Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Death is Not Natural

While my father lay dying recently, I tried to console myself by saying, “Well, he lived a long, full life, and now death is just a natural part of life.”

Yes, he did live a long, full life. And if there were some way to guarantee that I’d also make it to age 86, I’d sign on the dotted line without hesitation. But wait a minute: death is NOT a natural part of life (no matter what Yoda said). Death is an obscenity, and was NEVER a part of God’s original plan.

Death was brought into the world through sin. When creation rebelled against its Creator—with Adam and Eve leading the way and everyone since following in their footsteps—that ideal paradise situation was lost.

The fall was so severe, the effects of death so destructive, that it took nothing short of divine intervention to remedy the situation. God became man, paid the ultimate price for sin by dying on the cross, and then rose from the tomb conquering death once and for all.

We can rejoice in the glorious fact that death is no longer final because of the atoning work of Christ. Our souls can live for eternity if we trust in Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that death doesn’t hurt. It’s still painful and heart-breaking and a gross corruption of God’s good creation. And it is NOT a natural part of life.

We know death is horrible because of the way Jesus reacted when confronted with death. In Matthew’s gospel we read, “When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”

Jesus needed to be alone for a while and grieve. The death of John the Baptist caused Him to be filled with sorrow. Just like us when a loved one dies, Jesus too had to take time to mourn.

If death is just a natural part of life, Jesus should have rejoiced at the news that John the Baptist was dead. “Woo hoo!” He should’ve shouted, pumping a fist into the air. “John’s in Heaven. No more pain, no more suffering, and most of all, no more locust burgers for lunch!”

But that’s not what Jesus did. Not even close.

The whole concept of death was abhorrent to Jesus. This is why at another time and place He wept while standing before Lazarus’ tomb. He knew He was about to raise Lazarus back to life, and yet death was so repugnant that He couldn’t help but weep at its corrupting effect on His once good creation.

Oh sure, some people claim the real reason Jesus wept was because of the people’s lack of faith. I don’t think so. For three straight years He had been dealing with people who didn’t understand or didn’t believe. He never wept then. But He wept in front of Lazarus’ tomb because the stench of death—not just in His nostrils but in His soul—was so painful. Death had defiled His awesome creation.

Maybe this poignant moment with Lazarus was the emotional boost Jesus needed to march toward Jerusalem and put an end to this obscenity once and for all. Because that’s exactly what happened: Holy Week and the Passion came right after the raising of Lazarus. And thank God that Jesus willingly submitted to the repugnance of death so that we could live in Heaven forever.

It’s sad that my dad died. He did live a long, full life. But I have to stop telling myself that death is just a natural part of life. It’s not. It makes the Lord weep.

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