As I ponder on the topic of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in this Lenten season, this scripture passage keeps going through my head, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (a metaphor for death) ( 1 Corinthians 15:19-20). Think about it…this is really true!
There are basically two philosophies concerning life. 1) This is it. What we experience in this world, in this life is all there is; there ain’t no more. 2) There is life after life on this earth, which will be experienced either in heaven or in hell, depending upon choices we have made in this life.
Those who hold to the former philosophy tend to practice “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” values in this life. After all, if this is all there is, one may as well get everything from this life that is possible. What difference does it ultimately make and why should I think of anyone other than myself? There is a problem though. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who practices this way of life who is truly happy, who feels completely fulfilled in life. How many stories have we read or heard of people who had it all in this life…money, fame, lots of friends, anything their hearts desired and, only to hear that they one day took their own life. Where is true joy and contentment to be found if this life with all its attendant troubles, heartaches and woes is all there is?
Those who hold to the second philosophy of life often will delay gratification, trusting in a better life hereafter. Choices should be made carefully; other people should be taken into consideration. In fact, the Christian life is full of apparent contradictions…lose your life if you want to find it; he who wants to be great should be the servant of all; the meek shall inherit the earth; and on it goes. Life here is still tough for people who hold to these values, but there is a difference. There is Someone who walks through these troubles with them. There is a future hope of a better life both here and hope of eternal life after this one.
What is our evidence of the truth in all this? The death and resurrection of Jesus! Jesus told his disciples “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). That must have sounded weird to his followers at the time, but later after his death and subsequent resurrection, it made more sense. Paul knew this when he wrote the verse above and it’s true. If there is no life after this, then this life of contradictions, of self-sacrifice, of service to others, of living to serve God, makes no sense at all. If this life is all there is, why bother at all to live a higher life here on earth. One may as well “eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow, we die”.
It still hurts to lose a loved one. It is still scary to face your own impending death. But in a very real sense, the sting of death and the victory of the grave, its finality, has been removed by Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). We are not, after all, the ones to be pitied. Thanks to Jesus, we have a hope and victory. Hallelujah! Jesus is alive!