Today has me reflecting again on the events and meaning of Good Friday. This year is particularly reflective for my family as it was Good Friday one year ago that my Grandmother, Judy Bruce, went to meet her Savior. (Incidentally, she died at almost exactly 3 in the afternoon, the same time Jesus may have died).
So as I was thinking about Jesus’ death and my Granny’s, I started thinking about death in general. And I started thinking about what it means that death is defeated. I was reminded of a story that Max Lucado wrote about in his book Six Hours One Friday.
It helped me get a picture of what Jesus did and I thought it might help you too.
“There is a story told in Brazil about a missionary who discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was friendly and in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population and people were dying daily. An infirmary was located in another part of the jungle and the missionary determined that the only hope for the tribe was to go to the hospital for treatment and inoculations. In order to reach the hospital, however, the Indians would have to cross the river – a feat they were unwilling to perform. The river, they believed, was inhabited by evil spirits. To enter the water meant certain death. The missionary set about the difficult task of overcoming the superstition of the tribe.
He explained how he had crossed the river and arrived unharmed. No luck. He led the people to the bank and placed his hand in the water. The people still wouldn’t believe him. He walked out into the river and splashed water on his face. The people watched closely, yet were still hesitant. Finally he turned and dove into the water. He swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. Having proven that the power of the river was a farce, the missionary punched a triumphant fist into the air. He had entered the water and escaped. The Indians broke into cheers and followed him across.
Jesus saw people enslaved by their fear of a cheap power. He explained that the river of death was nothing to fear. The people wouldn’t believe him. He touched a boy and called him back to life. The followers were still unconvinced. He whispered life into the dead body of a girl. The people were still cynical. He let a dead man spend four days in a grave and then called him out. Is that enough? Apparently not. For it was necessary for him to enter the river, to submerge himself in the water of death before people would believe that death had been conquered. But after he did, after he came out on the other side of death’s river, it was time to sing… time to celebrate” (Lucado, Six Hours One Friday, 155-156).
“Death be not proud,” wrote John Donne. Indeed!
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