“You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die,” God told Adam. “You will not surely die,” Satan told Eve. They ate. Satan lied. In a flash, immortal Adam and Eve became mortal. Mortal is a polite word to describe the process whereby cell death begins to creep through our tissues and veins.
Physical death is part of the curse of sin. Death is not natural or beautiful or normal. It is a sick, violent intruder into God’s paradise. Death is not just part of Mufasa’s lovely “circle of life” in The Lion King. It is Part 2 of God’s severe punishment upon his traitorous, mutinous creatures.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried” (Luke 16:22).
We’re all afraid of death. That’s why we have so many jokes about it. That’s why we spend such staggering amounts of money staving it off. That’s why Jesus’ hearers leaned closer when he told the story of the rich man and Lazarus—because he was describing the fate that awaits us all, rich and poor alike.
That’s why Jesus’ incarnation was necessary. He became fully human in order to have a body that could die like ours, that could die for us. His mortality becomes the gateway to our immortality, where we can be reunited with him and Abraham and all believers.
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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