Life in the middle of death (My Redeemer Lives 1:3)

When I was young, my grandfather died. It was confusing and hard complicated by still being a child, not-quite an adolescent yet. This left fully aware of what was happening, but on the edge of every adult conversation, never pulled into the discussion.

What I remember though was my sisters and I keeping company in the basement of the funeral home in our pretty dresses, braiding each other’s hair and playing cards with our cousins. There was a lot of food. After the funeral we hung out in my aunt’s basement, played ping pong and ate summer sausage, chips with onion dip, throwing back orange soda pop and laughing our heads off as two of my cousins snapped rubber bands at one another and faked painful reactions. I think my grandpa wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

How often is life found in the middle of death?

How often in our grief do we find friendship and understanding. It isn’t uncommon for families spread wide to sit for a moment and recall memories of a life well lived or of a God who keeps working despite our obvious flaws?

Christ’s death is no different. There is sorrow, yes. There is darkness, yes. But God Himself brings Life into the midst of the death of His Beloved Son.

Read Matthew  27:50-54. While you read, look for the surprising references to Life in the middle of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ –

 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

If you look closely, you’ll see more than one nod to Life in this account of heartbreaking death and sacrifice, but let’s focus on the most obvious today. Jesus dies. He literally gives His Spirit over to death. It’s notable, as we learned in yesterday’s study that death doesn’t rule Jesus. Jesus uses death for His plan. He subjects Himself to it for a purpose – eternal Life.

Look closer – in the middle of this rock-splitting, women weeping, head turning moment of darkness and death, God the Father inserts, by Matthew’s pen…resurrection.

Read Matthew 27:52-53 again:

The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

This account tells us that the resurrected saints (those who died in belief of the coming Messiah, of Jesus) came out of the tombs after Christ Himself was raised. Notice, though, that the record of these resurrections is given to the reader in the middle of the Good Friday account, not waiting for Easter sunlight to break into the story.

Lots of people were raised with Jesus. Not just one guy, not a couple – many bodies. We’ll hear their story in later weeks. For this week, let’s just sit in the middle and ponder how much God cares about it.

God gives hope wherever He is found. He knows life and death are intrinsically linked. He doesn’t ignore that in the ways we do. God brings celebrations to our funerals through Christ Jesus. He brings gifts of joy in the middle of our mourning. This turns the way we think of death and life on its ear. Jesus gives us insight into this when he speaks to a group known as the Sadducees earlier in Matthew 22:23-33 –

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (emphasis added)

Even in the middle of death, He is God of the Living.

This is nothing less than astonishing. Believers are raised and we are reminded of His Hope in the middle. He reveals things slowly to us over time, but he also never leaves out what we need in this moment.

What a gift that is!

Today, let Life infiltrate wherever you see and hear death. Praise God for Who He is and all He does. When you hear a news report, or consider your own memories of death and life, remember that He is God over all and He brings Life to the strangest places.

Death’s surprising connection to life (My Redeemer Lives 1:2)

Death and life are intimately linked.

I think we like to believe that life sits over here, while death has its own box on the other side of the room. Life is the front door, the window sill, death is the basement, the back scary corner of the garage no one wants to clean so we all just ignore it.

It doesn’t work that way and Revelation tells us why. It also tells us what death and life both have to do with resurrection.

Revelation 1:17-18 –

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

The Him in verse 17 is Jesus. The I is the apostle John. The John who reclined at table with Jesus, so close he could probably hear his heartbeat, but also saw Him transfigured on a mountain top in all His glory. There is no doubt that John knew Jesus as a teacher, a friend, and also knew without a doubt Jesus was the God of the Universe.  So why do we find John in Revelation falling like a dead person at Jesus’s feet?

There are other examples in Scripture of death-like responses to visions sent from God. The prophet Daniel 10:7-9 –

And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

The ESV translation notes clarify that my radiant appearance was fearfully changed is more accurately translated from Hebrew as my splendor was changed to ruin.

The NIV translation of verse 8 stands out to me –

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.

Was Daniel passed out, trapped frozen in fear, deep in worship because of the vision? Was John?

Death is always connected to resurrection.

Death is a powerful force in this life. People fear it, wait for it, try to subvert it. John’s reaction is just another reminder of death’s power over each of us.

