Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Freedom From the Fear of Death….

Cruising here and there….this Mother’s Day….virtually speaking that is.  In “real time” I haven’t left the house all weekend…’cept a quick trip to McD’s this morning with Keith. My kids came to me for Mother’s Day lunch…bearing Chinese food from Wing Wah.  It was nice having them all under my roof….sitting at my table…just like old times.  Just like the meals of yesteryear….

With one notable exception, though.  NOBODY WAS FIGHTING.  The older they get, the more they seem to like each other. 

So today when I was surfing, I came upon a sermon about Good Friday (Yes, I know that was for Easter...which…yes, I know was a couple of weeks ago…but it’s that day late/dollar short thing again) The following snippet of a painting was used for an illustration in the sermon.  It obviously depicts the hand of Christ after the crucifixion.  The discoloration is what captured my attention.

Hans Holbein the Younger, The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, 1521-1522, oil on limewood. Kunstmuseum, Basel

I’ve seen many depictions of Jesus after the crucifixion.  His hands always have rather neat, sanitary looking wounds….like something that might have been caused by a ten penny nail or a big tack…and they are usually lily white. Yet, it was something more akin to a railroad tie that crushed his hands. There would have been bruising before death. There would have been discoloration after death. The picture is mesmerizing. 

Below is a small thumbnail of the whole painting.  Landscape view.  Like peering into a coffin.  Like looking at a corpse.  Because Jesus was a corpse.  Dead as the proverbial doornail.  This picture…for me anyway…drives that point home. 


This picture haunted the famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky after he saw it in a museum.  He put his thoughts about it in the mouth of one of the characters in his novel “The Idiot”.

“A man could even lose his faith from that painting.”


When you look at the corpse of this tortured man, a particular and curious question arises: if all his disciples, his chief future apostles, if the women who followed him and stood by the cross, if all those who believed in him and worshipped him had seen a corpse like that…how could they believe, looking at such a corpse, that this sufferer would resurrect?

But that is exactly the point. They didn’t think he would resurrect. He was dead.  He was a corpse.  We’ve all peered into a coffin and looked a corpse in the face wondering where they were.  IF they were.  As in…is there life after death or is this all there is?  Even the most devout Christians wonder sometimes. That was part of the reason Jesus came and lived….and died as one of us. As the Son of Man.  He showed us that death is not the end.  Hebrews 2

14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.

Death where is your victory?  Where is your sting?

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