|The tomb is empty; so is the cross!|
The basic Biblical picture of life is that we are born, we live, we die, then we are physically raised either to renewed life or to the 'second death', pictured as a lake of fire. The 'going to be with God in heaven when we die' stuff is, Biblically, something of a minor aside, although I have known Christians who thought that was what it was all about.
So, for a follower of Jesus who trusts him to see us through judgement and into that renewed life, death is not be something to be feared. Just as Jesus was physically raised that first Easter, so we will be physically raised when he returns. Death is not the end; renewed life is.
Sometimes people over-think this and decide that life after death is what matters, not the life we live now. This is nonsense. Life is life. The hope of new life forever may well give us a different perspective on the things which happen in our lives now, but that doesn't alter the basic fact that life matters - life now and renewed life in a renewed world.
I realise I have skated across a lot in the above - feel free to use the comments to drill deeper. But for now I want to pick up on a flip-side to the previous post.
There I used an example of extensive medical intervention to help keep a child alive and thriving. What about the other end of life? When someone is dying and technology is used to keep them alive? Sometimes there is a temptation to try to preserve life at all costs, to intervene even when there is no meaningful purpose (except perhaps to keep the surgeon's hand in).
If life matters, and if death is not the end of life, then surely the way that life is lived matters, even in the period before dying. Once there was the idea of a 'good death' in the sense that during the final moments relationships were healed - dying with your family around you, at peace with God and with your neighbours. It didn't necessarily mean a pain-free death, but one where neither pain nor drugs got in the way of these relationships. In modern times this sort of idea lies behind the hospice movement's approach to terminal care.
Easter is important in dying for several reasons. Firstly, Jesus' death and resurrection allow us to be reconciled to God, at peace with him. Secondly Jesus' resurrection foreshadows our own resurrections, and those of the people whom we love. If we live and die 'in Jesus' (whatever that means - a topic for another post) then we will be reunited at our resurrection - not only is death not the end of life, it needn't be the end of relationships either.
Finally, whilst we are alive, here and now, Jesus encourages us to reconcile any broken relationships we may have: to forgive and to seek to be forgiven. It saddens me how many families have factions who fell out years ago and who now never talk. Forgiveness is a great healer, and helps to avoid the 'if only's of death.
So, may your week ahead be filled with blessing, may you experience life which matters, and may you find peace in your memories of those you hope to meet again, come the resurrection.