Why exactly is the resurrection of Jesus so important to our lives? To look at it another way, what would it mean as we face the end of our lives if there was no resurrection?
Paul Zahl speaks of the fear in people as they face death because they don’t know what is waiting for them beyond the grave. They don’t know what is out there. Zahl says that living with the uncertainty over what exists after death translates into an all-encompassing dread.
In reflecting upon death, the historian H.G. Wells says, “we are up against a force that cannot be defeated.”
I believe the fear of death is amplified today because modern people have drifted away from life’s great foundation. This fear begins when we decide we do not need God because we believe we can do just fine without him.
Tim Keller offers some great insight into this. He says that when people abandon God we open the door for fear to infiltrate our lives. When we move away from God we begin to experience a real sense of our own finiteness here on earth. We end up trying to take on a position in the universe that is too big for us. It strikes me that staring at death and eternity is too big for us to handle on our own.
We need hope! We need certainty! We need to be able to face death with peace so that we can live our days on this earth with real joy.
One of my favorite verses that relates to the Easter message is II Corinthians 1:8-10. Paul speaks about how he consistently faces death and how he puts his trust not in just any God, but in the “God who raises the dead.” He then boldly declares it is “He on whom we have set our hope.”
Then Peter tells us in I Peter 1:3,4 that we have “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” He goes on to say that in heaven we have an imperishable inheritance, that will not fade away. It is “reserved in heaven for you.”
Jesus tells us that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. This is revealed at the transfiguration, when Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of the mountain. As Jesus began to pray, His clothing became white and was gleaming. Then two men appeared and were having a conversation with Jesus. The two men were Moses and Elijah. These were two men who are just like us. They had been dead for well over 1000 years, yet they were alive and talking with Jesus. They still had their identities.
We will all die one day, but as Christians, on that day, we will be just as alive as Moses and Elijah, because we serve the God of the living and not the dead.
I do not think we realize that death to the Christian is a wonderful new life. A life that we cannot truly fathom. This reminds me of a novel written almost a century ago by French author Andre Gide.
The story, La Symphonic Pastorale, set in Switzerland in the 1890s, involves a relationship between a Protestant pastor and a young girl, Gertrude, who had been blind from birth.
The pastor regularly attempts to convey to Gertrude the beauty of her surroundings: the sprawling alpine meadows, the vibrant display of flowers, the majesty of the snow-capped mountains. When he tries to describe a rolling expanse of blue flowers by comparing them to the color of the sky – he comes to realize she has never seen a blue sky so how is she to appreciate the comparison?
Words are the only tools the pastor has to convey a reality he knows to be true and yet he remains frustrated and deeply saddened because language alone can never adequately describe to Gertrude the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Language approaches the truth but can never adequately describe it.
In the story, however, Gertrude receives wonderful, unexpected news. An eye specialist, after an examination, believes that her condition can be corrected and her sight possibly can be restored.
Three weeks after the surgery Gertrude returns to visit the pastor, now able to see all of the sights he had described to her in words alone. She tells him that when she was given back her sight her eyes were opened to a world more beautiful than she could have ever imagined. She had never dreamed in her world of darkness that the daylight could be as bright, the sky so brilliant, the universe so vast.
The flash of reality and new sensation that Gertrude experienced upon receiving her sight far exceeded the verbal description she had been given. The words of the pastor were insufficient to the task of describing the glorious world she could now see with her own eyes.
In every human observation and subsequent description, there will always remain some discrepancy, however small, between that which is observed and that which is described.
The Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2:9 that nothing our eyes have ever seen, nor our ears have ever heard, nor anything we have ever thought of or dreamed about, can compare to what awaits us in heaven, God’s eternal kingdom.
As we live on earth and consider life beyond the grave, in one sense we are like the blind Gertrude. The only means we have for perceiving the reality of heaven is words. As descriptive as they might be, words can never prepare us for the full radiance and wonder of what lies ahead.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.