What kind of corpse is this?

Entombment of Christ

The Entombment of Christ / Caravaggio, 1602-03

You haven’t died yet, but you sort of know what to expect. Other people have died. Animals have died. They leave behind a corpse. It draws flies. It rots.

Soon it looks and smells so offensive that it must be put out of sight. We have buried or burned corpses since prehistoric times.

Two millennia ago, a corpse was taken from a Roman cross. The dead man’s friends prepared his body for burial. They had no time to finish the job properly, but they expected he was like any other dead man. They would come back later to finish.… Read the rest

Death and triumph

Christ Enthroned : Vivarini

Christ Enthroned / Bartolomeo Vivarini (1450)

What human experience is more common than death? It happens to everyone, but nothing is more mysterious. Some of us regard it with despair, stoicism, or bewildered resignation.

Some of us have the faith to rise above all that and look past death. Wishful thinking or delusion? No. It’s the expectation of a certain triumph.

It occurs to me that there is one human experience as common as death, and that’s birth. If a child in the womb has any thoughts or feelings or expectations about birth, no one knows what they are.

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New life on both sides of the grave


Christians look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as promised through Jesus’ own resurrection. What about the resurrection of the living? How many of us go through life doing the same things, including making the same mistakes, over and over? Someone has observed that a rut is nothing but a coffin with the ends knocked out. Just as there is new life after physical death, so is there new life after stagnation. Lazarus died physically, but we can take his death and rising from death as a metaphor for reawakening to new life after a period of spiritual slumber.

When Lazarus became deathly ill, his sisters sent for Jesus.… Read the rest

Daniel’s vision of a blessed future

The book of Daniel contains some of the most obscure visions in Scripture. Weird looking beasts represent empires in Daniel’s future, but mostly our past. We can identify many rulers by name and understand references to what each of them did. The evil doings of Syrian King Antiochus IV appear at greater length, except there always seem to some details that don’t fit. They point to a coming Antichrist. I have recently touched on one of the visions in Thoughts on Bible prophecy: reading the future in Scripture. Daniel’s final vision relates the ultimate destruction of Antichrist and promises bodily resurrection for everyone afterward.… Read the rest

Dry bones and new life

In one of the best-known passages of an otherwise obscure book, Ezekiel described his vision of a valley of dry bones coming to life. Actually, it was more than a vision; he  had to prophesy to the bones before anything happened.

Ezekiel recognized that the bones represented the whole lineage of Jacob. Both kingdoms that represented that lineage had been destroyed, their people exiled and scattered. In their shattered hope, the survivors felt as dead and dried up as the bones.

At Ezekiel’s first word of prophecy, the bones formed together as complete skeletons, and then the flesh returned. Now instead of a valley of dry bones, it was a valley of corpses.… Read the rest

Holy Saturday and dashed expectations

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his admirers expected that he would eventually be crowned king and begin the process of freeing the land from Roman occupation. His disciples expected to occupy important cabinet ministries in the kingdom .

Jesus didn’t behave much like a king. By the end of the week, it no longer looked like he planned to live up to expectations. Perhaps Judas acted as he did trying to force Jesus’ hand.

On Thursday night, Jesus hosted a pre-Passover meal and behaved very strangely and started talking somberly about death. All of the disciples’ expectations and hopes were dashed when Judas led soldiers to capture him.… Read the rest