Recent Reading: Tuck Everlasting

-Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

I think that Resurrection (what ever it exactly means) is so much profounder an idea than mere immortality. I am sure we don’t just “go on.” We really die and are really built up again (C.S. Lewis, Reference).

I thought of that quote from Lewis several times as I read this book with my children.

What if you could drink from the fountain of youth and live forever? What if drugs could extend life beyond what we presently imagine? Those are compelling questions. And it’s the question below those questions that Tuck Everlasting really addresses. I happen to think it addresses it in a beautiful way.

Winnie is faced with a decision. I think she sides with C.S. Lewis. I hope I would too.

 

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Resurrection More Profound Than Immortality

Lewis believed that ‘any moment may sink an artesian well right down into one’s past self, and old joy, even old power, may come rushing up. That is why I think resurrection is so much profounder an idea than mere immortality.

-Terry Lindvall, Surprised by Laughter, p. 81

What an idea! This is why Revival is so glorious (even personal revival). This quote got me to thinking of the various ways in which resurrection is more glorious than immortality. I’ll share one:

Immortality is like a long day without any sleep. Resurrection is like waking up after a good sleep. It is like waking up after having wonderful dreams all night and then finding that your day is better than your dreams.

A Corpse is Not a Man, but Neither is a Ghost (Chesterton)

…It was a very special idea of St. Thomas that Man is to be studied in his whole manhood; that a man is not a man without his body, just as he is not a man without his soul. A corpse is not a man; but also a ghost is not a man. The earlier school of Augustine and even of Anselm had rather neglected this, treating the soul as the only necessary treasure, wrapped for a time in a negligible napkin. Even here they were less orthodox in being more spiritual.

-G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 17

The phrase “less orthodox in being more spiritual” is a gem, but that is not necessarily why I share the quote.

I have heard more than one preacher say things like this: ‘the body is just a shell containing the real self.’ I once heard a preacher try to make the point at a funeral like this: ‘Don’t you dare think that this body is the real [so and so]. This was only a shell.’

That was not Jesus’ perspective at the tomb of Lazarus, and it shouldn’t be ours. Death is the great tragedy, and the great enemy, of mankind. Any separation of soul from body is unnatural. And so the souls of holy martyrs cry out in heaven, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10). They are not content to be spirits while others remain in the body. They would be further clothed (2 Cor. 5:10).

We look not just for heaven, but for new heavens and a new earth – and a great resurrection. For ‘a corpse is not a man,’ but neither is a ghost.

Hosea 13 and Romans 15: Jesus Changes Everything

Will I deliver them from the power of Sheol? No, I will not!Will I redeem them from death? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion! (Hosea 13:14 NET Bible).

The Apostle likely references this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57:

“O death, where is your victory?
 O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

How did Hosea 13:14 go from what it was to what it became in 1 Corinthians 15? Is the Apostle Paul working from a strange translation (as we often are)? Is it a misquote?

No. Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead. In his life he fulfilled the law, robbing death of its power. In dying he took the sting of sin, robbing death of its great weapon – eternal judgement. In rising, he demonstrated that the monster of death had been defeated entirely.

At the cross God unleashed hell on his Son, our Lord: Will I deliver him? No, I will not! Will I redeem him? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion!

And because Jesus took this sting, we can say, O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

Death has no dart with which to wound us except sin, since death proceeds from the anger of God. Now it is only with our sins that God is angry. Take away sin, therefore, and death will no more be able to harm us (John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15).

Death and Resurrection: The Story of God and Man in a Garden

After God created Man, He placed him in a garden in a placed called Eden (literally, Paradise or Delight). There God communed with Adam, promising him life for obedience and death for disobedience to his commands. After the Fall, Genesis records,

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (3:8).

There is debate about whether or not the English phrase ‘cool of the day’ is a proper translation. Some scholars have argued that the phrase should actually be rendered, ‘And they heard the sound of the Lord God in the garden in the wind of the storm…’ That’s quite different from ‘in the cool of the day.’ You can read about the translation issues HERE. If the phrase, ‘in the wind of the storm’ is accurate, it only serves to emphasize the judgement that was impending for Adam and Eve.

That judgement included the several curses listed in Genesis 3, along with expulsion from the garden:

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (3:24).

From the flaming sword of Genesis 3, thousands of years, and the entire Old Testament, pass before God is seen again walking with man in the garden. That brings us to John’s Gospel and Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples (John 18:1-2).

Jesus Christ, the man who is God, met with his disciples in a garden called Gethsemane; it was there that he wrestled with God over the judgment that was to be poured out upon him at the cross. It was there that he sweat, as it were, drops of blood for the sake of sinners:

For me it was in the garden he prayed, ‘Not my will but thine.’
He had no tears for his own grief, but sweat drops of blood for mine.

That wasn’t the last we would see of God in a garden. Somewhere near Golgotha he was laid to rest in a garden tomb:

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:41-42).

And because he was laid to rest in a garden, he was resurrected in a garden. In fact, the first eyewitness of the resurrection, Mary, mistook him to be a gardener:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15).

