“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” (Matthew 7:21–23 NLT)
This is a hard teaching. Jesus is telling us that there are followers of his whom most of us would consider prime candidates for citizenship in Heaven but who never actually followed after him; they put on a good show, but the life they seem to possess is just death covered over.
On his show, Connected, Latif Nassir tells the story of a valley in the Sahara where the mountains act like a tunnel, pushing the wind through it to pick up sand and rocks on the desert floor, grinding them up finer than sand into a dust heavy with phosphorus. This wind then tosses the dust out over the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Amazon. If it were not for this nutrient-rich dust from one of the deadest places on earth, the notoriously infertile Amazon soil would not be able to sustain one of the most biodiverse places on this planet.
Similarly, we too know life that comes from death; Jesus has gifted us life abundant through his death and resurrection. Even so, every day we still have a choice to make. We can choose to wear a façade of life, all while death still reigns in our hearts and lives, or we can take the more difficult path toward life and resurrection by embracing the cross and the empty tomb, allowing Christ to reign over our lives with such totality that he fills the very cracks and crevices. There is hardly a better symbol for this choice than today, the day after our remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross and the day before our celebration of his resurrection.