Back in the Old West (at least in the movies), desperadoes were pictured on posters that read, "Wanted: Dead or Alive." The local sheriff didn't care how he got his man, as long as he got him. For me, those posters conjure up images of Boot Hill and a posse.
The Bible has its own Boot Hill of sorts. Genesis chapter five lists Adam's progeny, much like a minimalist obituary. Each entry is punctuated with the words, "and then he died."
The reality is that all men are scheduled to die. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Every one of us has a bullet out there with our name on it.
We are just emerging from what we often call "the dead of winter." It is a time when many living things die, hibernate, or go dormant. Cabin fever sets in, and we can't wait for spring to arrive with its promise of new life and refreshment.
The Easter season illustrates and commemorates these bookends to the cycle of life. On Good Friday, we remember the most horrific death of all, the execution of the Son of God at the hands of his creatures. Even his disciples thought it was all over. Things looked as bleak as a Siberian winter.
This time of year, buds pop open, animals emerge from their dens, and seeds that were buried in the ground burst out of their tombs with new bodies. The promise of new life is fulfilled in glorious ways. The heavy burden of winter chills and darkness flees in the bright light of renewal.
Three days after his burial, Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. He emerged from the chill of a dark stone tomb to bring eternal hope. That is the message of the gospel of Christ, "who has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:9, 10).
What will our body be like? Paul answers: "When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption" (1 Corinthians 15:37, 38, 42). It will be perfect at last!
This hope is only for those who trust the Lord Jesus to deliver them from a chilly and dark heart of sin. "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions; it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:46).
God wants us, dead or alive. "If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord" (Romans 14:8). If we are dead in sin, he wants to give us life. If we are His, we can rejoice in the new life He has given through His Son, the one who adds the "but" to the "and then he died" of man's obituary.