“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16, verses 6-16.
I hope you don’t mind my skipping ahead a few verses. You see, my mother died last week, a week ago today, and I want to relate that it’s ok. It all happened so quickly; Wednesday night she was admitted to the hospital and by Friday morning she was gone. To be frank, I’m still in shock from it; the real depth, both good and bad, is something I haven’t really plumbed yet. Perhaps in time that will happen, and I have no doubt it’ll be tough. One of my pastor friends related, at mom’s bedside while she was dying, that it’s ok to be angry, sad, frustrated with death because we weren’t made for death.
That’s why I’m writing today. That’s why I say that it’s all ok. We weren’t made for death. My mom wasn’t made for death. Neither were you, nor yours, nor any of us. God intended for us to live, to live in perfect harmony with Him. Yet our ancestors frustrated His intentions with sin, separating the world from God’s harmony. That’s why we die. That’s why we grieve over death. That’s why it hurts so much to lose a loved one. This wasn’t what we were made for.
Her body in the casket didn’t look anything like her. At first, that threw me off. I mean, it’s a shock to see your loved one in a casket anyway. But this didn’t look like her at all. Her face didn’t look very life-like, and it really didn’t even look like I remember her (unless you wanted to think she was laughing or crying). Initially it was disconcerting that my last look at my mom’s physical form would look disfigured, and I thought about that while we were driving the long drive home from her funeral.
Then it hit me: of course it didn’t look like her. She isn’t in the casket; she isn’t there. We buried her body in that metal box in the cold Oklahoma ground and she isn’t there. She isn’t there because of the verses listed above, because her Savior and mine rose from His own death and lives today. He rose and proved Himself to His friends and His people. He rose and frustrated death because death would not frustrate Him any longer. Jesus died and came back exactly as He said He would. In doing so, He promised that, when we believe in Him, when we turn our lives over to Him, we, too, will rise from death and live forever with Him.
That’s why my mom’s body didn’t look like her because it wasn’t her. She moved on. That’s why it’s ok.
Death doesn’t make sense, not even in a biological sense. Even if you think all this faith business is hogwash, death is illogical. A few days after Mom’s death, a friend of mine also passed away. Jason Manthe was only in his 30s (where Mom died at 85) and he died of Alzheimer’s Disease. That terrible disease took him quickly, similar to how heart disease quickly took my mother. I’ve been trying to glean some sense from his passing and I simply can’t see any worldly good in losing such a fine man. It doesn’t make sense to me, and I can’t even begin to imagine how his wife and young kids must feel.
That is, until I realize that we were born to live, not to die, even as our carbon bodies die a little bit every day in a world that does the same. Jesus created us to live in love, in peace, with Him forever. He lived, died, and lives again to ensure that becomes possible for any of us. When you put death in the perspective of how Jesus conquered it, then instead of “Jesus wept” (John 11, verse 35) you are righteously, joyfully bound to conclude that Mark 16 is the only way to view death. Death is moot. It’s something that happens as the passage to new life instead of the defining moment in a hopeless world. Death couldn’t hold on to Jesus Christ and, because of that, and because my mother Grace and my friend Jason believed in Him, then death didn’t hold on to them either. Wherever heaven is, they are more alive now than ever when I knew them.
And because of that, the journey continues.
Lord, thank You for Your comforting resurrection in the face of sin and death. Thank You for saving my mother and friend and all who trust You with our lives. I praise you for lives well lived, and well-died, and ask for Your comfort and love in the days ahead.