Tragedy and the Hope Explicit in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The world is not a novice at observing tragedy.  Ironically, human beings have not become inoculated or insensitive to tragedy despite our many dealings with it.  People respond to tragedies that impact people with whom they have no acquaintance, tragedies that effect those on the other side of the earth. 

America is no novice either.  In fact, some would argue that it is tragedy and America’s response to it that has defined the nation throughout the course of its history.  Americans have known their fair share of wars, infanticide (though this is largely swept under the proverbial rug), and weather calamities.  More recently, we have felt the anguish of Columbine, 9/11, Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings.  And within the first ten days of this month, tragedy has fallen twice more – in Binghamton, NY, Jiverly Wong walked into the American Civic Association and shot and killed 14 people, including himself.  And yesterday, 22 year old Nick Adenhart, a pitcher for the L.A. Angels was killed in an early morning car accident (along with two others) when an intoxicated man sped through a red light at an intersection.

This is tragic.  There is no downplaying such tragedy.  But, I think perhaps, that the responses of unbelieving people to such tragedy – in particular to death – is more tragic, for it evidences the deadness of one’s soul.  In response to the Binghamton shootings, Vice President Biden stated, “We have got to figure out a way to deal with this senseless, senseless violence.”  Implication – we don’t know how to deal with it; we have no place to turn, no refuge, no hope.  In response to the death of Adenhart, Mike and Mike’s Mike Golic said, “There’s not a book that tells us how to deal with it,” (paraphrased).  Golic is a professing Catholic.  These are tragic responses to tragedy and the death that accompanies it.  No direction and utter hopelessness.  When death is the cessation of true life, indeed, thought to be one’s only life, then one’s grip upon this life is truly seen, the loss of which is enough to sour the soul beyond description.  Revealed therein is the depravity of man’s knowledge of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There is a book that teaches us how to deal with and think about death.  There is a God who offers Himself as a refuge.  The full range of human emotions are not foreign to the Bible.  They were not foreign to Jesus Christ.  At the occasion of Lazarus’ death in John 11, Jesus wept with anguish.  But His angered weeping was not that Lazarus had died, but that death was a reality, the consequence of the principle of another reality, namely, sin, and that the people responded to Him in unbelief, and therefore, they had unbelieving understandings of death.

Jesus taught that God was not a God of the dead but of the living, Matthew 22:32.  Jesus taught that the dead will be raised upon hearing His voice, the good to the resurrection of life and the evil to the resurrection of judgment, and of course, he qualifies “the good from the evil” by saying contextually, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).  For this reason Paul could write, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” which he explains saying,  “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better,Philippians 1:21, 23. 

In Christ there is life, John 5:26.  Jesus is Sovereign over the gift of it, John 5:21.  Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, John 11:25.  Jesus lived the life of perfect obedience to God the Father, Romans 8:1-4.  Jesus died on His cross in the place of sinners whose wages is death, Romans 5:6, 6:23.  Jesus became sin for us on that cross, 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Jesus, being sinless and thus not capable of being held by death, was raised bodily from the dead, Acts 2:24-36.  Jesus is, therefore, the “firstborn from the dead”, the beginning of the new creation, Colossians 1:18.  Jesus, then, is the basis of the resurrection unto everlasting life, 1 Corinthians 15:42-57

In Jesus, the following is fulfilled:

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine will refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all the nations.  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation,'” Isaiah 25:6-9.

Paul well writes “of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27). 

Dear friends who may well be unbelieving in this hour, let tragedy turn you to God’s Word for answers; yes, there is a time to mourn over the death of loved ones and the terrible circumstances of life; but there is an infinitely greater tragedy than death – it is that fraction of a second later when you stand before Jesus having never embraced Him as both Lord and Christ, and you discover quite quickly that the greater tragedy is an eternal life lived apart from the glory of God in judgment and the unquenchable fires of hell. 

But it need not be so!  There is a refuge!  God has swallowed up death in His Son Jesus Christ!  And thus, you must put on Christ Jesus!  (That is) you must repent of your lifestyle of sin and embrace all that Christ is, all of His perfections on your account, all of Him, and God will save you.  He will place you in Christ, and Christ in you such that Jesus will be to you “the hope of glory.”  Once again, Jesus was delivered up for trespasses and raised for justification, Romans 4:25.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is His validation before God as the sinless Savior, and thus, His exclusive exercise of salvation for those who trust in Him. 

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, “let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”  Let us celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.  Let us embrace, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Let us not live as those without hope, but as those who having a living hope, indeed, a certain hope of glory.  Let us be awakened from slumber – the resurrection of Christ, and our certain anchor in Him for everlasting life bids us, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  By the resurrection of Christ be encouraged by Paul’s words, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’  Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.  For some have no knowledge of God.  I say this to your shame,” (1 Corinthians 15:32-34). 

In the midst of tragedy there is hope, and His name is Jesus Christ.  Mr. Biden, Jesus is the Way that you deem undiscovered.  Mr. Golic, Jesus is the Word that teaches us how to deal with death and tragedy.  America, flee to Christ to find life and hope, lest you love hopelessness.  Beloved, celebrate the cross and the resurrection of Christ Jesus, for this is our certain hope, God’s power in the midst of every suffering.  By our witness, may the world so acquainted with tragedy, become savingly acquainted with Jesus – the Resurrection and the Life.  Amen.

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