Year after year as we celebrate Easter we are reminded that Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought us eternal life. If we are not careful the constant use of the words “eternal life” can become overly familiar and transformed into a mere cliché.
What can bring us back to the real meaning of eternal life is to experience the death of a loved one.
Eternal life is not a cliché to my brother, Jay, who passed from this physical life last Friday morning at age 83. Although suffering for more than a year with a weakened heart and the constant pain of an inoperable broken hip, he died in a supremely restful state, surrounded by his wife and three adult children.
My brother fully embraced the promise of Jesus, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; without being brought to judgment he has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24 JB)
Over the last several years God blessed my brother and me by leading us to become brothers in Christ as well as brothers by blood. Because of a five year difference in age, we were not necessarily close when growing up together. We were also different in a number of ways. He was athletic, lettering in three sports in high school. My interests involved music and debate. He was good at math and became an engineer. My favorite courses were history and English, and I became a lawyer.
As we moved into adult life we competed indirectly, he working for Exxon and I for Mobil, but God had a longer term plan. Ironically, our two companies merged into ExxonMobil and we became retirees of the same company. In the same way, God drew each of us into a closer relationship with his presence, and thereby into a closer relationship with one another.
When someone close to you dies, a little bit of your life dies as well. But because of God’s promise of eternal life and the resurrection, we can expect full restoration of what has been lost.
While my brother’s body no longer lives, his love for his wife, children and grandchildren continues. His love for the men in his Bible study and fellowship lives on. His good works for God’s kingdom will accompany him into the resurrection, according to Anglican Biblical scholar, N. T. Wright.
God created all living matter with an instinct to live and not die. For only his human creation, did he join its physical nature with a spirit and soul capable of life beyond the death of the physical nature. As the Psalmist says, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13)
Rest well, my brother. For God loved you so much that he gave you his only Son, that as you believed in him, you have not perished, but will live forever. (John 3:16)