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DHD: Regarding death

Greetings!

Today is Good Friday. Ever wondered why it’s called “Good Friday”? Some have said “Good” refers to God, or it could be synonymous with an older meaning that would refer to “Holy.”

For Christians, though, Good Friday is the day that reflects on the Good that is to come.

This is the day that commemorates when Jesus died on the cross. With His death, we also know He conquered death for us (Rom. 5:8, 1 Pet. 3:18).

So how should we consider death from this perspective? This week’s DHD will give some thoughts that relate to a current situation regarding death but also relate to the occasion involving Good Friday.

  1. COVID-19 deaths

Every day, I receive an emailed report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health of the numbers relating to those affected by COVID-19. Before this pandemic, I confess that I did not care that much to get these reports, but now my curiosity is always up around 11:30 a.m. every day.

Yes, I’m curious how many new positive cases there are in the state and how many people are hospitalized. And there’s a lot more intriguing information provided in OSDH’s daily report. However, the number I focus on first is how many deaths. Obviously, these people and their families suffer the hardest.

I always want to be careful when I have an inclination of the report giving a lower number than usual.  For example, Thursday’s report this week said there was only one death occurring that day. A natural response could be “Hey, only one death today!” But that one death could represent many family members grieving.

It’s also amazing to think that just as this COVID-19 is causing death here in Oklahoma, the disease is taking many lives all around the world.

How does this relate to Good Friday? Well, just as on that day nearly 2,000 years ago, one death outside Jerusalem not only affected many people at that time, it also affected people who demonstrated faith long before Christ’s death and resurrection, and all through time that followed to even affect people yet to be born.

COVID-19 may be a powerful virus that can affect people all over the world, but there’s a God who is much more powerful. He demonstrated His power through His Son Jesus Christ who lived here on earth, died, was buried and rose again on the third day.

  1. Christ the Victor over the virus

One of my favorite people, especially one of the best Bible teachers I personally know, wrote a great perspective of Christ, His death and the victory over sin and death. Bobby Kelly, Bible professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, wrote for this week’s print edition of the Baptist Messenger, “Christ the victor over the virus.”

This is an excellent piece of relating our current pandemic to what Jesus did for mankind on the Cross.

“We don’t need a cotton swab up the nostrils to tell us what we already know,” Kelly wrote. “We are sick and infected. Human beings have devised a multitude of painkillers to deaden the pain of our brokenness—chicken soup for the soul we might say. At the end of it all, however, we remain spiritually broken and sick.”

Then, Dr. Kelly concluded:

“Thanks be to God for Good Friday! But without Easter Sunday, disease and death have the last word. If He bore our ‘sin-sickness’ and guilt to the point of death but did not come back to life, then sin and death have the victory. It was the resurrected Lord, evidenced by the empty tomb, that declares disease and death have been defeated once and for all. His healing and resurrection guarantee ours.”

  1. More from Dr. Kelly

Dr. Kelly wasn’t finished for the week. Along with having a great article published, he added a great post on Facebook, regarding the 75th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Today (Thursday, April 9) marks the 75th anniversary of the hanging of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the extermination camp at Flossenbürg,” Kelly wrote. “He was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who became involved in the resistance against the Nazis. His last words:

“’This is the end—for me, the beginning of life.’

“A camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s hanging described the scene: ‘The prisoners … were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued in a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.’”

This is why Christians view death differently. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can boldly face death, even in horrible conditions, just like Bonhoeffer.

  1. ‘…to die is gain.’

A popular verse that properly reflects how a Christian can view death is Phil. 1:21. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Commentary from the Life Application Bible elaborates so well on this verse:

“To those who don’t believe in God, life on earth is all there is, and so it is natural for them to strive for this world’s values: money, popularity, power, pleasure and prestige. For Paul, however, to live meant to develop eternal values and to tell others about Christ, who alone could help them see life from an eternal perspective. Paul’s whole purpose in life was to speak out boldly for Christ and to become more like Him. Thus, Paul could confidently say that dying would be even better than living, because in death he would be removed from worldly troubles, and he would see Christ face to face (1 John 3:2-3). If you’re not ready to die, then you’re not ready to live. Make certain of your eternal destiny; then you will be free to serve—devoting your life to what really counts, without fear of death.”

My favorite line from this is, “If you’re not ready to die, then you’re not ready to live.”

  1. Where is Death’s Sting? (1 Cor. 15:55)

As I have shared in previous DHDs, my daily devotions this year is from “Experiencing God Day By Day.” Once again, today’s passage was quite powerful, titled “Where is Death’s Sting?”

“Over the centuries, death has been our relentless and unyielding enemy. No one, regardless of worldly rank, strength or wealth has been able to escape death.”

The passage goes on to explain how Christ claimed victory over death and Christians need not fear death.

“Do not allow a fear of death to prevent you from experiencing a full and abundant life.”

  1. A great explainer of Christ’s victory over death

I conclude with sharing a great article by Casey Hough, which is titled “5 reasons for the fear-destroying death of Christ.”

“In conclusion,” Hough wrote, “as the founder of our salvation, Jesus is perfectly equipped to sympathize with us in our struggles, free us from fear of death, and empower us in the midst of our temptation. There is no one else to whom we can flee for salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our hope.”

If you have questions or want to discuss today’s DHD about death and Christ’s victory over it, you are welcome to contact me at cdoyle@oklahomabaptists.org

Have a Good Good Friday!

 

Chris Doyle

Author: Chris Doyle

Chris Doyle is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Chris Doyle.

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