Terri Shiavo, the Imago Deo, and the Resurrection ConnectionSunday, March 27, 2005
Terry Shiavo, Imago Deo,
and the Resurrection of Christ
March 27, 2005
Terri Shiavo and Bobby Fischer?
Wednesday and Thursday were one of the most interesting days for me in world history. In one day, the Justice Department of our American government was hassling Japan to deport world-renowned chess player, Bobby Fischer, back to the united states to be brought to trial. Do you know why? Because he violated an embargo with Yugoslavia in 1992 when he played a chess match with someone there. On the same day as Japan deported him and Iceland granted him honorary citizenship, the Judicial branch of our American government has ordered the first state-sanctioned death of a conscious, self-breathing, person in our nation’s history.
Considering Terri Shiavo’s Situation
A comparison of the two is not oversimplistic. Our government has its priorities out of whack in such a major way that we have become this week a nation described in Romans 1:18-32. We are a nation who has become futile in our thinking and our foolish hearts have become darkened. Claiming to be wise we have become fools. We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. And since we have not seen fit to acknowledge God, God has given our nation up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Almost all of the sins listed in verses 29-31 are reflected in this case with Terry Shiavo: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Further, “though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (v. 32).
Now, I do not presume to know law. I have read a few of the brief abstracts surrounding this situation online. As with the dozens of briefs I’ve read in my current lawsuit I understand some of what has been written, though not a lot. What I do understand is that under current legislation, the stated legal guardian of an incapacitated person has full legal authority to withdraw all life support if that is what the person expressed about such a condition before the fell into such a condition. In other words, as the law reads now, you must state some kind of intent before you are put on life support as to whether or not you even want it and for how long you want it. Otherwise, the legal guardian can make those kinds of decisions for you based on what he or she thinks you would have wanted.
Such was the situation with Terry Shiavo. She had a heart attack around 26 years old, had no living will to state her intentions with regards to life support. It is this issue which has taken up more court and litigation time than any other case like it in judicial history. The question was argued for many years previous to this past week, “Would Terri want to be kept alive this way?” Her husband continued to answer no, based on things he had heard. And her parents argued yes, based on things they and her friends had heard her say. The timeline of her court battle I have in my hands right here takes up five pages and is almost too much to believe.
There are several things which seem to complicate this situation on the surface, things which we know for sure, things which are fact and truth. For one, Mr. Shiavo has taken another woman as his common-law wife while still married to Terri. This would seem to make Mr. Shiavo a bigamist. He and his common-law wife have had two children.
Second, there is documented evidence that Mr. Shiavo abused Terri before her heart attack. As to whether or not this had anything to do with her heart attack we do not know and I will not speculate. But these facts complicate things a lot. Even more complicating is the fact that the courts have evidently refused to see this evidence in order to get to the bottom of this whole thing.
Third, there are multiple eye-witness testimonies who report first hand hearing Mr. Shiavo persistent and caustic speech regarding when his wife would finally die. Such testimonies seem to report that he viewed his incapacitated wife as a problem and an inconvenience to his life and wished for her to hurry up and die.
Fourth, this situation has caused an equally huge problem in America to surface regarding the balance of powers. It seems that the judicial branch of our American government thinks they have more power than the other branches. This has been demonstrated time and again in this case, the latest example being a week ago when President Bush and the congress took emergency action away from Easter Break to formulate and pass Terri’s Law II, a law which grants her parents the authority to seek federal review of whether Terri’s rights have been violate. This is a law that congress passed, and yet a federal judge turned around and denied that review granted by congress. Further, when governor Jeb Bush tried to step in a couple of days ago to have Terri taken into state custody to be kept alive, Judge Greer warned him to back off. The judicial system it appears has gained far too much power in our land, bordering dangerously close to tyranny.
Fifth, among the scores of doctors hired over the years by Michael Shiavo and Terry parents to examine her and make medical determinations, one that peaked my attention occurred in September 2002, by Dr. William Hammesfahr, world renowned neurologist and evidently a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Judge Susan Kirkland of the Florida Department of Health said in November 2002 that Dr. Hammesfahr is "the first physician to treat patients successfully to restore deficits caused by stroke." That determination was upheld by a full vote of the Florida Board of Medicine in January 2003. He examined her for many hours and concluded his impressions:
· The patient is not in coma.
