Monday, March 17, 2008

Death Is But A Shadow

This week is celebrated around the world by Christians as the most significant week in all of human history. It is a week we call holy, because in this week our Lord and God in the person of Jesus Christ accomplished for us what only He could do. He offered up His life as full and final payment for our sin. And next Sunday we will celebrate His glorious return from death. 

There is an oft told story about Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, a beloved Bible teacher and pastor in the middle decades of the twentieth century. While still a young man in his thirties, his first wife died of cancer, leaving behind three daughters under the age of twelve. Dr. Barnhouse decided to conduct the funeral service for his wife. On the way to the service with his heartbroken children, their car came to a stop light just as a massive truck pulled up next to them, blocking the light of the sun. Seeing the immense shadow that had overtaken them, Dr. Barnhouse asked his oldest daughter if she would rather be run over by the truck or by the shadow of the truck. "By the shadow, I guess," she replied, "because the shadow cannot hurt you." Turning to all of his children, Dr. Barnhouse said, 'That's what has happened to your mother. Death cannot hurt her because the Lord Jesus Christ took her to heaven. It is only the shadow of death that took her from us."

I used that story in a sermon I preached last Sunday, pointing the congregation to Psalm 23, the text Barnhouse used at that funeral: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." Many in that assembled congregation thanked me afterwards. As I was taking off my robe in the sacristy, a man stepped in to tell me how important that sermon was to him and his family. His wife's 92 year old mother had just died the previous night. They were comforted to know that death has indeed lost its power. We prayed together at that moment, commending Mom into the hands of the Lord and thanking Him for the wondrous news that death is but a shadow for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. 

My prayer is that all of us will find comfort and strength in the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus and in His miraculous rising from the dead on Easter morning. 

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