From Death Into Life
by Linda Rex
April 23, 2023, 3rd Sunday in Easter or Resurrection—Today I was glancing at the headlines on one of my news feeds, and was struck by the strenuous effort being put into grabbing the attention of viewers. From the potential of catastrophic world conflict, to another mass shooting, to the destruction of natural resources, and so on, the amount of negative news, of death in some form or another, was significant.
Reading or looking at the news is a lot different than actually going through a tragic or horrific experience ourselves. In the same way, knowing that death has occurred is one thing. Realizing we ourselves are the ones who brought it about is another. It takes the movement of the Spirit within for us to be pierced to the heart and realize we are just as guilty as the one who pulls the trigger. It’s so much easier to point the finger at another than it is to have the humility and honesty to confess our own resentment, bitterness, hatred, or vengeful spirit.
Coming to terms with our own participation in Jesus’ death is important—not so we can stay in a place of guilt or self-condemnation, but so we can move with Jesus through death into resurrection. In what way is death at work in you and in your life? The way to see this is to examine what doesn’t look like Jesus in his perfect relationship with his heavenly Father. Ouch! That leaves a lot which may need to be left in the tomb with Jesus, doesn’t it?
But our honesty and humility about our need for Jesus is helpful here. We want to be like those who first heard the apostle Peter stand up to preach on Pentecost after the gift of the Spirit was given. When he explained to the crowd just whom they had recently crucified, they were devastated. But then they asked the right question: “What shall we do?” What Peter called them to was a turning around, back into relationship with Father, through Jesus, in the Spirit. He told them to demonstrate their repentance and receiving of God’s grace and his Spirit, this transformational change in their lives through baptism (Acts 2:36–37).
Later, in his epistle, Peter explained the cost of this redemption. It cost everything—the Creator of all offering himself freely, as God in human flesh, as a precious, unblemished Lamb, Jesus Christ, for our sakes. God always knew this would be what it cost for us to share in his life and still, the Son of God voluntarily gave himself over to be crucified. This profound expression of God’s love is the truth of our essence as those meant to be image-bearers of the Triune God. Because” God so loved the world”, we, through Christ, with sincere and pure hearts, love others “fervently.”
Because there was a great cost to our redemption and reconciliation with God, we live accordingly—with love and reverence toward God and genuine, other-centered love for others. The things that died with Jesus have no place in our lives anymore. As the apostle Paul said, we are no longer known by them. No, in Christ, we are new creatures—reflections of the Son of God, the perfect image-bearer of the Father. Because this is what is truth about us, we live like it.
In a world where this spiritual reality seems to be just a magical dream, we are called to lay down our lives, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus. This means death and resurrection. There is no resurrection without death coming first—death to all that was before. Then resurrection, washing away all that does not belong anymore in the new life which is ours in Christ.
So, in this world where death seems to be in control, we pray. Pray for the sick. Pray for those who cause pain and suffering for others. Pray for the bullies in this world—they come in all shapes and sizes. Pray for those held captive by greed, gluttony, addiction, power, popularity and every other chain this world offers. Pray for those who enslave others, who use others, and who destroy others. And we participate with Christ in bringing his life into these places where death seems to be reigning.
We pray and serve, because all of this death has already been swept up in Jesus’ death, and taken through the miracle of his resurrection. The stone has already been moved from the grave. Jesus has already risen. God’s Spirit is present and active in this world, and Christ is at work. We need to be about our Father’s business and join in, participating through prayer and service in what Jesus’ is doing to bring life where there is only death. Hallelujah!
Dear Father, we seem to only see and hear death anymore. We long to see and experience your triumph over death, Jesus. So, by your Spirit, move in our world, move in our lives, and do what only you can do. Transform us by your Spirit. Heal our families, our homes, our schools and universities, our governments, our society on every level. And heal us, Lord. We need you desperately. Amen.
“The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!’ What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:3–4, 12–13 NASB
“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” Peter 1:17–23 NASB
[Printable copy: https://newhope4me.files.wordpress.com/2023/04/olitfrom-death-into-life.pdf ]
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