Benjamin Franklin was the first person noted to have made the observation that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Leaving the discussion of the second certainty to the accountancy experts, allow me to take a few moments to speak about the first.
Regardless of how strenuously we may deny it, we are all moving on the same conveyer belt toward it, some ahead of us, some behind us, but all moving toward death —inevitably.
In his landmark Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, anthropologist, Ernest Becker, argued that human beings have developed elaborate psychological defence mechanisms to guard against the reality of death. Along similar lines, the great theologian, Paul Tillich, asserted that the fear of death, what he called existential anxiety, flows constantly beneath the surface of human life.
Tillich wasn’t the first to make this point. Before him, philosopher Martin Heidegger said that human beings are beings “unto death” who have been "thrown into” the world to struggle and contend with their mortality. Back in the late 1960's, the Doors wrote a song embodying this idea titled, Riders on the Storm.
The sight of a dead body has a way of bringing the stark reality of our mortality into sharp focus, so when Jesus died on that fateful Friday more than 2,000 years ago, all of those closest to him assumed that was it — end of story. But when the two Mary’s entered the tomb two days later to prepare Jesus’ body for its final resting place, (Matthew 28:1-10) something got in the way. And what got in the way was the power and love of God.
When the two women fled from the empty tomb in terror and amazement on that first Easter morning, they encountered the risen Christ, who told them “Do not be afraid.”
The same word he spoke to them, he speaks to us. Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid because Christ was raised and Christ was raised for you.
Humanity put Jesus to death. God resurrected him. Through the cross of Christ, death will not have the final say. So the fear of death need not define our lives.
Now, that is something to really think about on this Easter Sunday.