Do you know what the 10 greatest fears are:
- FEAR OF FLYING
- FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
- FEAR OF HEIGHTS
- FEAR OF THE DARK
- FEAR OF INTIMACY
- FEAR OF DEATH
- FEAR OF FAILURE
- FEAR OF REJECTION
- FEAR OF SPIDERS
- FEAR OF COMMITMENT
I was rather surprised to see that fear of spiders was so low down the list at number 9. But I was even more surprised to see that death is actually number 6 in the list of fears. To think that people are more afraid to fly, or speak in public than dying is really interesting. Perhaps we need to make a distinction between death and dying. As a living human being I am afraid of dying. I don’t do things that are risky to my life. I don’t run across the street with busy traffic. I take care when I’m driving so as not to have an accident. I avoid things that could put my life in danger. I try to live a healthy life. But as a Christian I’m not afraid of death. As a Christian, because of Jesus rising from the dead on the first Easter morning I know that I too, when I die, will rise to eternal life. And that’s what the Christian faith is all about.
The Christian faith is not an organisation created to maintain moral behaviour. It’s not an organisation created to provide welfare and charity to the poor and needy. It’s not an institution created to perform baptisms, marriages and funerals. While the church may perform some of these functions, the church has one mission and one mission only. To proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that assures people that death is not the end of life but beginning of new life in heaven with God. And that assurance can only come because Jesus died on Good Friday to pay for our sins that caused our death but then rose from the grave to defeat death and live in heaven. And that’s why I don’t fear death because I know with certainty that I will rise from the dead to new life. And not just any life – eternal life – living forever. Easter Sunday achieves what nothing else in the world can.
Medicine has increased its knowledge amazingly that it is finding cures for things that used to be incurable giving hope where there was no hope at all. Health consciousness and advances in hygiene has seen the average age reach much larger numbers. Aged Care has seen people cared for enabling them to live longer. Palliative care has enabled people to live longer and in more comfort. But despite all these advances, death is still the inevitable end for all people. But Jesus too makes a distinction between earthly death and Christian death. When Mary and Martha grieve the death of their brother Lazarus he brings them comfort by his resurrection from death, even though it hasn’t happened yet. He says: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Likewise in John 3:16 Jesus doesn’t say that we will not die but he says that death is not the end but the beginning of new life – eternal life. He says: whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus makes a distinction between death, which we all will face, and perishing, where there is nothing after death. Likewise in the Book of Hebrews it makes that same claim: It says: people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday is the reason we call ourselves Christian. The word “Christian” has so much baggage that doesn’t belong. When you say that you are a Christian to someone, all sorts of thoughts go through a person’s head. But what makes us Christian is that we believe that Jesus died for our sins and he was raised to give us assurance that when we die we too will rise to live in heaven. That is the Good News we have been sent to proclaim – that is the only News we have been sent to proclaim.
And Jesus says: this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. So Jesus is not going to return until everyone has had an opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. In a world that is inundated with bad news wherever we look – in sport, in politics, in world events – how refreshing to be reminded again of the Good News of Jesus resurrection to give us eternal life in heaven. In a world that is so divided by anger, crime, war, terrorism, racism and sexism – and whatever other ISM you can think of, how glorious to hear again the love of God that rejects all division. As Jesus declared that God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but receive eternal life.
We live in a world where fear strikes so often. We fear when the next war will break out. We fear when the next terrorist attack will happen. We fear if our house will be the next home invasion. But the one fear that we do not have, because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, is the fear of death. Because just as God raised Jesus from the dead so too he will raise you from the dead to live a new life in heaven.
May God bless you as you celebrate again today the Good News of our Saviours resurrection and take the Gospel message to the world that Christ is Risen – he has risen indeed.