· She is alert and responsive to her environment. She responds to specific people best.
· She tries to please others by doing activities for which she gets verbal praise.
· She responds negatively to poor tone of voice.
· She responds to music.
· She differentiates sounds from voices.
· She differentiates specific people's voices from others.
· She differentiates music from stray sound.
· She attempts to verbalize.
· She has voluntary control over multiple extremities
· She can swallow.
· She is partially blind
· She is probably aphasic and has a degree of receptive aphasia.
· She can feel pain.
Most interesting to me is the fact that she can in fact swallow. This doctor’s report stated she swallows the equivalent of an entire day’s saliva everyday, by herself. This means she can swallow liquids without choking. So when ten year old Gabriel Keys, and his older brother and sister, went into the hospice yesterday with a glass of water, Terri could have swallowed it by herself. But these siblings were handcuffed and arrested.
So it clearly seems that the fact that the executive and judicial branch of the federal, state and civil authorities are deliberately prohibiting Terri from taking fluids which she is able to swallow, fluids which will keep her alive, then they are murdering her. This is clearly a case of state-sanctioned murder we are looking at here.
Personally, I am baffled by the fact that Dr. Hammesfahr’s findings seem to be ignored by judges. Or better yet, with scores of doctors fluttering around her bedside and giving reports, the waters can get muddied very quickly, especially since doctors are guided by their philosophical and theological views.
President Bush’s official statement issued by the White House in March 17, 2005 is worthy of repeating here, for it communicates on the surface a philosophy and theology which has the Scriptures at its core. He stated:
“The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected – and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.”
I agree with everything he said except the first sentence. The case of Terri Shiavo does NOT raise complex issues at all. They only seem complex because the government has muddied the waters for us. The government has made things more complex than they really are. In short, this is a clear cut case of a woman who is conscious and who can live out the rest of her life under the care of her parents who have stated for years their wish to care for her for the rest of their lives.
On the other side is her husband who seeks to put her to death. He has the judicial branch on his side, and the parents have the legislative branch on their side. In my mind, the judicial system has overstepped their boundaries and muddied the water. Michael Shiavo has muddied the water by wanting her to die.
The media has muddied the water more by propagating stories and reports which may or may not be true. But at the bottom of the lake is the bedrock issue referred to in theology as the imago deo, also known as the image of God.
The Doctrine of the Image of God
Terri Shiavo, like all other human beings, are born in the image of God. Adam, the first human being, is said by God in Genesis 1:27 to have been created in His image. In verses 26 and 27 we read,
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…”
Some think that the entrance of sin into the world changed that. To be sure, sin has marred that image of God in man. But even after the fall of man into sin, the Bible still says that man is made in God’s image. After the flood, God instituted the death penalty by telling Noah in Genesis 9:9, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
What precisely does it mean that man is made in God’s image? It means that man is a reflection of God. Humans are reflections of their Creator. Man is like God and represents God. When God made Adam and Eve in His image the meaning is that God made creatures similar to Himself. The Hebrew word for image as well as the word for likeness refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents. An image is something that represents something else.
In what way are we in the image of God? Some theologians have attempted to explain it as being rooted in man’s intellectual abilities. Man is in the image of God in this sense: the reason man is an intellectual being is because God is also. Others have explained that the image of God in man is seen in his ability to make moral decisions and willing choices. The ability to act voluntarily and make one’s own choices comes from God’s ability to do the same. Still other theologians have seen God’s image in man’s spiritual nature, his dominion over the earth, his ability to make ethical decisions, his eternal soul.
But this immediately presents a whole host of problems. For that massive section of humanity known as babies, toddlers, and the mentally handicapped it would seem that none of them are in the image of God. They have little if any intellectual abilities and developments. They hardly have the ability to make their own choices, to differentiate between something good and bad. So according to these definitions, Terri Shiavo is not in the image of God anymore. She was before her heart attack. But she is not anymore.
However, the doctrine of the image of God does not refer to any of these specific things. The reason is found simply in the meaning of the two words, image and likeness. They affirm the truth that man is like God, not that he is God. These words only point to the fact that man would represent God in many ways. Since this is what the image of God refers to, controversy over what the image of God actually is melts away. We don’t need to search for too narrow and too specific a concept when we understand that God made man to be like God and to represent God.
