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 photoexpress.com.
Photo of budding tree is from my back yard!