Oh what we do with death. Death – the destruction and permanent ending of life. Just mentioning that definition out loud is terrifying.
And so we do what we can to explain it or play it down it or diminish it. We brush it off like it’s no big deal.
…and we poeticize it: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
—J.R.R. Tolkien,The Return of the King
…or we minimize it: It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more. —J.K. Rowling,Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
We even make it sound lovely: Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.
—Oscar Wilde,The Canterville Ghost
Gosh, let’s all die…sounds awesome! But it isn’t. It’s terrible and it’s terrifying. It steals joy and it deeply implants sorrow.
And all of this is exactly why this weekend is so utterly important. Because today, of all days, we declare that the power of death has been broken.
Today we will look death in the eye and give it a taste of its own medicine. Today we declare that the power of death, itself, has been broken….because we celebrate Easter.
Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection forever destroyed the power of death.
For the past 4 weeks including this weekend we have been exploring the revolution of the passion of the Christ…the cross and the empty tomb.
Something big and altogether explosive occurred. The death of Jesus carried enormous evocative power. N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began
I don’t have time to do an adequate review. I so wish you would go back and watch all 3 previous messages. But here is a summary of what we’ve learned:
1. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection ransomed human beings from the evil one.
2. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection turned those people into an army of priests.
3. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection unveiled the Kingdom of God.
4. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection broke the power of the enemy.
5. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection forever destroyed the power of death.
It’s been fascinating and wonderful to interact with so many of you about these themes over the past month and to feel your passion and hope and new found courage. And, simply, that is what I hope happens in these next few moments … you walk out of here with hope and courage as we look death in the face and declare its power in our life destroyed.
Revelation 21 page 1054
Again, for time, I cannot go into much detail about the context of this odd book of the Bible. Here is a summary:
· The Revelation is a fanciful, bizarre, vision of a man named John. Sent to a group of churches in what is today western Turkey. In it, in colorful language and with exotic creatures, he explains what happened after Jesus died and was resurrected. He pictures present and future spiritual reality.
Jesus is depicted in several ways in this book (a powerful glowing man, a warrior on a white horse) and one of the ways is as a lamb that had been slaughtered.
· In one memorable scene…the key section (Chapt 4-5) Jesus, as this slain lamb, approaches God and takes a book out of His hand that contains the entirety of the God’s will for the world and opens it. Jesus, in fact, was the only one worthy to open the book due to his death and resurrection.
· The rest of the revelation (Ch 6 on) reveals the contents of that book being poured out… the outpouring of a cosmic revolution.
Today we approach the end of the revelation and, in essence, the summation of the impact of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. Revelation 21:1-6
Let’s cut to the chase…the key verse 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever
These are some of the most quoted verses in the entire bible.
· if you’ve lost a loved one likely you’ve quoted this verse to soothe your pain
o picture your dad or mom or child who struggled so much now released from the pain of this life
o you imagine them entering the presence of God immediately after death…you might even imagine Jesus wiping their tears…and you imagine them running, or in their right mind, or breathing deeply
· for those of you who have lost a child these verses, this truth has carried you through the long dark night of your soul as you hold your child again in your dreams.
…and so this verse fires up our imagination and hope as we picture those we’ve lost whole and healed. But it also speaks powerfully to we who suffer from chronic illness…or brokenness…or bondage….
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever
· these verses virtually shout with hope for those of you who struggle daily…moment by moment…with chronic illness, unrelenting depression or anxiety,, life-long disability, or deep loneliness.
This great truth reminds you that though today feels like Friday…Sunday is coming. That one day…hold on dear one…if you have surrendered your life to Jesus…he will resurrect you…and it has already begun!
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:54
Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection destroyed the power of death.
That’s plenty, I’m sure, for most of to take home from Easter. But there is one more thing I want you to see in this remarkable story.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them
· the Holy City is God’s home…another way of describing the Kingdom of God.
· What does John say happens to this city? It comes down out of heaven…to where?...to earth
o The old distinction of heaven way out there somewhere is changed. God has come down.
o The throne of God is right here. …the life of the heavens is now among us
o Even The sea…the ancient source of everything bad or scary is gone
What does it all mean?
It's John's imaginative way of describing what Jesus meant when he said the Kingdom of God was near…not future, not later, not distant …but right here, right now!
· God’s kingdom is among us. God has come down! His power is at hand…the power to eradicate sorrow, crying, pain and yes, even death!
· This beautiful hope (V 4) is not limited to the future…we don’t have to wait for our tears to be dried when we physically die.
· Through Jesus life, crucifixion and resurrection the power of God to eradicate sorrow and death came down!
Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection destroyed the power of death…beginning right here, right now!
Let me move away from the theoretical and get specific. Everywhere we look we see death.
(And not just the famine of South Sudan or drownings of immigrants in the Mediterranean, or slaughter of innocents in Syria) I'm talking about right up the street
· that 70 year old neighbor lost her husband, family lives in Topeka…dying of loneliness.
· your sister who walked away from what little faith she had 10 years ago is dying in her confusion.
· the kid who sits beside you in history class is dying more very day of deep anxiety
· that new immigrant family is dying of fear
· your friend whose spouse just left them is dying of despair
· your co-worker is literally dying of a horrific form of cancer.
There isn‘t just death in the future…there’s death in the present, there's death right up the street.
And this is where you come in. You who call yourself followers of Jesus…you are residents of the Holy City of God…citizens of the Kingdom of God…and you’re an army of priests.
· you know that Jesus destroyed the power of death…you cling to that hope…but now…it is on you to go up the street and take on death yourself.
o get a box of tissues…and go…it is time to dry every tear!
o get your Bible and go…it is time bring hope!
o get your compassion on and go it is time heal pain!
o get you courage up and go it is time to defeat death!
The hope of Easter is not just about what happens when you die…it is also about what you do now as you live
The hope of Easter is not just about the future…it is about the present.
The hope of Easter is not just about heaven…it is about the earth.
Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection destroyed the power of death…beginning right here, right now!
Listen one last time to these words and hear them as now not later...
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. Revelation 21:1-6
Let this Easter be your call to action…
Go take on death! Be ambassadors of resurrection! Be bearers of life!