Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has dominion over him. So too, consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:9, 11
Death no longer has dominion over him.
The Son of God, who shared our human nature in every way except sin, is no longer subject to the kingdom of death, the kingdom which claims the power of pain and decay over everything in this fallen world.
The good news that Jesus preached can be summed up in the simple-yet-earth-shattering truth that God himself broke into this dominion of death to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God, and did what was necessary to offer us citizenship, to adopt us as sons and daughters of the one who sits on the everlasting throne.
In this fallen world, in the kingdom of death, one thing is certain: everything dies; everything wastes away; everything winds up more scarred, calloused, bruised, wrinkled, and broken than it started out. John tells us that even the ruler of the kingdom of death knows that he himself will be destroyed – and that’s the point: to bring everything to destruction rather than glory.
Christ proclaimed another Kingdom – the Kingdom where everything in this fallen world is turned on it’s head. The Kingdom where the latter state is better than the first, where, by grace, we learn to let go more of the dirt and dust, more of the pain and hurt as we mature by faith; the Kingdom where scars and callouses are healed and become signs of God’s glory working in us; the Kingdom where true justice is found not in revenge, not by making things fair, but by letting go, as the one willing offering of the innocent Lamb of God covers all the strivings and failings and best intentions of those who were subject to a twisted kingdom whose goal was death and destruction.
Death no longer has dominion over him.
So, too, consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
We know that no servant can obey two masters.
We cannot let there be light while we try to hold on to the darkness. We cannot learn to live and let ourselves be healed and allow God to make us better and better than we were when we began if we choose to decay, if we choose to heap up scars and callouses, if we choose to cling to worldly wisdom gained through a life of pain, if we choose to cling to, if we choose to value that which, at best, grows old and wrinkled, becomes swollen and inflamed, and goes down into the dust of the grave.
We cannot be subject to the kingdom of death and the Kingdom of God; by your words and actions, and all the way down to the core of your being, you will love one and hate the other; when it matters, a choice will be made.
The Good News of the empty tomb, the Good News of a whipped, beaten, mocked, pierced, and spit-upon man walking and talking with those he loves, with each scar now a glorious sign of God’s power to turn the very worst the world has to offer into life and light; the good news in all of that is that we, too, can be made subjects of that kingdom. Though we’re still within the borders of this kingdom of death, we can be granted citizenship, armed to live as rebels against the world, the flesh, and the devil – even against death itself – equipped by the Holy Spirit to simultaneously get better and worse with age: that God at work in those who are united to Christ in his death and resurrection takes whatever pain, hurt, and decay the world throws at us for our destruction and turns it into His glory, accomplishing His perfect purpose for us in spite of the failings of the flesh, preparing us for life that transforms us from glory to glory in the presence of God.
But we cannot be subject to both kingdoms. We love one and hate the other.
We can only serve one, and must rebel against the other. Each lays claim to our all.
If we trust in God some of the time; if we trust in God’s power as a last resort, only when money and willpower and science and doctors fail – don’t worry, God’s power is sufficient – if we only trust some of the time, we’ve chosen to cling to the dominion of death.
If we live a life of forgiving others, of giving second chances, and third chances, and seventh chances, and seventy times seventh chances, but hold back forgiveness from that one person who did that one thing we could never forgive – don’t worry, God’s mercy is boundless – but, if there’s something you won’t forgive, you’ve chosen to cling to the dominion of death.
If you’ll offer your time or talent or treasure or commitment to the service of the Kingdom of God, but only when it doesn’t conflict with your existing commitment of money or time or energy to things that rust and decay, to things that grow wrinkled and die, then it’s already clear where your allegiance truly lies.
My friends, we must follow Christ, who came to offer citizenship in the Kingdom of God, who came to equip us to live as rebels in this fallen world.
We must follow Him; it’s not a box of envelopes or knowing when to stand or sit or what words to say; we must follow the one who walked out of the grave because he would not be subject to it! We must follow the one who let go of worldly ambition or wealth and power because he knew it would only chain us down to a dying world. We must follow the one who let go of revenge for past wrongs, because he knows it only shackles us to the past. We must follow the one who offered it all, knowing that, in the Kingdom of God, loss is gain, mercy leads to glory, and even the grave itself is the path to victory.
This day, this glorious day proclaims that, if we cling to something that is passing away; we too will pass away. This glorious day proclaims that if we cling to pain or hurt or wrong inflicted to us, we will live and die in that pain. But… if we cling to the one who overcame death and the grave, if we cling to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God, a kingdom where all things, even death on a cross, work together for the good of those who belong to the Author of Life itself, then, my friends, death no longer has dominion over us, either. We, too, can go through life knowing that even scars proclaim his glory, and even after this failing dominion of death does it’s worse, we too will rise from the tomb to live in the presence of God forevermore.
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!