“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
We have just been reminded of the truth of part of Benjamin Franklin’s famous phrase, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Tuesday April 15 proved the latter; April 18 and 20 has something powerful to say about the former. There has never been a culture without some form of taxation, and unless you were acquainted with either Enoch or Elijah, you have never met a person who can say with any certainty they will never pass through the “valley of the shadow of death. People die. For some people death is the greatest fear, especially for themselves, but also for loved ones. Death introduces separation; it means communication and interaction is cut off from one whose life and presence is precious to you. Good Friday has much to say to us about death, not only the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on a cross, but the death of those you love who are gone from you today and those in your future where death will arrest your life with them. Tomorrow ought to be a time to consider not only the death of the Savior, whose death has infinite meaning for you, but a time to consider the death of loved ones whose absence is difficult to bear, whose life meant so much to you and who you are. Good Friday has room to do both; even more, Jesus’ death and the death of your loved ones who are “in him are connected by God. So should be your Good Friday meditation. Remember Him, remember them.
However, there is a “rest of men part of society which St. Paul addresses in the text. They are separated from those “in Christ by this descriptor: an absence of hope. A few years back I was talking with an elderly neighbor whose health was failing. I asked him what he thought death would mean for him. He answered quickly, “Death means all things for me come to an end and then there is nothing. He is not alone in such an assessment. Many believe this with some confidence, and others do not give it any thought and are strangely willing to remain ignorant of it. Of course, their opinion, both those who allegedly “think it through and those who are too lazy to give it any thought, is that what is called “annihilation is their true future. Nothing! One has to presume their “hope (if one can call annihilation “hope) is preferable to punishment which the Bible declares is their actual predicament, never even inferring annihilation as a possible result at death. “It is destined for man once to die and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) So they have rested their opinion on a choice which doesn’t exist and are quite content to live under this illusion. Psalm 73 calls such illusion a “dream from which they suddenly “awake with horror at the moment of death. Without reservation the Bible warns that a decision must be made while there is still breath to determine a future beyond the grave, punishment or reward.
Good Friday is a day of hope for those in Christ. It is “good because the crucifixion brings hope. In Jesus’ death the sins of those in him were atoned for, you bear them no more, and will stand in the judgment hidden in Christ, as will your loved ones “in him. Your meditation can be about them as well as the One who made it possible by his death. Your reunion with them is a certainty; God will bring them with Jesus. The third day, Easter Sunday, is then a day of great celebration! A vibrant reminder of literal reunion! In our flesh, with our eyes, with real hugs and tears of joy, we will see Jesus, we will see loved ones; separation will be over. The sting of death in all its painful facets will cease forever. Hallelujah!
Taxes on Tuesday, death to self (dying with Christ) on Friday, and celebration of life eternal and the joy of certain reunion on Sunday. What a week! Considering all that, taxes are nothing!
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