Back to articles

Life through death: Why Easter matters

Randy Speyer Mind, Spirit, Spiritual Care

Easter reminds us that death brings life. The darkness of winter is gone; signs of spring, and new life, are evident everywhere. With Good Friday remembrances in the rear-view mirror, Christ-followers everywhere celebrate resurrection life with sunrise services and shouts of “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!” Family members smile as little ones discover hidden plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies to shrieks of wonder and delight. We are reminded, in different ways, that death brings life. Jesus of Nazareth put it this way, “They will take my life, but that will not be the end.”

Whether or not you are religious, there is something that hits home when we hear those words.

Death brings life. Each time we sit and enjoy a delicious meal, we are reminded that those plants were once alive and growing. Someone somewhere worked to harvest them, resulting in their death. As a result, these are enjoyed as food – and death brings life to those who eat. This idea of things dying, but finding new life is happening all around us every day. Death, leading to life, is woven in the very fabric of the world in which we live. Death, and then life.

And all too often, our holiday and religious rituals somehow lose their meaning, becoming just muscle memory that leaves us with a good feeling inside. I wonder if there is more, if practicing resurrection could mean that death and despair do not have the final word, that we can live appropriately and responsively in a world where death is necessary, and life really matters.

One Bible writer puts it like this: “It stands to reason doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Romans 8:10-11; MSG).

Why is this important? Because death brings life. It’s more than just a story of a dead Messiah who came back to life. This is about the way life works. And maybe recovering our resurrection center and embracing the truth it holds will restore us back to what it means to be human, to be fully alive.

So, let me suggest the regular practice of two aspects of the resurrection story that may bring us new life:

  1. Death is necessary. There are things that we must “die to”—or let go of—so that we can fully live. Do you need a list? I could easily give you mine. Pride, fear, doubt, thinking either too little or too much of myself, diminishing the needs of those around me, believing worry to be a virtue – are just a few. And I obsess over them, leading to a sense of failure and despair. Letting go means a radical acceptance, being willing to die, so that I can be reborn.

    As a counselor, I often meet with people who are struggling with life, or a relationship, often because of something they are unwilling to let go of. Finding health and wholeness sometimes means learning to accept these “necessary losses” in our lives. I listen to the painful stories from people seeking to recover from this thing called divorce, but cannot move forward because of the unforgiveness, the hatred, the bitterness they can’t seem to let go of. Can you let go of the need to get even? Can you surrender the need to be right? Can you move on from the fear that grips you? Life is available. But the path begins with death. The old dies so that the new can come. It really can happen.
  1. Life matters. Your life matters. The lives of those all around you matter. Often for religious people the story of resurrection ends up being a conversation about this amazing life up in heaven. We hear it all the time, don’t we? A prominent theologian, N. T. Wright, responds to this idea when he writes: “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from the earth to heaven, but to colonize earth with the new life of heaven.” Jesus says it simply: “I came so they can have real life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, MSG)

    Resurrection brings new life here and now. In the way we live our lives, the influence we possess, the daily interactions we engage in; our money, our resources, our skills used to bring life to those who need it most. We become part of this new creation, part of injecting a little bit of heaven into a world as we dream it could be.

This Easter, I pray that you understand that tomorrow doesn’t have to be another today. That your brokenness does not define you. that in death there is life, that you may be reborn and discover life and love to the full.

About the author: Pastor Randy Speyer is the director of mission and spiritual care at Adventist Health in Roseville. He has served as ordained pastor and licensed counselor to faith communities for over 30 years, seeking to tell the Jesus story with imagination and wonder.