When I was working on my Easter sermon, I ran across the story that Leo Tolstoy wrote about his rather sudden experience of coming to believe in Christ. His story ends with these wonderful words: “Suddenly I heard the words of Christ and understood them, and life and death ceased to seem evil, and instead of despair I experienced happiness and the joy of life undisturbed by death.” The gift of the resurrection is the gift of “life undisturbed by death.”
Many philosophers and depth psychologists over the years have understood that a deep fear of death is pervasive in humankind, and they have understood that it is that fear which fuels the great destructiveness that we engage in–individually and corporately. The fear that we will cease to be, accompanied by massive denial of such fear, fuel the flames of pride and greed and all the evil that flows from those most basic diseases of the soul. The unconscious mind says, “If I grab onto all I can, just maybe I will not die. Someone else may die, but I will not die.” We want to be winners at what we perceive to be the game of life, and, as the saying goes, “He, or she, who dies with the most toys wins.” He, or she, who dies on the top of the heap wins. We see the results in the news every day–from the string of investors who have defrauded clients of billions of dollars to the unknown man who murders his girlfriend rather than facing the emptiness and humiliation of living without her after she decides to end the relationship. Loss feels like death. We cannot bear the pain of loss when we believe deep inside that life will ultimately end in nothingness. That belief leads to despair, and despair drives human beings into the hands of death–the hands of the enemy. Death is the enemy. Resurrection is the victory. Resurrection is the gift of “life undisturbed by death.” And only God can give it to us.
Living a “life undisturbed by death” empowers us to do things we wouldn’t do if we were depending only on our own resources. Living a life undisturbed by death frees us to reach out in love–to give a bit (or even a lot) more sacrificially–to be instruments of compassion and peace and justice and reconciliation.
Experiencing the resurrection is our pathway to believing in the resurrection–to knowing that resurrection is a deep truth in our lives. God has set this process in motion in Christ Jesus, and God calls us to continue the process–to be vehicles of resurrection power. God introduced something new into creation that first Easter. We discover the truth of that new thing as we commit to live it. Ever more deeply and completely, our lives can become the evidence to the world of the truth of the resurrection.