Easter’s empty tomb insists that we celebrate. The Resurrection empowers us to face life ... and death... with courage. Easter proclaims, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20 ).
In this Holy Week consider Martin Luther’s Easter reflection on the Christian view of death.
St. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18) not to sorrow over the dead as others who have no hope, but to comfort each other with God’s Word as having a certain hope of life and of the resurrection of the dead.
It is little wonder those [who are not Christians] are sad, because they have no hope. Nor can they be blamed for it. Since they are beyond the pale of faith in Christ, they must either cherish this temporal life as the only thing worthwhile and hate to lose it or they must expect that after this life they will receive eternal death and the wrath of God in hell. They must fear to go there.
But we Christians, who have been redeemed from all this by the dear blood of the Son of God, should by faith train and accustom ourselves to despise death and to regard it as a deep, strong, and sweet sleep. We regard the coffin as nothing but paradise and the bosom of our Lord Christ. We regard the grave as nothing but a soft couch or sofa, which it really is in the sight of God.
Jesus says, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep” (John 11:11) and “The girl is not dead but sleeping” (Matthew 9:24).
Thus, too, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15[:42–44] bans from his sight every ugly aspect of death in our mortal body and brings to the fore a wholly delightful and joyous picture of life when he says: “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.… It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”