Can this be verified elsewhere in Scripture? Yes, in Genesis 5:3, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” Seth was like Adam, a representation of Adam, but not an identical one. Seth was like his father as any son is like his father. This verse does not tell us in what specific ways Seth as like Adam. It just says he was like Adam.
“It would be overly restrictive for us to assert that one or another characteristic determined the way in which Seth was in Adam’s image and likeness” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 444).
No matter what ways you could think of how Seth was like Adam, all of those things about Seth would remind you about Adam, whether his hair color, eye color, disposition, athletic abilities, quick temper, etc. So also, every way in which man is like God is part of his being in the image and likeness of God.
Now apply this to Terri Shiavo’s situation. The fact that the image of God is marred in sinful human beings is clearly seen in the willful determination to end her life on the part of her husband and the courts. But on the other hand, the fact that the image of God is still very much a part of the core of this outcry is seen because many people still value life, no matter how disabled that life may be.
So think for a moment how Terri Shiavo is in the image of God. Remember the impressions Dr. Hammesfahr recorded in his medical investigation?
· First, she is alert and responsive to her environment. She responds to specific people best. God is also alert and responsive to everyone’s environment. He responds to specific people best.
· Second, there are things the Dr. recorded about her that make her no different from any other normal human being.
· She tries to please others by doing activities for which she gets verbal praise. This is a divinely ordered cause and effect system common to every human being.
· She responds negatively to poor tone of voice. This too is something planted in every heart and mind by God.
· She differentiates sounds from voices. Again, this is something built into every human being, reflecting God’s image.
· She differentiates music from stray sound. This is a trait found in almost every human being.
· She attempts to verbalize. Where does any attempt to verbalize and communicate come from except from God who communicates with us.
· She has voluntary control over multiple extremities, something common to all humans.
· She can swallow.
· She can feel pain.
· She responds to music. God responds to music. He inhabits the praises of His people. He loves music that praises Him. Terri’s response to music reflects the image of God.
· She differentiates specific people's voices from others. God does this, does He not? He differentiates the prayers of His people from the prayers of the pagans, doesn’t He.
As you can see, the Dr.’s obvious impression was that short of the mental and intellectual and eating abilities of other human beings, she was like a human being in almost every other way. The conclusion of this medical investigation is that Terri Shiavo, being mostly like every other human being is a human being and therefore is in the image of God, a likeness and representation of God in many ways.
Returning to President Bush’s statement, you’ll recall him saying,
“It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected – and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.”
The Biblical way to say it is that it should be our goal to build a culture of life, where all peoples of the world are valued, welcomed and protected and considered to be in the image of God, and that image of God must extend to individuals with disabilities. Terri Shiavo, despite her severely handicapped state is still in the image of God. And so is every other handicapped person who has either been born that way or later became that way for whatever reason.
In my mind, what all of this means is this. Even if any other doctor comes into her room and medically determines that she does not have the functional capabilities which Dr. Hammesfahr says she does, the doctrine of imago deo means that even in the very tiniest and seemingly insignificant ways in which Terri Shiavo reflects the likeness of God or represents Him, she is the in the image of God. And the Bible says that when one person ends another person’s life by forceful and purposeful means, they are destroying the image of God and will be held accountable by God.
This very point is what makes this situation so evil and wicked and deplorable. Her husband, his lawyers, his doctors, and the judicial branch of our American government have all plotted a course which effectively seeks to terminate Terri Shiavo’s life. And they all seek to do so in one of the most cruel ways imaginable – starvation and thirst.
Since she is in the image of God, they are seeking to murder her. And the federal, state and civil judicial system’s sanctioning of it is government-sanctioned murder. They should all be tried and found guilty of the highest degree of murder which is the murder of an innocent, defenseless, helpless, incapacitated. But that will never happen because our government already sanctions this in the form of abortion each and every day for the last thirty-five years.
But what will happen is that in a matter of months further cases will come to light where men and women will begin asking the government to sanction the death of their handicapped little child, or their grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease, or their spouse who has become mentally handicapped due to a car accident. In short, Pandora’s box of euthanasia has now been opened, and life as we know it will only grow a great deal worse for us as citizens of the United States of America.
I want to read to you a paragraph from one of my favorite theologians, Wayne Grudem. He is professor of theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Arizona, and has written the 1,250 page book, Systematic Theology. Listen carefully to what he wrote.
