God hates death and wants nothing to do with it. Listen to the words of Ezekiel the prophet: “I will open your graves and have you rise from them” (Ezekiel 37:12). These are spoken just after the marvelous scene of the enlivening of the dry bones.
There is an important clue here, by the way. Those dry bones were there because a battle had been fought on that spot. Death, the fear of death, the threat of death, putting to death—all of this broods over human life and grounds sin and oppression. Think for a moment: all sin flows finally from a fear of death. Every tyrant who has ever lived has succeeded through awakening in people the fear of death.
But what if death, as we know it and experience it, is not at all what God intended? What if it were something that God wanted to deal with once and for all, to get rid of? The book of Genesis tells us clearly that death came from sin. Mind you, death is not the dissolution of the body—that seems to be part of the natural process. But death as we experience it—as something fearful, horrible, terrifying—comes from having turned from God.
On this Good Friday, it’s important to remember that Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death. I know how easy it is to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly and inspiring moral teacher, but that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with all of those forces that keep us from being fully alive.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus deals with the effects of death and a death-obsessed culture: violence, hatred, egotism, exclusion, false religion, phony community.
But the final enemy he must face down is death itself. And he does it on a cross.