Several weeks ago my brother-in-law phoned me. He wanted to talk to me about his funeral. He has been battling cancer for the past couple of years and his body had been indicating quite clearly that the fight would soon be over. So, he phoned me and we talked about some details of how he’d like things to go when we gather to remember him. And we talked about his hope. And we talked about the calmness of his soul. And then we said goodbye . . . as in, “Goodbye!” Kind of a weird conversation, perhaps.
A couple of days ago I was on the phone with another brother-in-the-Lord. He too would seem to be nearing the end of his battle with cancer. We talked about how sweet his Christmas had been as his entire family was at home and they had had time to prepare and say goodbye, as well. And we talked about his hope, and he said it was well with his soul. Don’t know if that will be our last goodbye, but some might argue that this conversation was also a little weird.
But something I read in Acts 2 this morning reminds me of why these weird conversations aren’t really all that weird. Reminded me of why they can be so natural and almost matter of fact.
“Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by death.”
(Acts 2:22-24 CSB)
God raised Him up, ending the pains of death. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.
Context: Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. Subject: Jesus. Truth to accept: He is both Lord and Messiah. Proofs which intersect: Signs, scriptures, and an empty tomb. Implication upon which to reflect: The pains of death have ended.
Not that it’s not painful. God has wired us for life, death is an affront to what we were wired for. What’s more, God has made us for relationships, death puts asunder what God has made us for. Death hurts. It’s ache remains even after its final act. And that’s why my two conversations seem so weird.
But while it hurts, it’s not the last word. Because Jesus conquered death, death is not binding. What some regard as the final bondage has, for those in Christ, given way to transport and transition. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Cor. 5:8). To walk through the valley of the shadow of death is to eventually dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps. 23:4, 6).
God raised Jesus up after He offered Himself for our sins on the cross and it has ended the pains of death. It has loosed the chains of death. It reverses the gains of death. And thus, in the twilight hour, it reduces the strains of death. Even to the point of having weird conversations.
When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, death, is your victory?
Where, death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
(1Corinthians 15:54-57 CSB)
Weird conversations. The reality of His amazing grace. The reason to give Him all-deserving glory.