Life is a wondrous thing, and death it’s enemy.
My wife became pregnant with our first child just three months after we were married. It felt miraculous. Each moment we spent together became infused with an awareness that somewhere beyond sight, a person waited to meet us. Our lives instantly became dense with anticipation, the new member of our family filling our plans and dreams and hopes.
And then our child died. I remember thinking how unnatural it was to hear my wife’s sobs through earpiece on my cellphone, trying not to wreck the car as I drove home, seeing her face down the staircase to the basement and knowing it was true.
• • •
What would we be without death? Do we dare ask?
Having a miscarriage forces you to see through the cold, dead eye-sockets of modern secularism. You go into the hospital and those who tend to our sick and grieving say things like,
“It was probably just a non-viable embryo.”
“This is just nature’s way of taking care of things.”
What vacant consolations we offer when one among us dies.
“These things happen.”
“It’s just life.”
“The important thing is moving on.”
But a nine-year-old and a five year old are missing from my family. Isn’t that important too?
Yes, scripture tells us. At least to God, if not to us. Paul writes to the church in Corinth,
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
We see later that Paul is writing this because of a dispute inside the church regarding the resurrection from the dead:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
As we read further, we find that not only was the resurrection in question, but also it’s importance. So Paul says,
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.
Death and resurrection are central. They are of first importance. Paul goes on to list everything at stake in the resurrection.
First, the good news itself is at stake:
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Christianity is not good news if our faith rests in just another philosophy, another ideal, another ill-fated but well meaning teacher. Christians follow a living king out of exile and slavery to sin and death.
Second, God’s character is at stake:
We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
If there is no resurrection, no hope for humans beyond the grave, then death has conquered even the divine, and Christians everywhere are spreading a horrible lie.
Third, the forgiveness of our sins is at stake:
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
The renewing of our hearts depends on our union with a Christ who lives. If Christ hasn’t been raised, our hearts are still dead.
Fourth, the life of every Christian who has ever lived is at stake.
If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
This last assertion should give us pause. Pitied, Paul says. But why? Because the hope of life without death is so central to Christians that all through history they have given up this life to find it.
Paul’s message is clear: that Christianity which does not acknowledge the horror of death and Christ’s triumph over it is no Christianity at all. We can not call death “friend” without also calling Christ “enemy”. They who are blind to death’s terror are also blind to the Christ’s hope.
The question that we distracted and anesthetized twenty-first century Christians must ask is how can we live in this resurrection hope once more?
• • •
My wife and I have three children: Madelyn, Alaska, and Ezra.
All three suffer from Eczema, a disease that inflames and irritates the skin. For a child, eczema is like having a perpetually itchy bug bite or tweny. The feeling is constant irritation.
To make matters worse, the condition is chronic, and just becomes a part of life. Imagine a childhood filled with this constant gnawing feeling that you can never quite pinpoint, never quite get rid of, never quite understand.
What hope can I find in the world to make up for these years stolen from my children?
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul refers to Christ as “firstfruits,” which New Testament historian and theologian N.T. Wright reminds us was “the first sheaf of the harvest which guarantees that there will be more to come.” The message being that what happened to Christ will happen to us.
What happened to Christ? Death and decay were undone. We read in the book of John:
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
What did Thomas see and touch? The marks from the nails and the spear were there — but changed. Healed. Whole. Whatever Thomas saw led him to awe, and belief that the resurrection had happened:
“My Lord and my God!”
Jesus, Paul says, was the first fruits. What happened to him will happen to us.
Can you imagine a day with no irritation? No pain? No headaches. No discomfort. No deadness in our bones, no painful waking from lack of sleep?
Have you ever woken to sunlight streaming through your window, warming your face, drawing you from slumber into a morning that seems perfectly serene and happy?
What if every day was like that?
• • •
Our three children love to create. They draw, they color, they write. One significant problem in our home is where to put it all? We have boxes and boxes of their little treasures.
I can’t think of a single work of art in any museum that I couldn’t live without. But try as I might, I just can’t seem to throw those little drawings away.
When you look at children’s drawings all the time, you start to notice things. There’s a marked difference in the technical quality between the work of a three year old and that of a four year old, and between the work of four year old and that of six year old.
And anyone would see the increase in proficiency if they kept right on to twenty, and perhaps, if they kept going their whole life one day we might call them a “master.”
Master. Such a strange term to apply to those who’s life and work are inevitably cut short. Here death, sin, and poverty reign. We celebrate human potentiality in our museums and history books, but in truth, have we ever known it?
But what could we make for our father with a thousand years? Ten thousand? What will life be without death? O, for a glimpse of the remotest storehouse in that place to shame the burden our infant labors carry!
We have no masters. We have never known humanity. We are not even six years old.
• • •
To live a life in hope of resurrection we must start by uncovering every destruction death’s cold hand has wrought. We must find death everywhere, for wherever we find it, there we will find Christ’s victory.
The book of Romans tells us,
The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
This is what it means to live life in hope of resurrection: to set our eyes on Jesus resurrected as we groan together in pains of childbirth. To listen to the voice of creation longing for freedom, the expectation of our trembling universe.
“Hallelujah!” sings the cracked asphalt under our feet.
“The risen Christ!” our tangled power lines proclaim.
Soon all crooked institutions and confused hopes of our race shall be set free. Will we not live free in the waiting? There will be no obstacle to love, work, or grace, but blessed time and life eternal. Shall we not count our time blessed here?
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
“Return, O Lord!” my heart sings, as I silence my alarm clock.
“Come, Lord Jesus!” I breathe, bathing my daughter’s arms in cream.
“The sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
• • •
My lord and my God, give me vision. How will it come to pass? Will the first voice my daughter hears through her broken ear be yours? Will you command with your own voice those beleaguered nerves and pathways to be joined and whole? Will it be the sound of your own voice, music, sweet music, calling her to dance?
Will you command my son to go and wash his eyes in Siloam? What will his vision be when at last those crude instruments fall? Will his first sight naked and unashamed be your face?
Will you run with my children down to the shores of the Jordan and splash and laugh in the water, cleanse the disease and scars from their flesh with your own hands?
O, I see my family, my loved ones, my friends, and here crossing to meet us, my two children I had thought lost, my children who I have never met. And the suffering of the life before is not worth comparing on that day.
Let all who mourn and weep in this world come to Jesus Christ, our redeemer!
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Let all who hope for our broken race look to the cross and the empty tomb!
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
O King, let all things soon be put under your feet! Bring hope to our hearts and a shout to our lips! Yours are the words and the breath of life!
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Until that day, O Christ, we wait in chains, singing hymns that our fellow prisoners may hear.
Surely you are coming soon.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come!
1. How might our hope of the resurrection affect our other hopes?
2. What opportunities for living in hope of the resurrection have presented themselves to you this week?
3. Spend some time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to increase your daily hope in the resurrection.
QUESTIONS FOR CORDS
1. What disappointments, griefs or sorrows are present in your life? How does the hope of Christ’s triumph over death specifically speak to these things?
2. How can your fellow Cord members help you remember this hope?
 N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 333.
 John 20:27-28
 Romans 8:19
 Romans 8:22-24a
 Isaiah 65:21-22
 Luke 1:78-79
 Matthew 11:28-30