A day without death was the wish of Clavius Aquila Valerius Niger, the fictitious Tribune whose encounters with Jesus of Nazareth are chronicled in the movie, Risen. Although he wielded much authority, Clavius’ job was basically that of an executioner. He oversaw the crucifixions in Jerusalem and quelled uprisings with the superior force of the Roman soldiers under his command. The realities of death were so much a part of his life, he simply longed for a day without it.
Unlike Clavius, however, we American viewers have all heard that Jesus rose from the dead. Whether we believe it or not, resurrection is a familiar idea. Although it makes no theological sense, most of us grew up celebrating Easter or Resurrection Day with colored eggs hidden by a mythical bunny?! Even for those of us who do know the Nazarene, it is quite possible to lose our awe of Him and what He has accomplished.
The Tribune character does a marvelous job of reminding us how astounding is the feat of rising from the dead. To Clavius, death is final. Killing is his business. He knows bodies decay quickly. Appointed to investigate and quell the stories of Yeshua sightings, Clavius is astounded to discover what he describes in a note to his superior as irreconcilable—a man dead without question, and that same man alive again. I pursue him—the Nazarene—to discover the truth. If death can be defeated, I would learn how, and why. It is a delight to share Clavius’ amazement, to take a step back and look at our gospel with fresh eyes.
Accordingly, a thoughtful viewing of Risen offers us several opportunities . . .
- First, we can remember how incredible is our Savior who voluntarily, obediently endured rejection, ridicule and much suffering in our behalf. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Secondly, we can stop fearing the end of this life by anticipating one that will be unfettered by our sin nature. Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
- Thirdly, we can re-awaken our joy in His resurrection and the power He demonstrated. Neither the Romans nor the Jewish leadership of the day had the last word. Jesus conquered death for us. He arose, and that changes everything—including us. I Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
- Finally, since death has been defeated, we can live in hopeful anticipation of our own resurrected lives with Yeshua and the Father. We will have much more than a day without death. An eternity without death awaits us because He is risen. Imagine. 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.