Easter is right around the corner. For most of America, it's a time to eat a big meal and watch the kids hunt for eggs. For Christians, it's a time to celebrate Christ's resurrection. It's a time of joy. So we hope you aren't too upset that this week we're reminding you of a simple fact:
You're gonna die.
We all are. Every day we live, we grow closer to death.
But here's the thing: we're not supposed to.
According to the Bible there's no such thing as a natural death. Romans 6:23 explains it this way: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Death isn't natural. It's a result of sin. Sin doesn't make us bad: it makes us dead. We have all sinned, and because of that we're all going to die.
So now that the bad news is out there, it's time for the good news: Jesus has defeated death. He didn't come to make bad people into good people. He came to make dead people into people who are alive.
John 20 tells the story of what takes place on the day of Jesus's resurrection. Mary Magdalene visits His tomb, only to find Him gone. As she cries, a man behind her asks "why are you crying?"
Does she know that person is Jesus at first? Of course not. She thinks He's dead. John tells us that she mistakes Him for a gardener.
Was she really that far off?
If you flip from John back to Genesis, you'll find that one of the first things God created was a garden. He created two people and gave them a place to live. But it was more than that: He walked with them, and they enjoyed a direct, intimate, and harmonious relationship.
We all know what happened next. Temptation, sin, disconnect, and death. Adam and Eve could no longer stay in the garden. But that doesn't mean the gardener isn't still there.
Have you ever cried so hard that when you look through your tears your vision is blurred? Many people fail to see solutions to their reality not because the answers aren't there, but because they're looking through the prism of their pain. But the thing about Jesus is He's such a gracious God that even in our worst moments He gives us a hint that He's there.
Mary sees a gardener. And at that moment, that could have been exactly what He was. By dying, He invites us back into the type of relationship with God that mankind hadn't enjoyed since Eden. At that moment the curse of sin was broken, and the gates to Eden were open again.
Go Tell the Others
After His resurrection, Jesus reveals Himself to Mary. He comforts her, as He comforts us again and again. But that's not where He stops. He says "Mary, do not hold onto me, go tell the others."
Once you've been comforted by Jesus, He'll ask you to get uncomfortable for Him. He fills you up, then asks you to be spilled out. He shows us something, then calls us to tell the world what we've seen.
Mary does what Jesus asks. She runs to the disciples to tell them the news. Does she give a great sermon or a giant theological dissertation? No. She says five words: "I have seen the Lord."
And that testimony is what has kept the church moving for 2000 years.
Think about it: how did the church move forward? How did 12 fishermen, farmers, and tax collectors carry a message that billions of people believe today? To our knowledge Jesus never wrote anything down, but there are more books written about Him than any other subject. He wasn't a worship leader or an an artist, but there is an unbelievable amount of music and art dedicated to Him. He didn't travel more than 100 miles from His hometown, but go anywhere in the world today and you'll find someone who knows His message.
Because we have all seen Him.
"I have seen the Lord." This has been the mantra of the church for the last 2000 years. This is our anthem. It's the only way the church could have survived through persecution. It's the only explanation for why Thrive exists.
Death is Defeated
You can visit the graves of some of the world's great religious and political leaders. You can be near the remains of Buddha, Confucius, Gandhi. When you go there, you have to be quiet. You have to show reverence. But not Jesus's tomb. You could walk into the Tomb of Jesus and it doesn't matter how much noise you make - because He isn't there.
Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross. And when He said it, He died. But then something amazing took place: death died, and Jesus rose again.
In dying, Jesus defeated death. He defeated hell. He defeated the grave. And He defeated them for good. Sin has lost its hold. Because of Christ, there is no reason to fear death.
So how will you react this Easter? Will you let the fear of death to continue to haunt you, or will you step out with the courage that comes from Christ's resurrection? He has overcome the grave, and given every one of us the ability to confidently, emphatically, and eternally say "I have seen the Lord!"