“Life, so they say, is just a game and we let it slip away…..Like the twilight in the road up ahead, they don’t see just where we’re goin’.” – Recorded by: Seals and Crofts (1973). Composers: James Harris/Janet Jackson/Terry Lewis.
Where do you think you’re goin’? No, really. Where?
Earlier this week I watched a very thought-provoking PBS documentary on various perspectives on life and death, especially death. The perspectives came from a wide range of individuals with varying degrees of education, faith and science. I was amazed at the vast differences concerning the leanings about death and the afterlife. It turns out, we all agree on death. It happens. It’s unavoidable. We know it’s real because we watch it happen here on earth every day. We all agree, death is as natural as birth and life itself. And then there comes the next step, that is also very natural, the afterlife of the spirit/soul. That is where the tapestry becomes unraveled in the minds of humanity’s plethora of paths. It’s fascinating how we, around the globe, concur on these things all the way until the muscle, called the heart, stops pumping. Why is it that there we splinter into a wide field of thoughts? Why is it that there we debate? I’m pretty sure of the reason.
As a life-long follower of Jesus (Yeshua), I was introduced to the theology of life being eternal early-on in childhood. I received the news from my mother first, followed by Sunday School in our church and so on. I really don’t recall never having a faith in Jesus and His teachings. Yet, at the same time, I was left hanging on God’s purpose in some aspects of the life of Jesus.
Here we are, in what many call, Holy Week. It’s the week Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, at the beginning of Passover week, to shake things up for the religious establishment that had become so hypocritical and corrupt, even by secular standards. He had been teaching (sometimes even talking…You’ll get that if you read it again.) throughout Israel for about three years, by this time. A tremendous amount of the public had witnessed His miraculous acts and magnetic teachings of God’s grace, kindness and love. It was new. It was fresh. It was brilliant in an authoritative way that was clearly noticeable. It was liberating. Forgiveness was His good news, regardless of wrongs recorded.
The religious hierarchy of the day were amazed at the throng following Him and said, “…Look, the whole world is following Him!” (John 12:19) Of course, it wasn’t the “whole world” at the time, but to them, with the Passover holiday crowds, it seemed to be true. Now, He came to the hub, the capital of Israel, to set the record straight concerning God’s intentions, along with God’s anger, at the corruption among the religious leadership who continued to twist the system of laws, and create needless judgment upon the poor and afflicted. They didn’t like it, either. So much so, they were conspiring to shut Him up for good. By late Thursday night, right after the Passover feast was consumed, they had Him arrested. A mock overnight secret trial (kangaroo court) followed with the decision to do what they could to have Him executed. A few hours later, He was flogged, beaten, spat upon, beard yanked out by clumps, slapped, a cap made of thorns in mockery, etc. (See the movie, The Passion Of The Christ for a better visual, but be ready.) He hung on a Roman cross the following morning for six hours until He expired.
His execution wasn’t a total surprise. He told His followers many times He was going to lay down His life for the world He loved. He went so far as to make it clear He wasn’t going to have His life “taken away,” but rather He was going to “give it away.” A side note: In the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, where He was arrested, He and the disciples were very familiar with the place. Knowing they were coming to arrest Him, He refused to run. There are exit steps in the back of the garden that remain to this day. He could’ve made a way of escape easily and timely. His mission from birth was to become the sacrifice for the sins of all humanity, the perfect lamb, God Himself had prepared, so to speak. Since Genesis, sin had to be covered and an innocent animal — a life not guilty of the transgression — had to pay for the sin by its blood. This is the way God would teach us how serious law-breaking would be, helping us understand what it means to Him. Otherwise, we would be clueless. Out of love for us, He chose to move on with the sacrifice, knowing full well the torture involved. THAT, I understood.
Mainly, I had trouble with the Resurrection on the third day. The purpose puzzled me. After a slew of decades, wondering, then studying the scriptures concerning God’s redemptive blueprint, I finally got it. At first, and still true for so many aspects of God’s designed timelines, it’s like an ant looking up at the Empire State Building in New York and wondering how it got there. We have finite minds, unlike the I AM, the One Who Was, and Who Is and Who Is To Come. How does a pencil look at the artist and say, “Hey, I know how you made me, everything you are doing and will do?” If we think like the pencil, we are not too sharp and we certainly can’t erase our gargantuan ignorance.
