The Death of Death

April 15th was a somber day (and not just for being tax day). April 15, 1865 was the day that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. – then known as Washington City. I read a fascinating book by James Swanson entitled Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis And The Death Pageant for Lincoln”s Corpse. When Lincoln died there was a tremendous reaction of grief and shock in the country. Lincoln’s body was taken by train on a long circuitous route to Springfield, IL where he was to be buried making several stops along the way so that many, many people could view his body.

The gospel calls us to reflect on death- the death of death in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross (to borrow from a book by John Owen, a Puritan author). Jesus is no mere U.S. President. Far from it, He is the sinless Son of God who rules and reigns in majesty. His death accomplished real salvation for His people. His death means death has lost its sting. For the believer, death is a door to eternity in the joy filled presence of God.

Jesus’ resurrection followed by the deliberate appearances He made to His followers shows us that our own resurrection is guaranteed. This is not merely wish fulfillment. Jesus’ resurrection is what secures our own. No wonder Paul will say in I Corinthians 15:19 that if Jesus is not raised “we are of all people most to be pitied.”

When we reflect on Jesus’ death, as we will at our Maundy Thursday Communion service, we reflect on what He suffered and WHY He suffered. He suffered sin’s penalty in our place. He became a propitiation in suffering for us God’s righteous wrath that we deserved. God, in His love, sent His Son to satisfy His own justice so that His own righteous, holy nature is maintained. The death of Jesus shows us both the seriousness of sin and the splendor of God’s mercy and grace.

Unlike the mourners of 1865, we don’t need a morbid curiosity into death. We understand that in Jesus’ death, death has died. Its grip of fear and terror over the believer in Jesus Christ is broken. In Jesus’ death we celebrate the death of death.