Only The Death Of Christ Could Destroy Death Itself

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What do people say about death?  According to some, death is it; nothing else exists after death; the show is over.  For others, the mentality with death is, ‘whoever dies with the most toys wins.’ They approach death from the perspective of trying to squeeze the most out of life before the final curtain is drawn.  Well, whatever the flavor or understanding of death that a person has in our contemporary culture one thing is for sure, there is a consistent theme with death.  That consistent theme is that death produces fear.  Frankly, you and I as Christians are also not immune from this fear of death. 

Because of this fear of death, the typical reaction is that we turn inward towards self-preservation.  Let me give you an example.  Florence Nightingale's most famous contribution came during the Crimean War. On October 21, 1854, she and a staff of 38 women volunteer nurses, trained by Nightingale, were sent to the Ottoman Empire, where the main British camp was based.  She and her nurses found wounded soldiers being badly cared for by overworked medical staff in the face of official indifference. Medications were in tiny supply, sanitation was being ignored, and mass infections were common, many of them deadly. There was no equipment to process sustenance for the patients.  It has been reported that Nightingale reduced the rate of death from 42% to 2% either by making improvements in hygiene or by calling for the Sanitary Commission.[1]  Now, here is the reason why I share all of this with you.  Later on in life at the age of 37, Florence Nightingale became bedbound.   She was sporadically bedridden and grieved from depression.  Some believe it was due to health problems but other information specified that she was so crushed by witnessing death that she simply became overwhelmed and was basically emotionally paralyzed by the sight and memories of death, so paralyzed that she ended up in bed for the next 53 year.  She lived to be 90 years old.[2] 

My friends, the fear of death can cause us to seek self-preservation; we can turn inward with fear, preserve self and shut the world off from ourselves.  The result of being bound in fear can lead to a person not feeling alive, but being practically dead already.  We can become dead men walking. 

As a result of the sobering reality of death the cultural message of death is that we should throw off this fear of death, force it out of our minds, and say to ourselves, “Why should we worry.  When we are dead, we are dead.  Don’t worry, be happy.”  However, this ploy is not healthy for it dismisses the reality of death and it pretends that God’s wrath, hell, and damnation don’t exist.

If death cannot be dismissed and if we don’t want to be paralyzed by death we have another option and that option is to desensitize death and that is what our American culture has done.  In our media, death is portrayed in movies, books, and news so frequently that we have become numb to death; the reality and pain of it is not portrayed. It isn’t uncommon to turn the news on, pick up the paper, watch a crime drama, and experience the casual-ness of death. In fact when it comes to funerals, people often look better in the coffin than they did in real life.  Death is sanitized at funerals; the edge is taken off with flowers and the workings of the morticians.  This is society’s way of processing death.  This is the natural man’s way of processing death. 

Thus, what we see at the root of all these methods that attempt to respond to death, is essentially fear. 

As we contemplate death and its fruits of fear, does the Old Rugged Cross of Christ have anything to say to this issue of death?  Does the Old Rugged Cross of Christ do anything to death?  Yes, it does speak to death and it does do something to death.

Jesus became, and still is, a real human being and truly our brother.  In His birth, life and death He shared with our humanity yet without sin.[3]  But what does this have to do with our topic of death?  Let me explain, Satan initially planned death for humankind for he was a murderer from the beginning.  Death was to be the ultimate destruction of mankind.  However this device of devastation for mankind becomes the instrument of mankind’s exaltation and eternal life; thus the death brought in by Satan is counterworked and made powerless by the death of Christ.  The Cross, which is a picture of ultimate death, is now the solution for death.  Only the death of Jesus could destroy death itself. 

Yes, Jesus changes everything.  Christ’s cross shatters the power of Satan and it abolishes the sting of death.  Death was destroyed by an act of self-sacrificing love.  Thus, death may kill our body, but it cannot kill our soul.  Our soul is safe in Christ and even more, our mortal body will be raised anew someday. 

Yes, death may taunt us, but destroy us? No. Confine us to eternal death?  No. 

What this means is when we find ourselves coming face to face with the darkness of death, the key is not to deny our fear or cover our fear, but rather our fear be met by the one who partook of death, Christ crucified.  Death and its fruit of fear are to be met by Jesus’ words that death has been defeated; it is finished.

Yes, in Christ we can stare into the darkness of death and say, “What is death?  What is hell?  Christ, the Son of God, placed himself under God’s laws and died.  But Christ’s death defeated death and gave us life.”[4] 

My friends, in Jesus nothing is more certain than eternal life and the resurrection and this is certainly true, even when the shadow of death will encroach on you someday.  Indeed as Paul states in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  (39)  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ. Amen.

[1] Wikipedia, “Florence Nightingale.” (26 March 2014)
[2] Ibid.
[3] See Hebrews 2:14.
[4] Martin Luther.  Source Unknown.

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