In 1982, George H. W. Bush, who was then Vice President of the U.S., represented our country at the funeral of the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. The woman stood motionless by the coffin in Red Square until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, she performed what was a blatant act of civil disobedience in that Communist country. Mrs. Brezhnev reached down into the casket and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There, at the heart of a world power which had made atheism its foundational belief, a flickering faith in God was evident. The wife of the man who been the leader of the Communist world made it clear that she hoped her husband was wrong. The atheism Brezhnev had so enthusiastically embraced brought absolutely no comfort to his wife at the time of his death. She wanted to believe there was another life beyond the life we know on this earth. She understood that the best hope of entering this life had to be the one who died on the cross almost 2000 years ago, and her desire was that this same Jesus might yet have mercy on her undeserving husband.
Friends, the Bible gives us no reason to believe Mrs. Brezhnev’s courageous act provided any benefit for her husband’s soul. Yet, the story does remind us how deeply human beings yearn for hope in the face of death. Death is the enemy that we all try to find a way to conquer. On our own, however, we never win. We don’t get out of this world alive. Death beats every one of us. Every one of us, that is, except Jesus Christ. On that first Easter morning, three days after His body had been put in the grave, Jesus was again alive, victorious over death! Forty days later, He ascended into heaven where he continues to live at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus beat death!
The wonderful promise given in the Bible is that all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will “beat death” as well. One day, when Jesus returns to earth, a great resurrection will occur and those who are believers in Him will be brought back to life and given new bodies that will never die. The Apostle Paul tells us, “Then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
For those of us who are Christians, these are words of great hope. For those of you who are not believers in Jesus, they provide an important warning to turn to Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior before it is too late. Easter is a victory party, marking Jesus triumph over death. For those of us who trust in Jesus it is a most glorious day, because we celebrate the promise that we too will one day conquer death.
Yours, grateful that Jesus has beaten death,
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church