Cheating death

Caravaggio, Thomas and the Risen Christ

Caravaggio, Thomas and the Risen Christ

The disciple famously known as “Doubting Thomas” should probably be renamed “Rational Thomas,” or maybe “My-momma- didn’t-raise- no-fools” Thomas. When the other disciples report that Jesus is alive, Thomas thinks they’ve lost their marbles.

If you read the Gospel account of the post-crucifixion hours, it’s obvious that Thomas is in good company. Everyone was caught off guard by Jesus’ resurrection. Not one of the disciples, not one of the women, not even Jesus’ own mother was expecting to see Jesus up and walking around again. They were in mourning. They were in hiding. They were heartbroken. They were not looking for a miracle.

After the Sabbath, very early in the morning, some of the women had gone to the grave to properly clean and wrap Jesus’ body for permanent burial. There had been no time to complete this ritual after his death.

They went expecting to find a cold, stiff, blood-caked corpse. Instead, they found an empty tomb, and two angels patiently waiting to relay a message:

“Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead! Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?” —Luke 24:5b-7, NLT

Peter and John didn’t believe it, and they were perhaps the most clued-in of the disciples. When they heard the news of the empty tomb, they ran as fast as they could to see for themselves. John arrived first:

He stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side. Then the other disciple also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead. Then they went home. —John 20:5-10, NLT

Thomas finally got his chance to play scientist, and his doubts were erased.

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.” —John 20:26-29, NLT

Without the resurrection, Christianity is simply one of many interesting metaphysical belief systems. With the resurrection, Christianity is something marvelous.

Or off-kilter. Intelligent adults believing in the resurrection and restoration of the dead? It’s probably easier to believe in Leprechauns.

Death was never part of God’s plan. Satan smashed through the gates and seeded creation with death—it was intended to be a lasting symbol of his rebellion, an insult and a challenge. God bided his time, then took back his creation by sending his own Son into the heart of enemy territory. I imagine that Satan was somewhat chagrined.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. —Hebrews 2:14,15, NLT

The resurrection of Jesus shattered the only power Satan has: fear. Fear of mortality, fear of non-existence, fear of eternal darkness.

Jesus’ tomb was cold and dark, but God rolled away the stone and flooded the interior with the golden light of dawn. God lifted his Son from the niche where they’d laid his body and breathed new life into his lungs. Jesus walked out unassisted, through the same entrance they’d carried him through three days earlier.

If the resurrection really happened, it is proof that life doesn’t end with death, that God is more powerful than Satan, that when we close our eyes here, we will open them again in the presence of God.

Doubt about the resurrection is common enough. Even the disciples had their doubts. But after setting aside those doubts, John wrote these words, a message from them to us:

Jesus disciples saw him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life. —John 20:30,31, NLT

On Easter, we peek into the empty tomb over Peter’s shoulder. We set aside our doubts and fears. We embrace the risen Christ and discover life and hope in those wounds that were healed.

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  1. Open!

    Doubt padlocked one door and

    Memory put her back to the other.

    Still the damp draught seeped in

    though Fear chinked all the cracks and

    Blindness boarded up the window.

    In the darkeness that was left

    Defeat crouched in his cold corner.

    Then Jesus came

    (all the doors being shut)

    and stood among them.

    by Luci Shaw in “The Risk of Birth” 1974, Harold Shaw Publishers

    This poem speaks of my Thomas-heart!

  2. I’ve seen numerous Easter essays. This may well be the best. Peace.

  3. BTW, I’ll be mentioning your post on my blog tonight or tomorrow morning. Peace.

  4. is there really a way to cheat death?

    some say that it is some thing that is just going to happen some day maybe soon maybe 30 years from now but it will happen.. Death to some is scary to others it is a prayer in the back of their minds but … CAN you cheat death??? that is the question ,,, if you think that i am nuts oh well .. i just wanted to see if there was an answer 🙂 sorry if this is an inconvienience to you or to whome ever it may concern ..

    sorry about this if it seems odd.


  5. Your question doesn’t seem odd or crazy, not at all. We’d all like to cheat death, and all of us will have to face death sooner or later, and not necessarily when we’re ready!

    When I spoke about cheating death, I was talking first of all about Jesus. He died, but his disciples write that he came back to life.

    During Jesus’ ministry, he himself raised at least 2 people from the dead. One was a young girl who had just died from a sudden illness, the other was a middle-aged man named Lazarus who had been buried for 4 days.

    So, Jesus had the power to cheat death. And Jesus promised that anyone who puts his or her faith in him, and follows his teachings, will also cheat death. But not in precisely the same way.

    The Bible says that we’ll all die, but that at a future time Jesus will restore all of the dead to life, and those who have put their faith in Christ will be given new bodies and will live forever with him in heaven.

    You may already know these things — I couldn’t tell from your questions. What Christians usually say is that because Jesus rose from the dead, we have a “living hope” that he has destroyed the power of death and will raise us from the grave someday, too.

    Hope this helps clear things up.

  6. Between, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 there is no doubt in my mind or heart, concerning my death. In fact the death of anyone I know who has put their faith in Jesus Christ. Every time the Bible mentions a person of faith that dies in the New Testament Books, it is referred to as “falling asleep.” No limbo like a pagans thinks, there is no waiting place. At death the believer in Jesus goes to the same place a believer goes at the resurrection, which Paul describes in the verses above. Every person that has placed their faith in Christ Jesus since his atoning death on the cross, including those living and those that have fallen asleep, will pass from the moment of death to the resurrection. In a moment of time. The thief on the cross next to Jesus, Mary His mother, the Apostles, every person who has passed, and every person living who is caught up at the resurrection at the end of this age will sense no passing of time. We shall all arrive within a moment of each other to meet the Lord in the air. This is the first resurrection. What a wonderful hope. Time is part of the creation. In the presence of God there is no time, He simply does exist. Life here is just the waiting room, the locker room preparation before the real purpose of our existence. To die to night would wonderful for the person that believes in Jesus as the Son of God. The sadness is for those left behind, and must wait until they are reunited at their appointed time. So, as Paul says, “encourage each other with these truths!”

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