Saturday, April 23, 2011

He tasted death: A Holy Saturday Meditation

As a pastor, I have seen a lot of death. I've seen cancer, old age, Alzheimers, birth defects, miscarriages, ALS, strokes, heart attacks, and accidents. For most, death begins a slow approach sometime around 30 and creeps up on cat's feet until about 70, when it approaches like the hoofbeats of a thoroughbred, pounding down the final stretch. Sometimes, death is welcome relief, especially when a long illness has wracked the body with pain. But mostly, we do not go gentle into that good night. Mostly, we try not to think about it, or if we do, we try to imagine ourselves falling asleep and then waking up in glory. I myself will vote for that one, if God ever asks my opinion (though I'm not holding my breath that He will).

But one thing I do know for sure, and that is, when the final moments come, there is a difference between the true Christian and the rest. The committed followers of Christ, when they know they are dying, have incredible peace, even as they suffer. And this is because of what happened today, in a rock hewn tomb, 2,000 years ago. On this day, Jesus of Nazareth lay dead in a borrowed grave. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way:
he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. ~ Hebrews 2:9b
God was pleased to allow His Son, Jesus, to suffer and to die, though I don't begin to understand how it is that God can die. But nevertheless, Jesus died so that I might not. He tasted death so that I might not drink death's cup to the dregs. In His death, I have forgiveness of sin. His blood covered my penalty; his payment my debt. And by that death, by that unspeakable horror, I go in confidence to my grave, not fearing the tomb, but looking to it as a door through I must pass to enter in to the Wedding Feast. So, come pain, come suffering, come persecution. Indeed, Come O Death, for your sting is embedded in the One who took your poison into His body, so that you might be forever killed and I might have eternal life!
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. ~ Hebrews 2:14-15
Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice! Thank you for tasting death for me, that I might not die eternally! Thank you for setting me free!

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