Luke 9:23-24: “Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it’”

Jesus knew of His upcoming arrest. On the road to Jerusalem He was knowingly walking into a death trap. Still, He kept on walking; His mind was made up. Approaching the city gates, Jesus addressed the crowd with the following words (Luke 9:24):

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

We are invited to follow the footsteps of Jesus; following Him, we relinquish all self-defense. God will always come through for us – but He will save us His way.

Israel was part of the Roman Empire in Jesus’ time. True to His own word, Jesus willingly surrendered when He was arrested by the Roman authorities. Rome’s punishment was a painful and public death by crucifixion. Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment until about the 4th century CE, in which victims were nailed to a large wooden beam and left to die. Along with two criminals who were executed with Him, Jesus died a slow and painful death on the cross.

After His death, family and friends were granted permission to take Jesus off the cross. Someone had offered his grave site for proper burial, and so Jesus was laid in a rich man’s tomb.

On the third day after His execution, two women went to look at the tomb in the early morning hours, when they were surprised by a violent earthquake. Like a flash of lightning, an angel of the Lord appeared. Without hesitation he rolled back the tombstone and sat on it. To his shocked audience the angel proclaimed (Matthew 28:5-6):

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Christ is risen – Praise God, He is risen indeed!

The Trinity has fully invested in us withholding nothing and giving everything. I believe this is why the apostle John wrote in his gospel (John 3:16)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Our Heavenly Father believes in us – so much so that He bet His Son’s life on it and poured out His Spirit all over the earth. Jesus died so we can live. Finding the Lord is finding life. God shows us the way home, and our homecoming is thanks to enduring faith: God believes in us and we believe in God.

John 10:14-15: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Not everybody is on board with the afterlife – assuming that once our bodies are dead, we are completely gone. Well, here is the good news: a person is way more than just a physical appearance (a good thing to remember if you happen to struggle with yours). The soul is the part of us that passes on, the body is the part that is buried in the ground.

If you are skeptical of the claim that there is an “eternal human soul”, then the terminology “spiritually dead” will probably make even less sense. Maybe it’s helpful to think of a spiritually dead person as a human being without a conscience. We all are born with one. If we succeed in overriding this God-given inner compass we’ll end up spiritually dead. Despite our physical heart still beating, we have no heart.

In matters of the heart, the Christmas story “How the Grinch stole Christmas” comes to mind. The author Dr. Seuss wrote about his main character, the Grinch:

“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

A heart two sizes too small is bad news. We need to get a little love in our hearts – and not just around the Christmas season.

Without roots, a plant withers and dies; rootless, we as human beings will have a hard time. Our need for God is elementary. We came from God, that’s why we need to return to Him to be complete.

Jesus’s resurrection is an amazing milestone in the history of mankind. When Jesus was resurrected His body and soul were reunited, and He was restored to the Trinity; the same will happen to us when we believe in Him.

Psalm 73:25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

If there is such a thing as muscle memory, then the memory of congestive heart failure is indelibly written into my heart muscle. My heart remembers and my body remembers. My body also remembers the time when all my organs worked seamlessly. Unfortunately, this physical reality is not meant to last, which I find very frustrating.

When I was a little girl I loved to watch Sesame Street. Glued to the television set, I enjoyed their show. I especially liked Oscar the Grouch and his song “I love Trash”:

“I have here a sneaker that’s tattered and worn
It’s all full of holes and the laces are torn
A gift from my mother the day I was born
I love it because it’s trash

Oh, I love trash!”

Oscar the Grouch loves trash, and in a sense we all do. We are trashy people of sorts because we tend to hang on to things that do not last, our health included.

Without wanting to sound like Debbie Downer, nobody is exempt from death; we all have to deal with this part of life sooner or later. The good news is: we are recyclable. Our bodies may fall apart, but thank God! Our souls are in for the long haul; our souls live forever.

If we call death a major dysfunction, then Jesus has come to restore us to functionality – Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. It is faith that turns trash into gold. Futility and meaninglessness evaporates by the touch of His hand.

My heart is set on eternity. I embrace the Lord in my thoughts, and He gives me life that defies death – He is the strength of my being.