Death and Resurrection

Death and Resurrection

Death and Resurrection

by David Webster
7th April 2020

I thank God for all the positive things going on in our country today – the amazing courage and hard work of our NHS staff, Social Care workers, everyone on food supply chains and the army of volunteers up and down the land. I have clapped on the street, volunteered, self-isolated and continue to pray for the end of the virus and a return to normal life. People in my own church have been connecting in new and novel ways using many of the platforms we took for granted before. Wonderful stories are appearing on the internet of miraculous recoveries and acts of heroism and self- sacrifice. I thank God for them all.

However, the sad, daily reality is there is a rising number of cases of Covid 19. The death toll in the UK, and most other places in the world, continues to rise. How are we to respond to this tragedy and find hope for ourselves and others?

Let us first remember that behind the statistics of thousands of deaths there are thousands of individual and family heart aches, bereavements and losses. If we have been personally bereaved this will be even harder to bear.

Over the years it has been my honour and privilege to sit down with many grieving families and work out with them how they would like to celebrate and honour their loved ones at their funeral. I have stood alongside them as we have said farewell to young and old alike. I had the incredible honour of taking the funeral of both my parents – extremely hard, but something I felt I had to do to both honour them and serve my grieving family. In Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament he says we should “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” God knows we will face many trials and tribulations in this life and it is OK to respond with tears and sorrow.

Some years ago, a close friend of mine committed suicide. It devastated his family, friends and his church. Reeling from the impact of his death myself, I remember someone asking me how I felt at the time. It was extremely difficult to describe my feelings but I remember saying that I was holding on to one thing that I knew would never change, that Jesus had died and risen again. That remained my hope, and indeed the hope for my friend, who believed in Jesus.

Hope of this kind gets very little media coverage in the midst of the present pandemic. But there is a hope that goes beyond earthly hope, a heavenly, eternal hope. I thank God that I believe in heaven and I know that when I die there is an eternal life waiting for me with Jesus. Great as this life can be, it is only a temporary thing. We are strangers in this world, we are only passing through. At times like this we are reminded of just how fragile life can be. As the Psalmist says,

“Man is like breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow” (Psalm 144:4).

God, however, dwells in eternity; a day to him can be like a thousand years and a thousand years a day. The good news is that he invites us to share in this eternal perspective and enjoy eternal life with him – forever! The Bible makes incredible promises to those who believe; they are our hope and grounds for a heavenly perspective.

The first is, that death has been conquered. Death has been conquered because Jesus conquered it when he rose from the dead. Because he is risen we will rise with him, if we believe. Paul says this about the power of Jesus’ resurrection:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

The second follows on from this. If death has been conquered we can live forever. Paul says an eternal weight of glory awaits us that will put our present sufferings into the shade (Romans 8:18). It is hard for us to grasp what lies ahead for us in heaven because we are so earthly minded and our material world has blinded us to the glorious future God has for us. God promises a very different existence for us beyond the grave:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

And there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

A friend of mine, who died young from cancer, used to ask me to read these verses to him whenever I visited him. Soon after this, he made his final journey and heaven became his new reality.

How can we know this hope? How can we face death down for the imposter that it is? This life is not the end; it is only the beginning of a new life Christ won for us by dying for our sins and rising again for our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Jesus brings us a taste of heaven now and the fullness of heaven in the next world.

How can we know this hope? By believing in Jesus!

As John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Here is eternal hope. Hope that overcomes death. Hope that will triumph in the face of any crisis.

As I write, some are predicting that the peak of deaths in the UK from the virus may be in a weeks’ time. That will the Easter weekend when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let our prayer be that eyes will look to Heaven and many will see the glory, healing and hope which can be our’s through Jesus’ death and resurrection.