Jesus: The Lord of Life

Luke 24:5
by Derek Gentle

"Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" - Luke 24:5 (NAS)

Anna Pavlova was a Russian ballet superstar of the early 1900's, acclaimed as the greatest ballerina of all time. Anna was to play the role she made famous, the Dying Swan, at the Apollo Theatre in London. Tragically, she succumbed to pneumonia and died two days before the event.

Still, on the appointed night, a crowd of her fans packed the theatre. The orchestra began playing, the curtain rose, a spotlight flashed through the dark, and the entire audience rose to its feet. They all stood gazing at a pool of light wandering around the stage, accompanied by the orchestral theme. As the light danced and the orchestra played, they remembered Anna Pavlova. In their minds they could see her on stage, dressed in white with flashing dark eyes; and when the music stopped at last, they gave the vanished Anna a thunderous and long lasting ovation.

When I found this illustration, I noticed this comment from the compiler:

"An empty stage with only a spotlight, but in their hearts she was alive. For some, this is the experience of Easter."

It was obviously a fine memorial to a fabulous ballerina, but Easter is not about people merely living on in our memories. It is about a literal death and a smelly decomposition and a real body tangibly raised to physical life in real time.

In the words of John Updike, "Let us not mock God with metaphor."

Jesus is the living One. Life is intrinsic to His person, coming in Him and through Him. We see that fact in Scripture after Scripture throughout the New Testament. Tracing the theme, we see that:

1. Jesus Had Life in Eternity Past
John 1:4 describes Christ's pre-incarnate state and says, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." There was a point at which you and I were not alive; but, as God, and for all eternity past, Christ was alive and life was in Him.

2. Jesus is the Source of All Life
Preaching in Jerusalem, Peter told his listeners that they had, "Killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead" (Acts 3:15) The NIV puts it this way: "You killed the author of life." It's the same word used in Hebrews when Jesus is referred to as the "author and finisher of our faith." He is the uncreated Creator and is the author, the originator, the source of life. The very ones who crucified Him owed their very existence to Him.

3. Jesus is Life Incarnate
Jesus is life in a body. 1st John 1:1 describes the message of the Apostles, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life..." Notice the term to describe Jesus, the "Word of Life." We give our thoughts expression with words; Jesus is God expressing Himself, and He expressed Himself in real and full humanity; and as such, He expressed life in and through that humanity.

4. Jesus Came as the Authorized Dealer of Life
"For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself and has given Him authority." Some products may be sold only by an "authorized dealer." Jesus is the only authorized dealer for life. The passage goes on to say, "... for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth" (John 5:26-29). Churchill arranged his own funeral. There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. At the end of the service, a bugler high on one side of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral played Taps. Not unusual in the funeral of a member of the military or a head of state, but then, after a pause, a bugler on the other side played Reveille, the military wake-up call.

5. Jesus is Life in Person
When Jesus' friend Lazarus died, Martha came out to meet Jesus upon His arrival, "Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again.'" Martha replied impersonally with a distant hope: "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." A lot of good that does me; I miss him now! Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:23-26). Jesus tells her: Life is not off somewhere in the distant, unknowable future. I'm standing right here. I don't just do resurrections they don't just happen under the right circumstances when the wind is right I AM the resurrection and the life.

As Major Ian Thomas has said,
He had to be what he is in order to do what he did.
He had do do what he did in order that we might have what he is.
We must have what he is in order to be what he was.

6. Jesus is Life Invincible
Peter told the crowd at Pentecost, "You have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put [Jesus] to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:23-24). Notice that last phrase: "It was not possible that He should be held by it."

In Bangladesh a Baptist Church was packed as people who had never heard or seen the Gospel watched the "Jesus Film." Little children sat on the floor in the aisles and across the front of the church. Rows of people stood in the back. The story had come to the crucifixion scene. There was weeping and audible gasps were heard. As the Bengalis watched, one young boy suddenly spoke up, "Do not be afraid. He gets up again! I saw it before." Just as surely as Jesus would rise in the movie's next showing, Jesus rose the first time in history. "It was not possible that He should be held by it."

7. Jesus is the Conqueror of Death
Paul told us that in His coming to earth, Christ "Abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). The word "abolished" means that He rendered its power inoperative.

Some years ago, a 24 year old man named Steven passed away in the metropolitan New York area. He was a passable poet, photographer, guitarist, a student on the Dean's list at New York University, and a reader of science fiction. He had an intestinal infection which did not respond to medical treatment. He found an ad placed in a science-fiction magazine by the Cryonics Society of New York. This society had been founded on the premise that bodies of the "clinically dead" can be put in a deep freeze and later brought back to life when a cure was found for the disease of the deceased. Their motto is "Never say die!" Seven months before his death, Steven made out a $5 check to join the Cryonics Society. When he died, his body was drained of its body fluids, and infused with an antifreeze solution to help preserve the body tissues and placed in "cryonic suspension" in a "Crypt-Capsule," a giant bottle filled with liquid nitrogen. In that state, Steven will remain indefinitely, maintained at a cost of $200 per year, an expense paid for out of a Cryonics Trust Fund set up by Steven before his death. His mother commented that his death was easier for her to bear because there wasn't the same finality of putting someone away under the earth. When asked if she expected Steven to be raised from his Cryonic Capsule, she answered, "I have only a remote hope for my boy's resurrection."

Thanks to Jesus Christ, our hope is not remote, but a sure and certain hope. Christ has conquered death!

8. Jesus is Alive and In Charge
In Revelation 1:18, Jesus states, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." Who else can say that they were formerly dead? There are a number who can say that they were formerly married to Elizabeth Taylor, but formerly dead? Only Jesus! He has the keys and He is in charge of life.

Paul Azinger was a Christian. He and the golfer Payne Stewart were friends. It was really Paul's testimony during that cancer treatment that led Payne to Christ. Paul Azinger said the thing he said to Payne Stewart that got his attention about eternal life was this. When Paul was fighting chemotherapy and didn't know whether he was going to live or die, he had such joy and peace Payne asked, "How can you have that kind of peace?" This is what Paul Azinger said: "Payne, we aren't in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We're in the land of the dying, going to the land of the living."