Thursday, June 03, 2004
This past Monday, Americans paid tribute to those in the Armed Forces who have fallen in the line of duty. It is a day of rememberance, marked by speeches, parades, and trips to the cemetary.
Well, at least that's the way it was when I was a kid. Now, they only thing that is remembered on Memorial Day is the grilling of hot dogs and hamburgers. Some might watch the president give a speech from Arlington Cemetary in Washington on the TV, but that's about as close to a cemetary as they will get. Not that one has to be at a cemetary to remember those who have died in service to our country, but the endless rows of stone monumuments certainly helps one realize the common end we all share: death.
As Christians, we are no longer are bound to the fear of death, at least in theory...
We believe that the dead don't stay that way. Either they will be resurrected to live with Jesus forever, or they will experience the "second death" and be sent to "live with Satan, where they can share the common experience and sensation of being burned alive in a lake of fire for all eternity.
Americans don't like to be reminded about death, whether they are Christians or not. It makes us very uncomfortable. It's not a happy thought, death, not something that we have any control over, not something we can do anything about. So, by mutual agreement, we don't talk about it. What's there to say?
In a society like ours, death happens behind closed doors. It takes place in a bedroom or hospital room. The display of the dead body is always in a funeral home. Unless you live in a really bad neighborhood, or work in hospital, you can go through life here in the USA without ever having to see anyone die! And when you do see a dead body, it's nicely prepared, fixed-up, dressed-up, and displayed in a coffin like a work of art. We have taken death and have sterlized it to the point of disappearance.
Yet when Jesus died on the cross, it was in the open, in public, on display for all who cared to watch. Part of the genious of God is Christ's public display of dying! Why did it need to happen in the open? So no one would doubt his death. But when he rose from the dead, he did not go back to Jerusalem and pick-up where he left off with his tearching and miracles. Rather, he only allowed himself to be seen by a few hundred witnesses. That too is genius. Jesus goes out of his way to let us know he died, but keeps his resurrection as a secret amongst a few trusted souls. Why do this? Why not make the resurrection as public as the death? Well, Jesus does not wish for anyone to believe in him by accident.
You don't have to believe in the resurrection if you don't want to. Jesus allows you that option. But remember this: if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, than neither will we.
Perhaps it's time for us to give death more serious consideration then we have been. We have nothing to fear from it, if we are in Christ. But for those who are not in Christ, it will be a very, very, unpleasant experience.