Watching the PBS documentary, I was glued, soaking in what the agnostics had to say, as well as the atheists, the scientists and the faith-filled individuals. Death is nothing more than an end of the flesh getting blood flow, brain matter becoming inactive, while the organs are instructed by the brain to shut down. Done! Off to the mortician slab, our remains go. Or, are we (our spirits) actually done?
If you read my “Confronted By Death” post from Feb 13th, you will know, I too, am one of the few in the percentage of Americans who experienced a near-death, or flat-line death experience. I LOVE the fact that the One I follow, Jesus of Nazareth, Israel, experienced the body losing life. He is acquainted with suffering and depression. He has been there, done that. I LOVE His willingness to give His life, according to God’s plan, to bridge the separation of my imperfect life to His holiness. Like a never fading dye, it was applied to my spirit. I accepted the fact and received, or inherited, an afterlife with my Creator, not because I deserved it, but because He offered it freely as a gift. I am so glad I took it and opened that gift certificate, as all who follow Him have done. Yet, I remained stunned at the idea of a resurrection in the mix. It seems like His sacrifice for us was enough wow factor to spread over the eras of history. Why a resurrection?
Not only was it prophesied in the Old Testament that Messiah sent to us would come back from death, bringing back life with Him, but Jesus Himself also told His followers on several occasions to expect it. In some biblical scenes, it’s almost as if He were saying, “Watch and learn.” And they did.
Like John Lennon’s grave, his bones remain. Buy a flight and find out that it’s the same story for John Kennedy, Elvis, Bruce Lee and Winston Churchill. Their remains are still in a box. You have the testimony of your loved ones who have passed away each time you go to their funeral or graveside. The remains are just that…remains, but they speak out to you. “Its” flesh has hardened and stiffened. It begins to decompose the moment the heart stops. If you touch the remains lying in the coffin, you will feel a coldness, like touching a cold aluminum flagpole in the winter. Your loved one is not home, even so, they testify to the strength of death, and it’s so very apparent! It is, at this point, where the divine contrast shines.
So again, why is the resurrection of Jesus so important? He said it would happen, but why?
Instead of being the final nail in the coffin, the incredibly broken, nearly bloodless body of Jesus, once again breathing air with blood flowing without restraint to the organs and tissues, was part of a final piece of His testimony. The statement was loud, showing the world He was Who He said He was. After the time I experienced death and resuscitation in 2013, I was damaged with ongoing disabilities due to organ shutdown, heart damage, lack of oxygen and hypothermia. You just don’t bounce back to normal after death. I do not have the power, the control, the on/off switch to death. I do not have the strength, the ability, the know-how to fight death and tame it. I can not will it away, negotiate with it, or slow it down. Furthermore, I don’t have the energy to get myself up off the floor when life’s sledgehammer slays me, when the rug is pulled out, when the items of stability are removed, when the very base where all things stand is crushed. But, I KNOW WHO CAN AND DOES! That Sunday morning of significance displayed triumph over tragedy, death to darkness, hope for the hopeless and deliverance for the damned. He created life, created organs and created lifespan. He marked out the borders of life’s existence from outside of it, very much like the creator of that pencil. The pencil-maker knows how it works, how it is to be sharpened and how short it will get with use, ALL CRAFTED FROM OUTSIDE THE PENCIL. All, from conception to the grave, has been conquered by the One I hope on, live on and lean on. The empty tomb reminds me of my spirit’s future.
PBS gets it. Life here is a puff of smoke. It’s here and gone. Much like a Texas wildflower in the spring. It blooms and it withers so quickly. Life everlasting is immeasurable. As He exited the tomb on that Sunday morning, He was telling all generations of imperfect humanity……. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” (John 11:25) (NIV)
Easter is always more satisfying when you have answers from a great amount of fuel for the race.