What Happened to Death Part 2
On Tuesday, we asked the question, “What happened to death after Jesus’ resurrection? Why do we still experience it?” We talked about the origins of death and how it actually served an important purpose in a broken world.
If you read through that post on the nature of death and our own imperfection, you can begin to understand why our redemption happened through death and resurrection instead of the ways we commonly think.
Finally, and most importantly, all these methods of salvation would advantage some people and not others. Intellectual salvation and morality would favor those who could understand and agree, leaving out those who could not. Physical salvation would be limited to the favored whom Jesus touched. “Why was Lazarus raised and not my relative?” I guess God loved Lazarus more? How sad.
When none of these methods proved satisfactory, God went to the source itself. Instead of redeeming us, God redeemed death.
Death was the one place where Jesus could meet us all: wonderful people and mistaken people, saints and sinners. It was the commonality that bound all of us. God did not meet us in our strength to praise it, but in our imperfection to transform it. God did not employ a means of salvation that favored the smart or the rich or people who happened to be in the vicinity; God met us all, precisely where we needed to be met: in our vulnerability and weakness.
Jesus walked into death because we walk into death. Jesus didn’t die to glorify us or death or the cross. Jesus died because he refused to abandon us, even in death.
People often say that Jesus died “for our sins”. I hate that expression. Jesus didn’t die for our sins, he died for the sake of compassion. Jesus could have lived. As the Son of God—the single, unique being in all of creation who was without sin—Jesus did not have to die. He was perfect. Death had no right to claim him. He could have walked away and lived eternally without dying. He chose not to because he loved us and would not be separated from us.
We also say that when Jesus died, he took upon himself the “sin of the world”. Every bit of brokenness, pain, and imperfection that ever existed lay upon his shoulders at that moment. When he embraced us, he embraced all of our wrongdoing and all the ills of the world as well. He did not remain separate from them. They died along with him.
But here’s the good part. Remember when we said death was Pac Man eating us all up into nothingness justly, because that’s what it was supposed to do? Death could swallow us because of our imperfection. But Jesus, even in death, was perfect. Death had no claim on him. Death had no right to take him. When death swallows an imperfect people, it broken them into nothingness. When death swallowed a perfect person, that person broke death instead. Jesus became the great, un-swallow-able jawbreaker that busted Pac Man’s bite. Now, instead of a live, chomping beast, death was tilted on its side. Its jaw had become an archway, through which Jesus walked, out of nothingness and into resurrected life.
Here’s an even better part. Though Jesus rose, the sins of the world did not rise with him. They were swallowed, just as they were supposed to be. This new life would be as it was meant to be, free of imperfection, pain, and brokenness.
We follow the steps of this journey in our own lives, deaths, and resurrections. Though we still experience—sometimes even follow—broken things in this life, we understand that those things are not forever. They will pass and die, as will we. The journey does not end in nothingness, though. The broken things will be vanquished as we walk into life the way it was meant to be: whole and full and perfect.
What happened to death after Jesus’ resurrection? It’s still there. It just doesn’t do what it used to do, because Jesus changed the end of the story. Death is no longer the final word in our existence, nor does it have the ultimate power over our destiny. Instead life and love do.
We did not make this change ourselves. We could not. Jesus did it for us, by being among us then going beyond us, that we might make that journey beyond ourselves as well, into something more beautiful than we ever imagined.
God bless, and Happy Easter.
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