Holy Week And The Fear Of Death
In ancient China, Emperor Qin desperately sought a way to defeat death. He had elaborate potions concocted on his behalf and launched armies into the sea to search for supposed immortals on far away islands.
He ordered half a million conscripts to build him a massive tomb filled with over 7000 life size terra cotta warriors made of baked clay and placed in military rank and file as protection in the afterlife. In the end his efforts to escape the inevitable proved futile.
This season marks the observance of two spiritual milestones on the calendar, Passover and Easter.
Passover is a time of remembrance of the children of Israel’s deliverance from their Egyptian slave masters. It was on the eve of their escape that Moses commanded the people to place the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so the angel of death would pass over their house and cause its inhabitants no harm.
Easter is the culmination of the Passion Week in which Jesus was tried and crucified during the observance of Passover two thousand years ago. The spiritual symbolism of the blood of the Lamb being shed at Calvary is an echo of Moses’ decree that ultimately death passes over those to whom the blood is applied.
Intimately tied to Passover is the Feast of Firstfruits which was celebrated just hours later. While Passover was a solemn reminder of the brevity of life, Firstfruits was a reminder of the daily provision of God, seen in the blooming of flowers and the beginning of the harvest season.
While Christ was crucified on Passover, his tomb was empty on the day of Firstfruits. It was for this reason the Apostle Paul declared, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).
In Paul’s understanding one crop would lead to another. Jesus’ resurrection was simply the first crop to be followed by countless others who also would live again. Seeds may be buried in the ground, but they must be so they can later bloom and sprout.
Death and life are part of our world; they are the message of Passover and Easter; and they are the hope upon which faith is built. On one end of the spectrum a somber memorial, on the other a triumphant proclamation that, “He is risen.”
As Peter Hiatt has so aptly said, “One day they’ll drop you in a grave and you’ll feel a touch, you’re not insane. Now you’re sane. A voice will say, ‘Friend, let’s get out of here! I beat this place.’ And then you’ll see him.”