The fear of death causes people to do many things; some stock up on survival supplies, others stockpile weapons. Some accumulate things that make them feel alive like cars, boats, clothing or jewelry, or they might do things that give them a thrill like gambling, risk taking or adventure seeking. Substance abuse can keep people from thinking about death, and we can always find something to entertain us and keep us in denial about our eventual destination. Frequently, a significant portion of our disposable income is spent on activities that have at their root, the fear of death, but is this the way God intends for us to live?
Can we really call it abundant life if life consists of expending large amounts of money and effort trying to avoid death?
The author of Hebrews wrote that through death, Jesus would free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)
This is one of the most significant things that following Jesus makes possible.
Jesus makes it possible to live without the fear of death.
Can we even imagine that? How different would our lives be if we had no fear of death? If we could reassign all the money and activities we do that are driven by the fear of death, what would we do? What would our lives look like? I dare say that we might not even recognize ourselves!
Our example in this, of course, is Jesus. He lived his life with no fear of death.
When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23
Jesus was able to live without fear of death because he knew the power of resurrection. The Gospel of John contains the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus often healed people before they died, but in this case he allowed Lazarus to die, and he waited until Lazarus had been dead four days before doing this miracle. Jesus didn’t keep Lazarus on life support for four days. He let him die.
But physical death is not the only kind of death that we can live in fear of. We can also live in fear of the death of things. We might fear the death of a career, or the death of an important relationship, or we may fear the loss of an important possession such as a home or business. When we fear the death or loss of things, we can become manipulative, greedy, and self-centered – all things that are very un-Christ like - all things that reveal a fear of the death of those things.
Just as Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, there are times when we should allow things to die in our lives. Sometimes we expend enormous amounts of effort to keep a career or a relationship alive and on life support when it would be better to let it die. We have to be discerning here. We shouldn’t go around burning bridges on purpose, but just as Jesus healed some and allowed others to die, we should not fear the death of a job or a relationship - because we believe in resurrection.
When Jesus died, from the perspective of his disciples, their relationship with Jesus died with him. As far as they could see, Jesus was dead and all their hopes and dreams that involved him died with him. Three days later though that all changed! The relationships that they thought were dead and gone were resurrected.
Have you ever noticed that when people that Jesus had been close to before he died encountered him after his resurrection, often they didn’t recognize him. The resurrected relationship looked different than before. We can expect something similar to happen when we stop living in slavery to the fear of death. Some things may die, but the power of resurrection does more than just bring things back to the way they were. It is transformative. Resurrection makes things better than before.
The disciples struggled to adapt to this new, resurrected relationship with Jesus. Some of them doubted, some of them ran away, but eventually they embraced their resurrected relationship with Jesus. We can expect the same dynamic to play out in our resurrected careers and relationships.
I’ve been through several career changes in my life and they all felt like a death when I was in the middle of them, but each time a resurrection followed. I’ve learned not to fear things like this, because Lazarus is rising.
I’ve lost some relationships that were dear to me. Some have been restored and are better than before, and I’ve made many new relationships, because Lazarus is rising.
How about you? Will you follow Jesus in this? Are you ready for Jesus to free you from the fear of death? Lazarus is rising.