Sunday, April 4, 2010

Death Before Life

by D'Ann Mateer

My favorite Easter hymn growing up was “Up From the Grave He Arose,” although it took me several years to realize he triumphed o’er his foes and not his toes! Easter was (and is) the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, His triumph over death. And that song made me feel like He was rising up right there in front of me. In our evangelical traditions, this tends to be the sole focus of Easter.

But if you think about it, the Scriptures focus more on Jesus’ death than His resurrection. Consider this from the apostle Paul:

“If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Romans 6:5-7.

It’s all about death first. Death is required in order for resurrection to occur! Several years ago I attended a renewel weekend. In that weekend, we focused on the death of Christ. Why He died. How He died. What it means for me.

It changed my life.

We don’t like to look at Jesus on the cross—the dirty, bloody, seemingly helpless Jesus. He makes us uncomfortable. So we say make excuses like, “He’s not on that cross anymore, so I don’t want to see Him like that.” We like the clean, shining, powerful, risen Jesus. We like to think of Him whitening our scarlet sins, but we don’t like to think about what made that scarlet streak in the first place.

So Easter has become a celebration of life—which it is—but without the necessary focus on death. Not only the death of Christ, but the death in which we lived in consequence our sin nature. We have to understand and grieve those aspects of death before we can truly celebrate life.

God gives us a picture of this in our physical world. We live through the death winter brings to the world around us. Because of those long, dreary days, we can truly rejoice in the new life of springtime, the green blades of grass popping out of the brown, the bright leaves and blossoms appearing on bare branches. We lose something when we so quickly pass over death before embracing the wonder of new life.

If you didn’t have a chance before today, I encourage you to meditate on the death of Christ, the death you lived in when you were a slave to sin. Grieve for where your sin took our Savior. Marvel at His great love to suffer in our place. Then see if His resurrection takes on even greater significance and bring an even greater joy.

I know it has for me.

Photo of Jesus on cross courtesy of
Photo of budding tree is from my back yard!


  1. Thanks D'Ann!
    I love that song too. We tend to think about that black moment on Friday and then Sunday's empty tomb, but Jesus was busy in between time showing the proof-- the price he paid for our ticket out.

    I think that for Jesus, death meant the time that the Father could not look upon Him and had to turn away because of the filth He carried. True Death means separation from God- for all eternity.
    Thanks for volunteering to post on such a busy and important family day!

  2. At the Good Friday service, I was really struck by a line in the chorus, "The Wonderful Cross." That line is: "Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live." From a human perspective, how ironic that we too must die to really live.

    I also really love the hymn you referred to -- it is so triumphant!! Love it!
    Elaine King

  3. Happy Easter, Deb and Elaine!

    I agree, Deb. What an incredible sacrifice for Jesus to be separated from the Father. It adds yet another dimension to how great His love for us.

    That's a great song, Elaine. Die to live. The upside down nature of the kingdom of God!

  4. Thanks D'Ann,
    I appreciate your words. This Good Friday I focused on the price Jesus paid for our sins and didn't ask for anything. I'm ususally asking for help with one thing and another. We went to the foot of the cross Friday. I have to admit, I'm really glad it's Easter Sunday.

  5. D'Ann, this is beautiful. I'm going to refer to this post from time to time. Thank you for sharing your insightful wisdom.

  6. Seems like most Christians want to be "born again" but not nearly as many want to "die to self." Great post D'Ann.

    I took my kids to see a lovely passion play with a very realistic crucifiction scene on Good Friday. It was very powerful.

  7. Thanks for stopping by today, Suzie and Lisa! I'm honored to be part of your Easter day.

    The foot of the cross is a great place to be, isn't it Jill? And even more so because we can stand up and walk away with new life.

    I agree, Dina. Life sounds so much more comfortable than death! I'm glad you took your kids to a passion play. We used to watch the Jesus movie with our kids on the Saturday night before Easter and stop it after the crucifixion. Then, first thing Sunday morning, we'd watch the rest of the movie. When they got older, we watched The Passion of the Christ with them. Very moving for us all.

  8. You know, D'Ann, interesting you mentioned The Passion of the Christ, because I've been thinking about your post AND this movie all day today. I didn't want to see this movie when it first came out, because of all I'd heard about the violence. Then I heard Chuck Swindoll talk about the movie. So I decided to go. And as you mentioned about your renewal weekend being, for me seeing that movie was a life changing experience. I knew the Christ as my savior. I loved him with all of my heart. I knew about his sacrifice. But something about that movie made me look at his suffering in a different way. It brought me to my knees. Not in worship of the Jesus on the movie screen, or of the actors, but in a realization that what he suffered for us was much, much more than I could even begin to understand. And that he did it for me. For all of us.


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