“Every single human being, no matter how much the image of God is marred by sin, or illness, or weakness, or age, or any other disability, still has the status of being in God’s image and therefore must be treated with the dignity and respect that is due to God’s image-bearer. This has profound implications for our conduct toward others. It means that people of every race, deserve equal dignity and rights. It means that elderly people, those seriously ill, the mentally retarded, and children yet unborn, deserve full protection and honor as human beings. If we every deny our unique status in creation as God’s only image-bearers, we will soon begin to depreciate the value of human life, will tend to see humans as merely a higher form of animal, and will begin to treat others as such. We will also lose much of our sense of meaning in life” (p. 450).
Now what does all this have to do with Easter. After all, today is Easter Sunday, and here I am preaching about the politics and theology of a handicapped woman’s death. There are several clear points of application, points where the resurrection of Jesus from the grave cry out with words of wisdom and hope.
The Resurrection Connection
The resurrection of Jesus Christ begins a renewal process of the image of God in man. Why does it need renewing? Because when Adam and Eve sinned, that image was forever marred and broken. Every person born after Adam is born as a broken image of God. To be sure, a broken mirror is still a mirror. But it doesn’t reflect accurately. And neither do sinners accurately and completely and full reflect God.
Jesus Christ is the ‘Toto Imago Deo’ – Colossians 1:15
But Jesus Christ changed that. He was the one human being in all of history who accurately, completely and full reflected the image of God. In Colossians 1:15 the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ, “is the image of the invisible God…” John writes in his gospel that, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side [referring to Jesus], he has made him known” (1:18).
The conclusion is that Jesus Christ was a totally visible and physical copy of the one true, invisible and immaterial God. You can’t see God, but you could have seen Jesus. And seeing Jesus was just as good as seeing God. The writer of Hebrews preached, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” (1:3). That’s why Jesus could say to His disciples in John 14, ‘If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,’ because He and the Father were united.
Now, the incredible truth at the core of what I’m saying here is that a man was born who was also God. It was because of this that He was able to bring a full restoration of the image of God back to humanity. And it is because of this that life has any meaning at all. What in the world does His coming and His reflection of God’s image have to do with me or with Terri Shiavo? Don’t you see it? He is our substitute! He is the image of God we could never become! He is the one and only full reflection of God that God made man to be in the first place! There has never been and never will be a completely perfect image-bearer or representative of God on earth than Jesus Christ.
The Latin for ‘ image of God’ is imago deo, and the Latin for complete is toto. Jesus Christ is our toto imago deo.
Jesus Christ Created and Owns Everything in Existence – Colossians 1:16
The connection is this, then. Every single human being, regardless of how bad God’s image is marred in them by disability, handicap, or incapacitation needs to have and can have Jesus Christ as their substitute. They may not reflect God’s image properly, but Jesus did! And if they have Jesus Christ and take Him as their substitute image-bearer, then they can eventually bear God’s complete image again.
Now, whether they have Christ or not, all humans still reflect something of the image of God. What I’m saying is that when a person has Jesus Christ, a renewing process begin whereby they start becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ, and thereby begin reflecting God better and better. But whether they have Him or not, they all belong to Him. In verse 16 of Colossians 1, we continue reading,
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”
Could there be a more appropriate verse for this controversy surrounding Terri Shiavo? It was by Jesus Christ that Terri Shiavo was made. And every judge, police officer, legislator, parent, relative and friend involved in this controversy were made by Jesus Christ also. But they were all made for Jesus Christ also. He made every person on planet earth who has ever lived for Himself. They belong to Him. Terri Shiavo is the property of Jesus Christ just as much as her healthy husband and parents. And Christ made her for Himself, just like He made her parents and her husband for Himself.
Now I want you to be careful here. I’m not saying that being the property of Jesus is the same thing as being a part of His family. That old saying that “we’re all children of God” is true, but only in a broad sense. Paul delineates this clearly for us in verse 18. Having detailed what He has made – everything in heaven and earth, including dominions, rulers and authorities – Paul now speaks of “the body, the church.” That is a separate entity. It is an organism that is operating within heaven and earth. And it is made up of all kinds of people in heaven and earth. The church contains persons who are kings, prime ministers, rulers and authorities.
