It's Easter Monday, Christ is risen, and now seems like as good a time as any to talk about death. Doesn't it?
We talk a lot about death this time of year, about Jesus's traumatic death on the Cross that is the atoning sacrifice for us all. We talk about two thieves dying the same way. We talk about a tomb, about a stone, and about that stone rolled away. We talk about grave clothes folded neatly. And we talk about death being defeated.
This is important for us because we are a people who have been taught that death is our enemy, that it is a matter of the curse, that we are creatures who were not meant to die. And only part of that is true. It is true that we are creatures who were not meant to die (though I have written about the Tree of Life before, and so...even that is complicated; perhaps I will rehash that this week to catch you all up in the midst of this discussion), yet we were not created as eternal creatures, either. Death did certainly come along with the curse, but it was not part of the curse. And...it is not our enemy, per se.
Most of that probably sounds strange to most of you, if not all of you. But let's look at what's really going on with death so that we can put some good perspective around it.
Remember that God brought death into the mix before any of the rest of the curse. It was part of His warning, which means it was part of His goodness - do not eat of the fruit of this tree, or you will surely die. Eve even repeats those words to the serpent - we can't eat of this tree or we will surely die. And Adam, though we're not told so in the story, most assuredly knew - hey, Eve, is this the fruit that if we eat it, we will surely die?
Notice that when God told Adam and Eve that they would surely die, He didn't mention any of the rest of the curse - no hard labor, no difficult childbirth, no striking of the heel or smashing of the head. None of it. And notice, too, that when God announced this curse - hard labor, difficult childbirth, striking of the heel and smashing of the head - He didn't mention death. He mentions that the curse lasts until they die, but dying itself is not part of the curse.
(Go ahead. Look it up. I know you want to. I'll wait.)
Death is not part of the curse. And if it's not part of the curse, then we have to figure out what's going on here because it certainly feels like not living eternally with God would be curse-like. It certainly seems that death blew everything up. If death is not the curse, and if death is not the enemy, then why does Christ have to defeat death for us? What is eternity all about?
So many questions, so little time...today. But I'll tease you with this - what if death...was a gift? A gift for the season that we're living in.
Okay, so I guess I need to talk about the Tree of Life after all because that's critical to our understanding of what's happening here. So we'll pick that up tomorrow and then keep winding our way through.