How Death Makes the Resurrection Real

I thought I understood the resurrection. Then, on an Easter Monday, my father unexpectedly passed away. I had experienced death before, but nothing like this. My dad was such a big part of our lives. God used his faith to bring my husband, Angelo, and me to faith. He suggested that Angelo go to seminary after he became a Christian. Then he handed over his church’s youth group into our fresh-from-the-wild-world hands. To top it off, he and my mom invited us and our growing family to live with them.

My dad brought us to faith, found my husband a job, and gave us a place to live. Oh . . .  and then he and I wrote a book together about how God changed us so that we could love each other and live by faith. He was a big part of every part of our lives. Then, despite our many prayers for his healing, he died a week after heart bypass surgery in Spain.

His death was a shocking reality. There were no signs from heaven to tell us all was well. There was just a whispered, “I love you,” and then he was gone. I remember saying to my sister, “How do we know it’s all really true?” The truest thing about that moment seemed to be the silent hospital room—no more monitors or beeps—and his lifeless body.

But the habits of a lifetime matter—one of mine is reading the Bible. So, I decided to read John’s account of Jesus’s resurrection. As I read those ancient words, I remember thinking, This sounds true. There were so many details—a lifeless body, 75 lbs. of spices, a garden, a never used tomb, and then an empty tomb. Burial cloths were neatly folded. Messengers from God stood guard. And then Jesus himself—looking like a gardener, but his voice was unmistakable. He called Mary by name and then she knew him—Jesus who was really dead and now was and is alive forevermore.

The church has been thinking about the meaning of the resurrection ever since. We know that Jesus’s resurrection meant that our many sins of commission and omission are truly and forever forgiven. We know that the resurrection means that Jesus’s death was not one more death of one more failed Messiah, but that he was and is God himself seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us, and will one day bring us home.

But what did Jesus’s resurrection mean for my family in our suddenly and finally quiet hospital room? My brother, Paul, and I talked a lot about the resurrection that week. One thing he said I have never forgotten: “Jesus was like a rocket bursting through a stone mountain to the open sky.” I liked that image of Jesus breaking up the stony crust of death and making the only way through.

The comfort I needed right then (and now) was that I knew one person who made it through death to life. And how amazing that he made a way to life, not just for himself, but for all who trust in him. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I could believe that the final word in my dad’s life would not be death, or the grave where we laid him, but life forever.

Joni Eareckson Tada in her book Heaven, talks about the wonders of DNA and how each cell of our bodies carries the whole genetic code of our body. So our resurrection can start with just one cell. What a grand picture of the last day, when the trumpet shall sound and all who believe will be gathered from the north, the south, the east, and the west, from oceans and fields, from mountains and valleys, from graveyards and battlefields.

Our family has faced other quiet hospital rooms since my father’s. But none sadder than the room where our 33-year-old son passed away after a short struggle with cancer. Despite our many prayers, Jesus called his name, and he was gone. There were no signs from heaven that day, but how thankful I am for the one sign from heaven that will stand through eternity—Jesus standing in the garden, healed and whole, in the flesh, calling Mary’s name. I know he called our son’s name, and Gabe rose to life forever. I’m waiting to hear him call my name. What a day that will be!

In our church on Easter Sunday the pastor says, “Christ has risen.” And we all respond, “He is risen indeed.” We have no better sign and no bigger hope.

Darkest Night Cover 071121

Darkest Night Brightest Day

Start a new Easter season tradition with your family by reading this “upside-down” book from Marty Machowski. The first side, Darkest Night, has seven stories that recount the events of Passion week ending with Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Flip the book over and continue by reading Brightest Day with seven more stories that progress from Christ’s resurrection through Pentecost.

About the author

Barbara Juliani

Barbara Miller Juliani, MS, is an author, Bible teacher, and retreat speaker. She is also the Vice President and Editorial Director for New Growth Press. Her husband, Angelo, is the pastor of Bridge Community Church, Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. They have four children and twelve grandchildren. She is the author and editor of a number of books and minibooks including the daily devotional Saving Grace and the Bible Study, Psalms: Real Prayers for Real Life.

Add Comment

Recent Posts