This Lent seems to be starting off on what to some people is a morbid topic: death. However, while death can be a scary topic, since becoming a Christian I have always seen it as a gift.
Let me explain. It is true that the Bible calls death the last enemy, the last fear we have to deal with, because despite all the assurances, it is still crossing through the dark into something/somewhere we cannot see. It is also an end to all we have known and a separation from the body of our original creation. Despite that, I consider it a gift and probably one of the most important gifts God ever gave us.
That is because our death is intimately tied to our redemption and it is through death we are reborn. Without death we would be like the angels who rebelled, who are forever locked in their body of sin, forever disconnected from God, with no way to free themselves. But, because of death we can be born again, first spiritually, then physically at the resurrection.
It is a great mystery and what separates us from the angels. It is what confused Nicodemus during his discussion with Jesus. One of the most educated Jews of his day, he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers womb and be born??” Jesus explained that the second birth was different, as did his apostle John in his Gospel years later.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
Finally, the apostle Paul explained the resurrection, the completion of the process.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdenednot that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 1 Corinthians 4:1-4
In our original creation we were fashioned from dust, the matter of this world, and the breath of God, the spirit that connects us with eternity. When Adam sinned and that connection was broken, he was prevented from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever in his brokenness. Death was made complete; the body would join the spirit it is separation.
However, for those who call upon the Lord, who come to the foot of the cross and seek redemption in him, there is freedom from their debt of sin, paid by God himself with the blood he shed, the life he gave that day almost two thousand years ago.
So God also experienced death, both spiritual separation and physical cessation, in Jesus Christ, so that the life of his resurrection would become the life that he offers all those who seek him, that he would become the first born of many brethren: you and me and all those who call God Father and Jesus brother.
I hope you can see that while Lent may begin with a focus on our impending death, forcefully reminding us of our mortality, of the enemy we all have to face, that is not the end, only the beginning. Our journey’s end, its goal is Easter and resurrection, being fully reunited with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.