However, it’s also noteworthy that when we are confronted with the resurrected Christ, in the flesh, in John’s instance, or at the very least the His message and messengers in Daniel, something like death is the reaction. Coming face to face with the Resurrected Jesus is coming face to face with God’s raw power over all things.

Read Revelation 1:17-18 again and look closer at verse 18 this time:

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus, in Revelation, proclaims that he doesn’t just hold resurrected life in His hands, but He’s in charge of death too. God is always in charge and we know in our brains that means that God holds power over death, but the resurrection reminds us that not just life is in God’s hand, but death too. He keeps both the Keys of Life and the Keys of Death and Hades.

Ack. I don’t think this makes us very comfortable. We want God to weep life from His pores, but have nothing to do with death.

What does it mean that He holds the keys to death?

Eternity is for unbelievers, just as much as it is for believers.

Death will come to us all. In that way, it is part of God’s plan. Maybe that’s why atheists are fine with Jesus being a prophet, fine with Jesus’s death, but the resurrection is where they draw the line.

The Resurrection shows us clearly that this God, this Jesus Christ of Nazareth, controls both realms. He’s over all and through all and in all. Death and Life aren’t in boxes for Him. Instead, He has the power to hold them, to open them, for His plans. If you don’t know Him, that’s more than uncomfortable. It’s terrifying. When you know Him you know this as well:

This same Jesus reaches out His hand in the face of death.

Revelation 1:17-18 keeps giving us nuggets of goodness –

 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

He laid his right hand on me…

I died, and behold I am alive forevermore…

Yes, death and God’s connection to it are not comforting, but our powerful Savior is also the Savior who lays His nail-pierced hand on us and welcomes us to Life, Resurrected Life in Him.

One of my favorite Revelation commentaries assures me that

Jesus offers grace, in life, in death, and in Life again.

 

Jesus Ate: A My Redeemer Lives Resurrection Reminder

One year, shortly after Easter, I heard a passage from Luke in church. Three days later, it dawned on me that Jesus was eating.

That seems very un-unique as an insight; Jesus ate with people all the time, and as long as we exist with books or the internet as part of our lives, we likely have Da Vinci’s depiction of the Last Supper etched in our minds.

Jesus ate. Son of God, Son of Man, ate for 33 years on this earth…

plus 40 days.

What dawned on me after that Luke reading was that the Resurrected Jesus was eating.

Jesus walked around after the Resurrection. He had conversations in the garden by the tomb and along the road to Emmaus. He called the disciples out from their boats once again and invited them to dinner. He taught. He prayed. He held Thomas’s hand to His side.

He wasn’t less God or less Man these forty days than He was on Christmas morn. This was mind-blowing to me and this insight settled in my heart like this –

If Jesus ate after his Resurrection, and loved on his disciples, and preached the good news, then even though I can’t see Him in front of my face, this same Resurrection God lives and works in my life every day.

He eats with me.

He teaches me.

He prays with me.

He holds my hands and wipes my tears.

The Resurrection is so powerful. It means God’s presence and life in our days.

I want God’s presence and life! He is Living Water for my thirsty soul.

Let’s discover our Resurrection God together where He is always, always found – in His Word.

In My Redeemer Lives, we’ll talk about resurrections throughout Scripture, but we’ll also talk about what God’s doing now, what God is resurrecting now, in our lives. We’ll talk about words, and what they mean, where they point us, and what promises His Word gives.

Words like…

Glory

Heartbreak

Waiting

Light

Rest

What words do you think of when you think of the word resurrection? Share with us in the comments!

My Redeemer Lives starts next Monday, February 19 through April 9th, right here. Join in our study community by subscribing to the blog via email. The study posts will be delivered right to your inbox five days a week. Comment on the post with your own thoughts and insights. There will also be Bible verse graphics and visual faith tools. Share on social media with the hashtags #myredeemerlives and #ilovemyshepherd.

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Jesus ate. Jesus eats with us each day.

And because my Redeemer lives, there will be a day when we share a Feast with Him that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Ready for some resurrection reminders?

I Love My Shepherd is partnering with PureJoyCreative to offer you weekly Bible margins, Scripture cards, and other visual reminders of the life our Redeemer brings to our days. Some will be free downloads, and others will be available for purchase in the PureJoyCreative Etsy store.

Here is the first freebie to get you started – a My Redeemer Lives Scripture engagement page to take notes on, write prayer requests, or color as you study in the coming weeks! Click on the image for this free download.

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