perish, but have everlasting life." (KJV) But, how often do we hear, "the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, he existing in torments..." (Luke 16:23-24 NWT)? Or, "woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24, NIV)?
We inscribe bronze plaques with, "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25 KJV) But we leave these other words of Jesus buried in the back pages of our Bible: "I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds." (Revelation 2:21-23 NIV)
The apostle Paul did not water down the Gospel, but faithfully preached the whole message of Christ, even if his audience found the hard part of that message distasteful: "Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'"—Acts 24:24-25, NIV
Unlike Felix, who did not want to hear this aspect of the Gospel message, we ought to read and digest the whole story, the complete message of Christ, the harsh words along with the gentle, the bitter along with the sweet. Jesus spoke often about death and dying. While words referring to life or living or being alive occur roughly 150 times in the Gospels, words that speak of the dead, death or dying appear more than 100 times. Christ's emphasis may have been on life, but a substantial portion of his message dealt with death.
Such a statistical analysis, however, is somewhat misleading. Why? Because of the very unusual context surrounding Jesus' references to life. A closer
look reveals that most of those references speak of life after death: people coming to life, gaining life, receiving eternal life.
So, Christ's frequent mention of death did not impart a morbid, negative tone to his message. To the contrary, his message was a gospel message, meaning good news—the good news of life triumphing over death.
And, besides vigorously preaching this message, Jesus actually demonstrated what he was talking about. He added credibility to the otherwise unbelievable by raising up the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus who had just died (Mark 5:22-43, Luke 8:41-56), by stopping the pallbearers at a young man's funeral and commanding the corpse to live again (Luke 7:11-15), and then by summoning Lazarus from the tomb after he had been dead and buried four days. (John 11:1-45)
As if that were not enough, Jesus allowed himself to be publicly executed, certified dead by the Roman authorities, and buried in a sealed tomb guarded by soldiers—only to rise from the grave on the third day and show himself alive in private and public appearances to hundreds of people, finally ascending heavenward before the eyes of assembled witnesses.
What a cause for joy!—especially since he had recently promised those same witnesses, "I am going there to prepare a place for you," and, "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:2-3 NIV) Not just those eye-witnesses, but also all "those putting faith in me through their word" would end up "where I am...with me, in order to behold my glory." (John 17:20-24 NWT)
Who would not want to embrace that wonderful hope? Yet, strange as it may seem, some have reacted with hostility to Christ's words and deeds.
Many of the mourners who saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead responded by putting faith in Christ. "But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done." (John 11:46 KJV) Unbelievably, those religious leaders saw the whole incident as a threat to their position of power and influence. They sought to squelch the message Christ preached, ultimately by