Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Avoiding death

These lines from an old Christmas song came to mind while thinking about Hebrews 2:
Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
That hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, is one of the earliest songs I remember from church services I attended as a child. The line I remembered from childhood,
God and sinners reconciled!
never made sense to me until I understood, over a decade later, why it was that Jesus came to earth.

But what I want to talk about today is this line: Born that man no more may die. I often translate this mentally to "...no more need die", which I think is what the original wording actually means, viz., that you and I now have the option to skip death.

Here is the part of Hebrews that brought this to mind:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Hebrews 2:9
I take "for everyone" here mean "in everyone's place" (that is, everyone who wants that). Otherwise why would this bring "glory and honor" to Jesus? Paul is explicit about this idea:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,...
from Philippians 2:5,8-10

Now what kind of death is supposedly optional? Church graveyards are full of dead bones, right? Well, the Lord Jesus Christ talked a lot about eternal life, contrasting it with condemnation, for example:

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."
John 5:24
When Jesus meets Mary outside Bethany and discusses the fate of her brother Lazarus...
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26
And of course, God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish (i.e., no one need perish) but have eternal life (John 3:16).

So the good news for today is that Jesus tasted death for you and for me and for everyone who believes (according to the Lord's words) and he is now crowned with glory and honor.

Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!

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