It’s all about LIFE.
Growing up is a fascinating experience. As a kid, I remember being terrified of my parents (in a good way). Admittedly, I was also very defiant, but when it came down to it, I always knew that my parents held absolute power over my life. When I really thought about it, I knew that I couldn’t eat without them, I didn’t have a place to stay without them, I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without their permission. My world was small. I ultimately had to obey. I knew nothing else except the great power of my parents.
When I became an adult, I was suddenly faced with a larger world. Now I’m responsible for myself. I make all the choices for my own life. Right now, if I wanted to hop on a plane and go anywhere in the world, do anything I want, I could. The freedom I met upon adulthood was amazing…except that there was yet another absolute power to answer to. Every year, the United States government takes a whole lot of money out of my pocket under threat of jail – a place where the only right I still have is to just be alive. Beyond that, if I were to abandon my loyalty to this great country and betray them to serve another power (treason), I risk death.
The thing that makes humankind great is our freedom. We really can do anything we want and put our minds to. Of course, we can give up our own will at any time. We can offer our services to a person or a cause that we believe is greater than us if we wish. Or, as we have seen overwhelmingly over the course of history, we can be forced to give up our freedom to choose to someone who wields power over us. But what does it take to overpower the human will?
The most obvious answer is fear. If I know that someone will do me great harm if I don’t obey them, then I will give up my own right to do as I please in order to obey them and avoid that harm. It’s largely the reason my parents had power over me as a kid. For sure, a large part of it was my deep love and respect for them, and therefore my desire to honor them. But there were times where my love and devotion were overcome by my rebellious desire to assert my own will, and when that happened, I still obeyed for fear of their power to enforce unwanted consequences such as a spanking or being grounded. As an adult, I don’t steal from people out of my respect for them and their property. But even when my will overpowers my respect for them, I fear the power of the US government to force fines or jail time on me. The fact that harm can be done to us is usually enough for us to forfeit the power of our will and submit someone or something else.
There are many things we fear. For certain, we fear the power of the government. We fear another, stronger or sneakier group of people coming in and forcing us into slavery. We fear someone breaking into our house and stealing what we rightfully chose to own. We fear our schools giving us low grades and withholding diplomas and degrees from us. We fear our boss firing us. More than anything, though, we fear Death.
A quick look at history will inform any person that the greatest power that this world knows is the power to take someone’s life, which is the removal of one’s ability to choose his own future. The greatest empires of this world have risen by countless killings and threats of killing more. Even the freest countries on the planet have risen to power (and still maintain this power) by keeping the threat of death in the back of their arsenal of enforcement. It’s how people like Nebuchadnezzar, Artaxerxes, Alexander, Caesar, Stalin, and Hitler both gained their power and lost it.
Our own biology forces dying upon us. We know it’s coming eventually, and this forces us to make certain decisions. We don’t want to starve and so we feel like we have no choice but to work so that we can earn money so that we can by food to eat. We feel an obligation to spend time with elderly or sick people whom we love because we know that, eventually, they will die, and we won’t get to do what we want (to spend time with them) anymore.
When we contemplate suicide, the idea of dying, which is a personal end to all things, entices us to give up our own will to even be alive in order to escape pain. Even while we’re alive we can be dead, living with no purpose or drive. Death itself is the great crusher of the power of human will. We know that every time, without fail, sooner or later, it will destroy us. It is the absolute power. Either we surrender our will to Death or it will take our will from us forcefully. It is the gravity that we cannot escape. The grave itself – our “final resting place” – is a prison cell in the ground and is Death’s reminder to us that we are captives of death and that there is no hope for anything more.
Or so it seems.
As I said before, children know the absolute power of their parents. There is no way to know otherwise until we are released from their power and become adults. So it is with Death – it is not so absolute after all.
God has always been about existence and movement. He is the one who created all things and set them in motion in the first place. He carefully made humans and lovingly gave us life. He even gave us will and the ability to project ourselves in whatever direction we choose. Inevitably, though, Death – always hungry for power – came and wielded its might, and has inflicted nothingness and stasis upon anything it could get its hands on through the whole of time. But God would not give up His own power to Death. Two thousand years ago, God became man. He grew into manhood, lived a holy life as one would expect from the almighty God, taught the people of Israel of His coming kingdom, and then willingly offered up His own life to the power of Death. Jesus Christ, God with us, was mercilessly tortured and crucified for all to see. The great power of Death killed God. Jesus was put into the ground and, for three days, was with all who had been captured by Death. But then, on that blessed third day, the mighty power of God shook the ground, and His grave was opened up. He was alive. Jesus was alive!
See, by the suffering and dying of Jesus Christ, the world dramatically demonstrated its great power, which is to take life, brutally killing God Himself. But God, by raising Himself from the iron grip of Death, spectacularly proved His even greater power: to give Life.
This is why Jesus matters. There is a world out there threatening you with its great power and dictating to you what your choices ought to be. Your life has been forcefully taken from you. By might or by sneaking, you and I were made slaves to Sin, which aims to separate us from our loving God, and its cousin Death, which aims to make that separation permanent. In spite of this overwhelming and seemingly absolute power to which we once capitulated, Jesus offers hope. He showed us that, when pitted against each other, Life beats Death every time. Jesus promises us this truth: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” (John 11:25, NABRE)
Are you stuck? Do you feel like nothing matters? Are you captured by Sin and fear of Death? If you are, cry out to God and ask Him for Life. He will surely answer you, for, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21, ESV)
If you want to know more about this Life that God has for You, stay tuned for next week’s post. God bless you!