that condemned) was no more. The suffering and death of Jesus was the only way to do away with the curse of sin and the hold Satan had on the world. So, rather than run away, Jesus knew he needed to surrender to the good will of his Father.
But that’s the most amazing part of the story: Death wasn’t the end!
Death was the end of the old things, but also the start of a new covenant between God and man. A covenant that couldn’t be overcome by the power of sin and Satan any longer; a new life that would never again die!
Oh dear sisters, death isn’t the end, it is the beginning of something new!
So what about us? Why does this matter?
Did you know we, too, need to face death head on; resolutely head up that mountain of Calvary and join Jesus in his death? What do I mean?
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. -Romans 6:1-4
This passage says that through our baptism, we are buried with Jesus. We die to who we once were apart from him.
We all want the new life of hope, joy and resurrection that Jesus promises, don’t we? But what about the death part? Do we resist it? Are we looking for resurrection without having to die to anything? Do we actually let ourselves die with Jesus or do we hang on for dear life to the things we are meant to die to?
Are we willing to die to our own plans for what our family will look like? Are we willing to bury our hopes and dreams for our family because we trust that the life God offers us is better than what we might leave behind?
Are we willing to die to our sins that have held us for so long? Are we willing to bury the sexual pleasures, the pride, the lies that promise happiness but only bring darkness, sadness and hopelessness?
Are we willing to die to our dreams for what life should look like? Are we willing to bury the desire for earthly comfort and pleasure and die to the idea that life is about me and my happiness?
Are we willing to die to our feeling of control over our lives? Are we willing to bury the false comfort of control that keeps us unproductive in our mission and afraid of what God has in store for our lives?
The truth is that in order to see more of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in our lives, we need to be willing to first experience his death: the death of the sinful flesh that lives inside of us; the daily dying to our own desires and passions so that we can rise up in the new heart we have been given through the Holy Spirit dwelling inside each one of us.
It’s still ugly.
It’s still painful.
It may still feel like suffering as we let death have its rightful purpose in our sinful lives. I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve cried during times of death in my life. Dying to my picture of my family that didn’t include two miscarriages. Dying to the dream of a perfect husband and marriage that would never let me down. Dying to the sins of pride, selfishness and control that are so deeply rooted in my heart.
But I cannot begin to share with you the incredible joy that has been born in my life out of those deaths. The unbelievable ways that God has planted new and better things in my heart that can’t be taken away from me. Things like joy, contentment and a purpose that has impacts for all eternity! God calls us to die, but he also PROMISES resurrection!
If you feel like your life is marked by a constant fear and clinging to the “life” you think you should have, it’s time to trust the words of God. “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Death isn’t the end. Death is the beginning of something better.
Surrender the things to God that need to die in your life. Cry, mourn, repent, and then look ahead to the new life God will resurrect out of the brokenness of what was.
Suffering and death weren’t the end of Jesus' story, they were the path to resurrection and they ushered in a victory that Satan can never take away from those who have been born again in Jesus. He has risen! And as his children, we will too!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. - 1 Peter 1:3-4a
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. - Isaiah 43:18-19