Summary: We can face death with confidence because Christ faced it for us and arose victorious.
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
What Happens When A Persons Dies?
Why We Don’t Fear Death
Fear is a natural response to death. It was then. It is now.
Those first Christians had every reason to be afraid on that first Easter morning. It had started very early Friday morning. Armed guards arrested Jesus and hauled him off before a kangaroo court. Who would be next? Before sunrise, he had been beaten, abused, tried and sentenced. By nine o’clock, rough Roman soldiers were nailing him to a cross. His disciples couldn’t believe their eyes.
For six long hours they stood in horror and watched. The grief was off the charts. Fear was close behind. If this could happen to Jesus, what would happen to them. At three o’clock, Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished.” He was dead. They were afraid.
His friends claimed his body and hurriedly placed it in a borrowed tomb. Because of the Jewish Sabbath, they didn’t have the time to provide a proper burial. They would come back and take care of that later. They stood at the grave side and wept in fear.
We’ve all been there, done that. Graves are scary places. We stand there holding back the tears and all the time asking ourselves, “What next? Where do we go now? What will life be like without him.” The disciples felt all of that and more!
The disciples weren’t the only ones afraid. The authorities, so bold and arrogant, in the hours before were still fearful that they weren’t done with Jesus. They rolled a large stone over the tomb and sealed it tight. Sentries were posted to stand guard all night just in case. I can only imagine what went through those men’s minds that night. No one wants to spend a night in a grave yard. Not even battle-hardened soldiers.
They had reason to fear. Before the night was over, the God of heaven acted. The earth shook. The stone moved. A bright light flashed across the night sky. These terrestrial warriors were no match for the heavenly variety that appeared to herald the biggest news in the universe. Jesus would live again. Death was defeated!
All of this was still untold news when the women made their way to the tomb on Sunday morning. All they wanted to do was finish their unfinished business of burial. They approached in fear. What if they couldn’t get in? What if the soldiers wouldn’t move the stone for them? What if they wouldn’t even let them near? They needn’t have worried.
At the empty tomb, an angel announces, “Why do you look for the Lord among the dead? He is not here. He has arisen! Fear not!” Later that day, Jesus would repeat those same words, “Fear
not!” To his disciples still huddled in fear, Jesus announces his presence and declares the words we all want to hear in the face of death, “Fear not.”
That is the message of Easter. “Fear not.” If our Lord can conquer death, he can conquer any problem we will ever face. Once the fear of death is gone, we are set free to really live. That’s the message of our text (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus has set us free from the fear of death.
We do fear death. It is a natural part of life. None of us are immune from its bondage. Most of us know the Jungle Book from the Disney version. In Rudyard Kipling’s original, Mowgli, the small boy raised in the jungle, asks the animals what’s the most feared thing in the jungle. He’s told that when two animals meet on a narrow path that one must step aside and let the other pass. The animal that steps aside for no one would then be the most feared. Mowgli wants to know what kind of animal would that be? One tells him it’s an elephant. Another tells him it’s a lion. Finally the wise old owl exclaims, “The most feared thing in the jungle is death. It steps aside for no one.”
Most of would agree with actor and director Woody Allen who said, “I am not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
Remember the old story of the three guys at the coffee shop. They had been to a funeral of a friend. Their conversation turned to their own eventual funerals. One asked his friends, "What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?" One responded, "I’d like them to say—“He was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community." The friend who initiated the conversation replied, "I’d like them to say—“He was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow.’" They nodded in agreement and looked to the third buddy who’d been silent. Without hesitation he concluded, "I’d like them to say –“Look, he’s moving!"