So just because you may have been created by Jesus Christ for Himself…just because you are His property, doesn’t mean you are one of His children. When a person once stepped in to interrupt Jesus’ teaching one day, he said to Jesus that His mother and brothers were waiting outside for Him. Jesus responded that His mother and brothers and sisters, indeed His family, was made up of those who heard the word of God and obeyed it. The implication is clear – just because you are a human being, and just because you are an image-bearer of God, doesn’t mean you are part of the family of Jesus Christ, the church.
Back to my point, Jesus Christ made Terri Shiavo for Himself. She is His property. She is an image-bearer of God. No one has any right over her life except for Jesus Christ Himself since He made her. No matter what the current law says, Michael Shiavo has no real legal right over her. But neither do her parents. No other human being has any right over her life and death except for God. Therefore, she should be treated by every other human being as every other human being would want to be treated – with dignity and respect, making every effort to sustain, maintain and improve her life, just as they would want Terri Shiavo to do for them.
What happened to the Golden Rule here? What happened to doing for others what we would want them to do for us? It is only in a twisted, severely marred and broken image-bearer’s mind that any person (such as Michael Shiavo) would come up with the thought, “Gee, I would want to be treated like I’m treating Terri, so I’ll treat her the same way.”
Now let me press on to my point here because it is Easter and this message culminates in the glorious and incredible fact and application of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Every human being ever born is a broken image-bearer of God. That includes Terri Shiavo. That includes you and me. We were all made by Christ and are the sole property of Jesus Christ. But every person is not a child of God, a member of His universal church, a part of His body. Only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their complete image-bearer are a part of His family, His church.
And here’s the crux: every human being is called to accept this substitute for themselves, including the Shiavos and the Schindlers. That includes you and me also. We are not and can never be, in and of ourselves, the image-bearers God wants us to be. He will only accept persons into His kingdom and into His family who are like Him or who reflect Him. Since Jesus Christ is the only one who has ever done this, only those who stand behind – become united in Him, or even in a sense marry Him - will be accepted by the Father.
That is the responsibility of every human being do this very thing. But until they make that decision to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ they are still God’s property and must be treated as such. Terry Shiavo must be kept alive until either (a) she dies a natural death, or (b) God restores some mental and intellectual capacity in order for her to come to believe in Christ. And He may do that very thing, and we never end up knowing about it. So she must be kept alive because she is Christ’s property, an image-bearer of God, albeit a severely marred one.
But the fact that she is an image-bearer means she must be kept alive until God takes her naturally or He miraculously brings her to embrace Christ. And again, that can certainly happen and we not ever know about it. He could very well work a restoration of her mind to the point where she acknowledges and embraces Jesus Christ as her substitute. Yet He could do this in such a way as to simultaneously not restore her communication abilities, so that she could be saved by Christ but never be able to tell anyone about it. How’s that for God! I’m sure He’s done it before. The point is she belongs to Him and she should be kept and sustained for Him until He does His work.
Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead Makes Him Preeminent Over Everything – Colossians 1:18
Now, again, what does all of this have to do with the resurrection? Look at Colossians 1:15-20 again. The whole argument Paul is after here is that Jesus Christ is preeminent over all things. He is the only image of God. He has the rights to rule all creation. He created everything. He holds all things together. He is the boss of the church. And in verse 18, “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”
There it is for you, right there! Jesus Christ has property rights over everything in heaven and earth, He has authority over ever other kind of authority on earth, because He is preeminent. And he is preeminent because He rose from the dead! He is the boss of all life and death, because He died and rose again. He is really the only true authority over Terri Shiavo’s death – a shock to judges, legislators and police officers, probably – not only because He created all life, but because He rose from the dead.
I think we often fail to see the implications that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead demands. As the only One to rise from the dead, that makes Him the Master and Commander of all life and death. No court ever has the power to take that away from Christ. No court has the power to usurp that from Christ. They all get their authority from Him in the first place.
And the reason it is wrong to remove her feeding tube, effectively killing her, is because she is in the image of God. And the reason why it is wrong the courts to make this decision is because the resurrected Christ is the preeminent one over her life and her death, not the courts.