She mistook him for the gardener of that particular place at that particular time, but we make no mistake in realizing that he is the great Gardener. His resurrection opens the doors to paradise for all those who rest and trust in him as he is offered in the gospel. G.K. Chesterton comments on this passage:

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn (The Everlasting Man, p. 214).

The resurrection begins the new creation, and each of us who trust in that resurrection are already a part of it, awaiting its ultimate consummation. John’s Revelation points to the consummation of the new creation in a city; but assuredly it will be a garden-city, for in it is Eden’s Tree of Life:

…through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

From one angle, the Bible is the story of Paradise, Paradise lost, Paradise regained, and Paradise restored. And it tells us that in order for that restoration to happen, man has to pass through the flaming sword of God’s judgment (Gen. 3:24). Beginning with Gethsemane, to the cross, Jesus did precisely that. Adam forfeited his life in the garden when he ate the forbidden fruit, Jesus gained it back for us when he took the foreboding cup of God’s wrath. Adam betrayed God in a garden, Jesus was betrayed by Judas in a garden (for the sake of the children of Adam). Then he was buried in a garden to rise in a garden that he might open the doors of paradise for all who would trust in him.

Everyone desires paradise. Eden is programmed into our system. Whether it’s a snow-capped mountain, a warm beach, a cabin on the lake, or a rock concert, we all want it, and we all know that it is lost. We may have glimpses from time to time, but we can never lay hold of it. Jesus in the garden of resurrection assures us that when the Christian thinks about paradise, it is not simply a tragedy of the past, lost and almost forgotten; rather it is our hope for the future.

Sleep: Death and Resurrection Every Day

The greatest act of faith a man can perform is the act that we perform every night. We abandon our identity, we turn our soul and body into chaos and old night. We uncreate ourselves as if at the end of the world: for all practical purposes we become dead men, in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection.

G.K. Chesterton, The Meaning of Dreams, from In Defense of Sanity, p. 119.

Each night is like the last judgment for the thoughtful soul. We, if we are thoughtful, look back on our day, and perhaps the days that have gone before that day, and ask, ‘Have I done all that needed to be done?’ And, closing our eyes, we give up the ghost, and find ourselves in uncontrolled darkness. What comes after that is out of our control. We may dream of the glories of heaven or the fires of hell. We may dream recompense or pretense or nonsense. And, we hope, by God’s grace, that we will rise to a new day of sunshine and light.

Then the dream startles, or the buzzer sounds, or the voice of a child beckons, and we find that we are awake. We are resurrected every day. The leaves appear every spring, and we appear every morning. Yet, somehow, we doubt the reality of resurrection and new life.

Chesterton has made the point that lying in bed can be an amazing thing. Sleep is more amazing. And we get to do it every day.

One of my great besetting issues, I do not know if it is a sin, is the constant fight against sleep. I love to be awake. I love to be doing, moving, learning, teaching, reading, playing, praying. And every night God says, ‘Fool, your soul is required of you.’ This isn’t my life, this isn’t my body ultimately. The One who made it did so in such a way that it must rest. And that rest reminds me that I am not God, for only he ‘slumbers not, nor sleeps.’

Perhaps I fear the reckoning of realizing that I did not do enough. For each day I am a failure, and the act of giving up at the end of the day only serves to reestablish that fact. But we need to give up. It’s only then that we find we will wake up to a new morning, and new life.

The Sinner’s Bones

[The humble man] sees that sin is so bred in the bone, that till his bones, as Joseph’s, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will not out.

-Thomas Brooks, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, from Works vol. 3, p. 28.

Sin is so deep that until our bones be brought out of the grave and into the Promised Land they will never truly have rest. We’ll go to the grave in this world, but we will not be content to let our bones remain there. And we must have a greater Joshua (Joshua 24:32) to finish that work and plant us where we belong.

  • By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones (Hebrews 11:22).

Only a Seed

A cemetery flower, a real cemetery flower, not man-made,
Looked on as the mourners gathered around a grave.
He was a young flower, perhaps a bit naive and green,
But he could not understand the sight he had just seen.

As the men and women placed the casket in the ground,
Many were sobbing, weeping, and all were wearing frowns.
The flower wished that he could find a way to communicate
His own reasonings about what was taking place.

He thought to himself, ‘If I could only tell them about me,
That a short time ago I too was only a seed.’

Be Mindful of the Grave…and of the Empty Grave

We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.

-Thomas Watson (see HERE), quoted in A Puritan Golden Treasury, p. 246.

Watson points two two great truths in one beautiful sentence: 1) We are not promised another day and 2) we are promised eternity. Or you could put it this way: We do not know what tomorrow brings, but nonetheless we know the future. We therefore should number our days and count on eternity – be mindful of the shortness of life, and of everlasting life.

We should improve the time while being mindful of the time of improvement. Make much of the time, knowing that eternity looms on the horizon.

Be mindful of the tomb and of the empty tomb.

  • James 4:14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
  • Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
  • 2 Peter 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 ¶ Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

 

The Lord has written the promise of the resurrection…in every leaf in spring-time

The Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.

-Martin Luther, Watchwords for the Warfare of Life, p. 317.

  • Job 14:7 “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. 8 Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, 9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.
  • Psalm 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.