"Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow"
Josiah was one of the greater kings of Judah who initiated reform and called the people back to God. Sadly, his reforms did not last, for the people reverted back to evil after his death. While Josiah himself would not live to see Judah taken into captivity, his children, who did not follow the Lord as he did, would see the devastation.
Jeremiah prophesied during the final days of Judah. One of Josiah’s sons, Jehoiakim, was so wicked that he cut up and burned the scroll on which God’s word was written (Jeremiah 36). Here is what was read from Jeremiah in a prophecy against Jehoiakim: “Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah: They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah, my brother!’ or “Ah, sister!’ They shall not lament for him, saying, ‘Ah, lord!’ or “Ah, his majesty!’ With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 22.18-19).
This language meant that Jehoiakim would be buried without any mourning or second thought. That’s the tragic end of a wicked king. Yeet that is basically the end of all people if there is no God. People may mourn for a time, but a few years down the road no one will know or care. Life is gone and no one will know the difference.
Solomon declared that if there is no God, the fate of man is as the animals. He wrote, “For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the bests, for all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 3.19).
However, let’s contrast this with another death and burial. Jesus died by crucifixion, which was a particularly cruel and ugly death. To be crucified was to be cursed, a criminal, and a bane of society. A crucified man would be mocked and looked upon with horror, and Jesus was even dishonored by those who hung next to him. It was ugly, vicious, and humiliating. The cross was scandalous, being worse than the death of a beast. No wonder Jesus despised the shame (Hebrews 12.2). Jesus’ death was worse than the most wicked of the kings. If that were the end of the story, we would all be most pitiable.
Jesus’ burial, however, was different. Jesus suffered the worst of deaths, but was then treated with respect and honor by those who buried him. The women who followed Jesus cared for his body while Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, offered his tomb (Matthew 27.55-61). This fulfilled the prophecy: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death…” (Isaiah 53.9).
But even this was not the end, for the mourning was followed by great joy. As one writer notes, “In shame, ignominy, and powerlessness he died in suffering and agony and rose in power to become the risen temple of God, the living meeting place between God and his people” (D.A. Carson, Scandalous, 25).
While Jesus’ death was the worst shame imaginable and his burial treated with honor, what happened next is the reason any are — or can — become Christians. His death alone does not suffice, nor does his burial provide the hope. “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.14). There had to be more, and the preaching of the gospel entails the full message: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).
Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope, knowing that the end of life on earth is not the end of life altogether. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1.3-4).
We have reason to live because he still lives. His death was indeed necessary for his blood to remit our sins, but his resurrection is the capstone of all that he came to accomplish, and through this we have our assurance for the eternal life he promised. As Paul explained, “…and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5.15). Truly, because he lives, we can face tomorrow!