Monday, April 10, 2023

Comparing the Butterfly to the Resurrection: Life and Death Examined

“Cancer had reduced six-year-old Christian to skin and bones. It was during his final days that nature bestowed its annual miracle. Millions of yellow butterflies invade northeast Oklahoma with a gentle firestorm of color and dance, covering the landscape and bringing unbridled joy after the bleakness of Oklahoma winter. But this gift seldom lasts more than a week before the yearly exodus of butterflies leaves on spring breezes.

Some friends went to the hospital to visit Christian. Though most of the butterflies had already flown away, one friend had managed to trap one for the dying boy. Christian peered at the imprisoned butterfly and then handed the jar to his mother, Marsha. “Mommy, please set him free. He’s like me, in a place he doesn’t like to be.” 

Marsha opened the window, took the lid off the bottle, and let the butterfly soar away. A wistful smile crossed Christian’s face. “I’m going to be like that butterfly when I fly away to Jesus in heaven.”

Christian died a few days later. There are few events filled with more anguish than a child’s funeral. Marsha and Gary dreaded going back to their country house filled with memories of their little boy. So their friends drove them back to the home they hadn’t seen in weeks of hospital stay.

As the car turned in to the long driveway, an amazing sight awaited. The lawn was covered with a carpet of yellow butterflies. They rose by the thousands in a joyous aerial ballet. Marsha ran into their swirling midst. For several joyous moments, butterflies danced about her. She forgot her grief and began to laugh with childish delight. Then they rose en masse to catch winds to faraway places.

Grief returned as quickly as it had left, and Marsha stood alone in the yard where Christian had once played. Then a solitary butterfly returned and landed gently on her nose. It sat for several seconds, its wings gently caressing her tear-stained cheeks before flying away.

Nature has no explanation for butterflies awaiting a grieving mother two weeks after the annual migration had left. Marsha was convinced the butterfly that came back to caress her face was the one released from the hospital room. To this day, all of us are sure that we witnessed a miracle. God had orchestrated this dance of the butterflies to remind Marsha and Gary Dance of what their boy had uttered during his final days in the hospital: “I’m going to be like that butterfly and fly away to Jesus.”

Did Christian know about one of nature’s great miracles? When a caterpillar is ready to turn into a butterfly, it fixes itself to a branch and wriggles out of its outer skin. Underneath is the chrysalis, which hardens to protect the insect as it transforms. It literally creates its own coffin. Then it dies, only to break out of its coffin as a butterfly destined for the heavens. It’s a story of resurrection. No wonder the day Jesus rose from the dead is symbolized by butterflies. Whenever you feel like hope is gone, remember Christian Dance’s story and the truth it teaches: If there were no death, there would be no butterflies.” -James Petterson

It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. -1 Corinthians 15:52

The little boy could see that the miraculous gift of the butterfly was evidence that Jesus Christ was alive and that he would live forever with Jesus after he died.

Do you have that same faith that Jesus Christ is alive? Do you really believe he rose from the dead?

I had an opportunity to visit the Frederik Meijer butterfly gardens in Grand Rapids last week, and got to experience the amazement of seeing hundreds of butterflies, floating through the air all around me, landing on people, shooting past our heads, it was absolutely amazing, and really brought an awe for the glory of what God has made.

The caterpillar forms a cocoon around itself, an ugly cocoon, hard and protective shell, and it seems dead and gone. But then a beautiful butterfly bursts out of the cocoon.

It’s similar with death, and living again. It says in 1st Corinthians 15:42-44: “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.”

Buried in brokenness, that rings true with me. Many of us have such terribly health problems, and when we see loved ones who are dying, we wonder how their broken bodies could ever live again. But in faith in Christ, we know Jesus Christ was raised from the brokenness of his body as it was mangled on the cross, scrouged with whips, beaten, bloodied, nails driven through his hands and feet, massive loss of blood, dehydration, physical death, even having a spear driven through his gut after he died, just to make sure he was dead.

Yet all of that could not stop God from bringing Jesus back to live from the dead,with a new body, a physical body, but healed and alive.

Which is why today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We declare in faith, "He is Risen." Jesus is alive. Right now. He rose from the dead two thousand years ago. And his disciples were shocked to see him alive. Yet he had promised he would rise again.

Let me ask you this: Can a butterfly fly when it’s still a caterpillar? Of course not. It never could. Similarly, we cannot live forever in these old bodies. As it says in the scriptures, verses 45-50:

The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 46 What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. 50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.”

Adam, the first man, became death for us, because sin came to us through Adam’s first sin in the garden. But then when Jesus Christ became our savior, when we believed in Him, he became a “life giving Spirit” to us.

And Jesus produced in us a spring of water bubbling up within us to eternal life. Just as Jesus was raised, and has a new heavenly physical body, we too, when we die, will be raised again, and be given a new heavenly physical body. These bodies we are in now are subject to death, they get sick, they grow old, then die, but, our heavenly bodies, will never grow old, but will remain always healthy and full of that bubbling spiritual life.

But then Paul remarks on a beautiful secret, a mystery. He says, verses 51-53: “But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”

This is referring to the rapture event. If we are alive when Jesus comes, we will be raised without dying. No one knows when that day will come. But with the world growing unstable and wicked, it could be any day now. If we are still alive when Jesus comes, well, then we’ll be changed in a moment, transformed, like the butterfly, transformed, from caterpillar to butterfly, and caught up into the sky.

So we should believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It’s the basis of our entire faith. He is risen. 

But, why? Why should we believe that? Here are some reasons why…

"1. Jesus predicted His resurrection (Matt 16:21; Mark 9:9-10; John 2:18-22).

2. The Old Testament prophesied it (Psalm 16:10; compare Acts 2:25-31; 13:33-37).

3. The tomb was empty and the grave clothes vacant. if those who opposed Christ wished to silence His disciples, all they had to do was produce a body, but they could not (John 20:3-9).

4. Many people saw the resurrected Christ. They looked on His face, touched Him, heard His voice, and saw Him eat (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 24:13-39; John 20:11-29; John 21:1-9; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:3-8).

5. The lives of the disciples were revolutionized. Though they fled and even denied Christ at the time of His arrest, they later feared no one in their proclamation of the risen Christ (Matt 26:56, 69-75).6. The resurrection was the central message of the early church. The church grew with an unwavering conviction that Christ had risen and was the Lord of the church (Acts 4:33; 5:30-32; Rom. 5:24).

6. Each of the 11 disciples of Jesus proclaimed the message of the gospel boldly, and according to history each of them was martyred, lost their lives for Christ’s message. None of them said that they had made it up, all of them died for the message that Jesus was alive. Few if any would be willing to die for a lie. They would admit the lie under pressure, but the disciples never waivered from the message even in the face of death.

7. Men and women today testify that the power of the risen Christ has transformed their lives. We know that Jesus is alive not only because of the historical and biblical evidence but also because He has miraculously touched our lives." -Kurt E. DeHaan

Let us then not simply say, Jesus Christ is risen. But let us also say, “I shall rise.” (Phillip Brooks).

Since Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, since Jesus Christ is alive right now, since Jesus Christ is our savior, anything is possible!