I am the resurrection
By Ken Shigematsu
My last words to my father, in what would prove to be his final lucid moments before he died, were simply “I love you” (aishite imasu). But his last words were “I am happy” (ureshii desu).
Easter means that death, whether it’s our own or the passing of a loved one, is an occasion for profound sadness, but also deep gratitude-even a time when we can say, “I am happy.”
In John 11, Jesus received news that his friend Lazarus was very sick. When he finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already died. Jesus said to Martha, “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. Do you believe this’?” (w.25-26) .
.Jesus approached the tomb and said, “Lazarus, come out!” (v. 43). And Lazarns came out in his grave clothes. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was a glimpse of something else that was to come.
Jesus was nailed to the cross, absorbing our sins so that we could be forgiven and made clean in God’s sight. And on that first Easter morning, God raised Jesus from the dead, conquering death. This is why the apostle Paul could say, “Where, 0 death, is your victory? Where, 0 death, is your sting?” (1 Cor.15:55).
The poet George Herbert wrote, “Thy curse being laid on him, makes thee accursed …. Spare not, do thy worst. I shall be one day better than before.” Herbert is saying to death that death’s curse has been laid on Christ-our sins and the judgment for those sins, including eternal death, were laid on Christ on the cross (see Gal. 3:13). Because Christ took the curse for us, death is cursed. Because he voluntarily entered the grave, we can come out.
Because he was made ugly on the cross, we can be made dazzlingly beautiful.
C. S. Lewis said, “He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a … dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and Jove as we cannot now imagine, a bright, stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) his own boundless power and delight and goodness.”
If it’s true that one day we’ll be dazzling, everlasting splendors, then yes, as we face death, we will experience profound grief, tears, sadness, and loss. But as was true of my dad, we can also say, “I am happy.” And in the midst of scaring pain and poignant loss, we can also say, “I am grateful.”
If God raised Jesus from the dead, then we can believe him when he says, “1 will also make a new heaven and a new earth.” lf God will one day renew this Earth, then every prayer, every act oflove and kindness, every work of art or music inspired by the love of God, every act of care for the earth, will somehow find its way into the new creation that God will one day bring about. The smallest acts of kindness become infinite. If there is a resurrection not only of our bodies but of the world to come, then Easter makes a world of difference.
The true message of Easter is that there is a world to come beyond death, where our greatest potential will be fulfilled and where we will be united with loved ones. If we entrust our lives to the Christ, God will raise us one day from the dead. He will not only make us new, but he will also renew this earth. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “l am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus asks us, as he asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” If so, you can answer, “I am happy” and “I am deeply grateful.”
Ken Shigematsu is pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver. BC. and the author of God in My Everything.