The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel is most often remembered as the man behind the Nobel Prize, the highly regarded international award for efforts in peace, chemistry, physics, literature, and economics.
At one point, however, Nobel was once largely known as an inventor and maker of explosives. In 1866 he invented dynamite, and he went on to operate labs in 20 countries and have more than 90 factories manufacturing explosives and ammunition.
Then in 1888 a bizarre incident occurred which gave Alfred Nobel an unlikely opportunity to reflect on his life. When Alfred’s brother Ludvig died while staying in Cannes, France, the French newspapers mistakenly confused the two brothers, reporting the death of the inventor of explosives. One paper’s headline read: “Le marchand de la mort est mort” — The merchant of death is dead.
That event seems to have led Nobel to change the trajectory of his life and ultimately led to his establishment of the Nobel Prize, giving him a remarkably changed reputation.
As you and I reflect on our personal lives, what are people apt to say about us upon our death? What would we like persons at our funeral to say about us and our life? Further, after we draw our last breath we will stand before God and give an account of our life. What will God say as we stand there with everything “uncovered and laid bare” (Hebrews 4:13)?
Looking at death brings life into focus.
Three days earlier they laid him in the tomb, pronounced dead by a Roman centurion, an expert in such matters. Then resurrection life swept through that tomb.
Nothing has been the same since! It’s like we were stumbling around with a sinking feeling, full of dread. Then Christ arose and a surge of adrenaline shot through us, a sense of strength and optimism!
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20 (NLT), “[Christ] has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again.” Paul is using the concept of firstfruits, something common in Palestinian agriculture. The first grain of the harvest is proof that the harvest is ready to be gathered in as well as a promise of what the harvest is going to be like.
If we had been there at the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, would we have seen him stir and open his eyes and begin to struggle with the bandages? No, that would have been a resuscitation of a natural body, not a resurrected body. Rather, we would have seen him pass through the graveclothes and out of the sealed tomb, his body transmuted into something new and different and wonderful, a body that could eat and touch but not need doorways to leave or enter a place.
Once there is the firstfruits, there is more of the same to follow. The enemy Death will come for me and you. But we, like Jesus, are not going to find ourselves in the hold of death but given a glorious new body. This will not be “glorious” for those not ready to meet God — those resisting God would find themselves mighty uncomfortable beyond death in the presence of God, and indeed would not be able to remain there. But for those of us who love God, nothing can hold us back!