Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spirituality: The Last Things (2 of 4)

We are in the last days of the liturgical year that follows the life cycle of the events of Jesus’ life. For Christians, the last day of this year is Saturday, December 1st. The feast of Christ the King is celebrated on Sunday, November 25th as he stands victorious over all creation. Christ is victorious over our old foes – Sin and Death.

Death looks directly into the face of every person in the world and we are powerless to turn away from death’s stare. In many ways, death seems to win out because our physical death is inevitable. It prompts us to raise such questions as: What is the meaning of life? Is there really a God? What is the meaning of death and how are we to enter into it? Where, how and when will the world end? Is there life after death, and what does it look like? Familiar questions? I thought so.

For a believer in the Lord Jesus, death does not have the last word. Our physical death becomes the gate to a new plane of existence.

It is natural for us to die, and we naturally fear it. Scripture also tells us that death and sin are related. Death is a penalty for sin. If sin had not infected the human race, we would be immune from bodily sin.

Therefore, to find meaning in death, we must look to Jesus of Nazareth, who was not immune from fear about his own violent death. He certainly was anxious as we can tell from his experience in the Garden at Gethsemane. Jesus certainly wrestled with the will of God like we all do. At Gethsemane, however, Jesus was able to make his final act of self-giving to the Father. He followed the will of his Abba Father, even though he had his moments of doubt, hesitation and fear. Fear is NOT faith. Fear may be natural, but ultimately, we learn to move beyond our fears into trust in Jesus.

Jesus actively entered into his death. He assented to the will of his Father and made his choice. It is the faith of Jesus that saves us – not our faith in Jesus. It is because Jesus obediently complied with the will of God that he was able to win salvation for us. We, as Christians, are called to imitate Jesus, and like him, we are to recite with him, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” when it is our time to leave this earth.

As humans, we will struggle with death and its implications, but in our faith we know the Jesus has conquered death. Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person, has been vindicated by God and has become our Christ of faith. Jesus still lives and death has no claim over him. And that is why these words from John’s Gospel are so important:

“I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

As Jesus lives, he wants to always draw us into a closer relationship with himself. He wants to be our friend in this life so that we can live joyfully with him in eternity. This is the good news that he brings to us to share with us.

Next up: The Judgment in the End Times