Jesus, Dying, and Death
One vexing dimension to the Passion story of Jesus is how Jesus himself comes to be at peace with basically letting himself be killed by the Romans and some of the power brokers of the Jerusalem religious establishment.
Jesus' peace with dying is significant to us; it concerns us not only as those who love him but also because it makes us face our own mortality. How are we or are we not at peace with dying and death?
Jesus can be for us both rule and exception as we grapple with our mortality.
Jesus faces the same sort of human death that we all do—"the end of the line." For Jesus as with us death means no more spending physical time with people on earth—no more shooting the breeze with Peter or Mary Magdalene, no more teaching to the crowds of healing people whom he gets to look in the eye.
No more taking in and interacting with creation on a creaturely level, watching the sun rise or set, no more bread and wine at dinner. We can relate to that and imagine that Jesus confronts his death with sadness that the blessing of earthly life is coming to a close.
Yet for Jesus his death takes on a significance that none of ours can. This is part of why he says, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Jesus looks to his death as the birth of resurrection life, not only for himself, but for all who have faith in God through him.
Regardless of what we believe happens on the cross in relationship to our sins, the cross leads to the empty tomb and the hope that we who belong to Christ shall not only be bound with Christ in a death like his but also in a resurrection like his (see 1 Corinthians 15).
Jesus says, in effect, 'This is why I came here, to accept this death and bring new life from it, like a seed. So no need for me to be sad. It's what I'm here for.'
So despite the fact that our death does not impact the world as Jesus' death does, we still live in the light of his resurrection and the assurance that human life isn't the beginning and end of the story.
Jesus uses hyperbole when we says, "Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (v. 25). A modern translation might be: 'Those who hold on too dearly to their life will lose it, and those who can see beyond this earthly life will keep life forever.' If we worry about death all the time then this fear consumes us and transforms us into death haters instead of life embracers.
Easter releases us from that fear so that, not fearing death as the final word, we see life and death more clearly in relationship to the God who made life, death, and us, and who glorifies Jesus because he embodies the way of peace in life, in death, and in life beyond death.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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