None of them has ever died and risen from the grave. None of them can say they have finally conquered death. The truth of 2 Timothy 1:10 wasn’t written about any of them, where Paul writes, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” That was written about, “our Savior, Christ Jesus,” as the verse says. Only Jesus Christ can say that, and that makes Him the highest Judge. There is no appellate court beyond Him. The buck stops with Him. According to Philippians 2:9-11,
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth [including judges, legislators, police officers, husbands, parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends] and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In verses 6-8 of Philippians 2, we see a Jesus who was equal with God but decided not to count it as so big a deal that He couldn’t become a human being, live like a man, and serve all other men. Instead, He did all that and humbled Himself to the point where He, an innocent man, became the recipient of unjust, cruel punishment – “death on a cross.”
The Toto Imago Deo and His Resurrection can Become our Imago Deo and Resurrection – Colossians 1:20-22
But it was only because He did this that He was able to act as our substitute. If a person counts Him as their substitute, then everything Jesus did is credited to their lives. This was what Paul was leading up to in this sort of hymn he is preaching in Colossians 1. In verses 20-22 he sings and preaches,
“And by [Christ] God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heave and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”
How can Paul say that! That seems outrageous and blasphemous! It is true only of the person who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, bowing their knee to His preeminent authority and confessing that He is the Lord and Master of their life. When a person does that, they are counting the toto imago deo to be their own imago deo. And since Christ is the image of God, when they count Christ as their image, they will be seen by God as holy and blameless, standing before Him without a single fault. That can be said of you and it will be said of you if you believe in Him!
He is only substitute God will accept in your behalf. And it was only because He acted as our substitute that He was able to rise from the dead, and defeat death once for all. The writer of Hebrews preached,
“Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying…Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us…so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people” (vv. 14-15, 17).
But Jesus’ death can only be counted for us, His image can only be counted for us, and His conquering death can only be counted for us if we count Him as our substitute. He offers this to anyone who will believe in Him. It is a wide-open invitation. I know nothing of Michael Shiavo’s religious life, but from my general observations, the life of his wife would seem to mean more to him if He bowed His knee to the preeminent authority of Jesus Christ, and confessed with his tongue that Jesus Christ is His Lord.
The Resurrection of Christ Fills Our Life With True Meaning
And I may not know a lot about the inner workings of your religious life, though I have some estimation of it by virtue of my friendships with you all. But unless you do the same, your value on life will be little, and the meaningfulness which your life can have will be little if any. That is why Peter praises God with these words,
“Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children” (1 Pet. 1:3b-4a).
Do you live with a wonderful expectation? Do you want that priceless inheritance? The resurrection of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning provides a new hope for all humanity.
There are two ways in which this most awesome miracle ever performed can provide hope for all of us here this morning. So there are these two truths I leave you with this morning, two truths you must meditate upon and make your own.
The first was echoed by Mike this morning in our Deacon prayer time. Most people, and I would add Christians included, have seem to conclude that life is not worth living if it is not a pleasurable or comfortable life. They associated suffering with evil, and since no one likes evil, they should not suffer. Ending suffering has become tantamount to ending evil. But that is backwards.
Beloved, the joy of the crucifixion and resurrection, the joy of this Easter morning, is the awesome two-fold truth that, (1) death and suffering is an inseparable part of the Christian’s life, and (2) rising from the dead to conquer our suffering is equally an inseparable part of the Christian’s life. Paul wrote in Romans 8:17-18,
“And since we are his children, we will share his treasures – for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later.”
Ask the Spirit of God to weave these into your heart, making them a part of the very fabric of your life and death.
Second, you must have Jesus Christ as the only substitute for your life and death. The joy of the resurrection is the joy of knowing that Jesus’ perfect, obedient, God-pleasing life as well as His death-conquering resurrection can become my own. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that those who are united in Him will rise from the dead just like He did! Do you have that expectation? Is that your excitement?
Those who know Him as their life and their resurrection from the dead will without a doubt participate in resurrection with Him. He was raised from the dead and you can be too! And if and when you are, you will be raised from the dead up into the clouds to meet Jesus Christ personally and live forever with Him in heaven. That’s not fairy-tale, folks, that reality.
But until we get to heaven, the fact that Jesus Christ has risen from the grave means He has preeminence here and now. Everyone here this morning, every judge, every legislator, every relative and friend of Terri Shiavo all must do as John the Apostle did. We all must fall down at the feet of Christ as dead people. Jesus said to John, “I am the living one who died. Look! I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Rev. 1:8).