Even if it’s not our biggest fear it tends to rank way up there – facing death. There have been many perspectives on death through the ages:
- Aristotle called death the thing to be feared most because “it appears to be the end of everything.”
- Jean-Paul Sartre asserted that death “removes all meaning from life.”
- Robert Green Ingersoll, one of America’s most outspoken agnostics, could offer no words of hope at his brother’s funeral. He said, “Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights.”
- The pessimism of French philosopher Francois Rabelais was equally cold. He made this sentence his final one: “I am going to the great Perhaps.”
The culture Jesus grew up in was not much better. Traditional Judaism was divided on the topic of the afterlife. Some, like the Sadducees, believed there was no resurrection; that death was simply the end. Others, like the Pharisees, believed in a resurrection but only one that was spiritual – less real than this life.
Jesus completely, radically changed the context for viewing death by providing a new perspective on resurrection and the afterlife. Listen to what He tells the disciples, just prior to His arrest, as He prepares them for His imminent death.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” ~ John 14:1-3 (NLT)
What’s significant is that Jesus speaks of “going to prepare a place for you.” This was a phrase used in the realm of weddings and weddings are great news; they were reason to celebrate because they marked a new beginning!
When a man and woman wanted to get married, and the families agreed to it, the groom would return to his fathers’ home and add a room so that he and his bride would have a place to be together once they were married. Jesus uses this familiar phrase to give a whole new perspective to death.
Jesus not only promises an afterlife, but a better life. He elevates funerals to the same hope level as weddings. From His perspective the trip to the grave and the walk down the aisle warrant identical excitement. Jesus is taking something that was viewed as an end and turns it into a new beginning; a new adventure. This was a completely new perspective for those listening to Jesus. Because Jesus’ tomb is empty, His promise is not. And because of this…
We can face our biggest fear with hope and courage!