“It is the song that doesn’t end; it just goes on and on, my friend. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was and they’ll continue singing it forever just because it is the song that doesn’t end; it just goes on and on, my friend. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was and they’ll continue singing it forever just because….”
The words and melody come alive in every child’s mind, becoming a mental worm that wiggles its way around and around with its intended vocal aim – to drive adults crazy. Imagine driving a host of teenage girls, their voices getting ever more loud with each repetition. Tormented drivers strive to focus over the cacophony. Happy were the days when Thurston and I turned it back on Laura as she grew further into adulthood. “You can stop now,” she insisted. We rarely did.
Christian believers celebrate today, Easter Sunday, the truth that death is dead. Perhaps they don’t phrase it that way, but it is the essence of what the Son of God came to earth to do. He came in human form, born as an infant, followed his heavenly father’s plan for his earthly existence, taught and ministered to hordes of people who were at once curiosity seekers and convicted believers.
Then, despite his own description of what was to happen, the unthinkable occurred. This Jesus, in whom the Roman rulers found no guilt, stood convicted by a mob of people who would rather see him die than a “notorious prisoner” known as Barabbas. Sentenced to crucifixion, though innocent of all charges, Jesus endured torture by unfathomable means.
Cicero called Jesus’ scourging “the cruelest and most disgusting penalty,” while Jewish priest, scholar and historian Flavius Josephus described it as “the most pitiable of deaths.” At death’s door when soldiers nailed him to the cross, Jesus had been struck repeatedly with a short whip made by knotting three leather ropes with pieces of metal. In Roman law, there was no limit to the number of strikes, but the aim was to get within a hair’s breadth of death so that the prisoner was still breathing when nailed to the cross. Jesus’ back, according to historical descriptions, was torn, even shredded, by this torture, exposing muscle, baring bone and causing extreme bleeding.
He came to within an inch of his life. Willingly, my friends. Willingly. Not once did Jesus attempt to escape his determined sentence, going as a lamb to slaughter. Then the soldiers nailed him to a cross, a practice that impeded breathing and made death a long and agonizing process, exacerbated by the torture he had already received.
Then, breathing his last, he gave up his spirit. Why?
Why did Jesus endure this earthly persecution? He was innocent, and he knew it. He was innocent, and the Roman authorities could find no fault in him. He was innocent, and his heavenly father allowed him to suffer this physical demise. Why?
Because of what God did through Jesus, my friends, death is dead. Three days later, Jesus rose from the tomb in which he was buried, and witnesses testified in the coming days that they had seen him. “He is alive, he is alive,” they celebrated, aware now of his former sayings about being raised on the third day.
What does that mean for us today? What does it mean that death is dead?
“It is the life that never ends; it just goes on and on my friend.” This is the promise of the love of God through the sacrifice of his only son, paying the ransom for my sin, for your sin. This is Easter, and it is the truth behind the life that never ends. Death is dead, hallelujah!