What animates the mind and body of a man? What secret substance immeasurable to science brings all this meat to life? Why does a well-fed, well-watered, unassaulted human being lie there stiff and cold with no physical thing gone from him -- yet he is gone? A chair does not cease being a chair unless something physical is removed from it. How can a man lie there with every organ intact, every cell still there -- and yet be gone?
Death is an intruder. It gained entrance unlawfully. Well, I can't exactly say 'unlawfully'. Death was let in. Eve traded Life (her birthright) for a meal. And not even a meal, really. Just a snack. A piece of fruit. Like Esau gave his birthright away for a bowl full of porridge. And in Revelation, those who accept the mark of the beast (for the ability to buy and sell food) gamble away eternal life.
And so, a man in full physical capacity, with nothing missing from his body -- no injuries, no blood loss -- nothing at all physically removed from his person -- lies there lacking everything that made him a man. His soul is gone, and his body will not survive the loss. All attempts at resuscitation are just desperate, begging tries at persuading the soul to linger a little longer. The man himself can't often convince his soul to remain with him. It's a wonder that sometimes a stranger's pleas and efforts cause it to stay another hour -- or day -- or month -- or decade. But eventually, Death always claims his prize, and like the Pied Piper, leads away the soul of every man like the children of Hamlin. Where do they go?
Only one man that I know of said, "I have the power to lay my life down. And I have the power to take it up again. No man takes my life from me -- I lay it down of myself."
If you had witnessed his death, you might have been tempted to join the soldiers who mocked him. "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"
Or perhaps the criminal dying beside him: "If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!"
For even Elisha, that mighty prophet whose prayer raised the Shunammite's son from the dead, was apparently powerless when Death called him. In spite of the fact that his dead buried bones were power enough to reanimate a dead man thrown into his grave, Elisha could not say of his life, "I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again."
We might not take seriously the words the man said about his own power while witnessing the massive beating that men inflicted on him. He said no man takes his life from him -- and yet it was men who tore his beard out. It was men who nailed him to a cross and left him there to die.
You might be tempted to say, "Well, it was a nice thought -- pity he didn't really have that power. It seems Death won out in the end. Men did kill him." You might dismiss what he said about death, if it weren't for one more thing. On the third day after His death, He stood alive, speaking and eating with His friends.
In complete defiance of Death's call, He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."
Apparently, just as He said, the power is His. For if He had the power to take His life up again, it stands to reason that He did, in fact, lay it down of Himself to begin with. And that lends credibility to (or permanently settles) all that He said on the subject.
"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins."
"Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."
"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish."
Interesting words from a Man who has power over Death -- a Man who could not be abducted out of life like the rest of us sooner or later are. A Man who can lay His own life down and take it up again of His own free will has some authority to offer me eternal life. I don't have to die in my sins. I can follow Death's conqueror into Life.
"I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
In another place, He said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live."
In response to this, I quote 1 Corinthians 15:54,55: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" Be gone, foul intruder! Fly away, lurker of corners -- silent salivating watcher -- you uninvited observer at weddings and births! No more jurisdiction here -- your warrant's been revoked. Every man since Adam has answered when you called. You've taken our parents, our children, and our friends. You've robbed us all -- but your reign is ended. Christ conquered you -- do your worst: it cannot stick.