Dying is a topic most us would rather avoid, but Jesus didn’t shy away from the subject. In fact, he focused on it – maybe because He came to die for us.
I guess I would probably be a bit fixated on the subject if I knew that was the fate that awaited me…. Wait a minute…. that is the fate that awaits me!
Well, maybe it was different for Jesus because it wasn’t just the fate that awaited him; it was among the primary purposes for which he became a man. Though he existed in the form of God, He didn’t hold on to His superior position. He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born a man. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Simply put – Jesus came to die – for us.
As Jesus neared the time when He would be betrayed into the hands of the tribunal that would seal His death warrant, He said:
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”” (John 12:27-28)
For Jesus, death wasn’t inevitable. He chose to die. This does make him different than us: He chose to become one of us and die for us. And because He chose it, could it have been any different for Him?
Is it really different for us?
Maybe not. If you believe what Jesus said.
Just before talking of His own death, Jesus said this:
“[U]nless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24-25
Jesus added: “Whoever serves me must follow me….” (John 12:26) And then He preceded to speak of being troubled, for the hour was coming soon. He was about to take a step from which He knew He could not retreat. He was about to take the fateful step toward His own death, and He told us then that we must follow Him.
Does it not seem odd to you that He told us we must follow Him? As if we have a choice in the matter?
We don’t have a choice in whether we will die. We will die!
So, what is Jesus even talking about?
We don’t have any choice in the matter of our physical death so He must have been talking about a different kind of death.
For Him, it was a physical death that He was choosing. But for His decision to die, Jesus would not die.
For us, though, we have no choice in the prospect of physical death. We were made from dust, and to dust we will return.
Our choice is different because we have no choice in dying physically, but we have a choice. Jesus alluded to our choice when He said:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke (9:23-24)
The death Jesus encourages us to embrace, following after Jesus, is a different kind of death. It’s a death that we can choose. It’s a death to all the things of this physical world. We are born into this physical world, but this world is is just a shadow of the life that is in God.
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:25)
What good is the whole world? The end of this physical existence is death!
Jesus offers us something better – a spiritual life that grows out of the death to this earthly existence. Jesus chose to partake in the physical death to which we are inevitably bound to allow us a choice to partake in His life that is inevitably His!
It wasn’t easy for Him to choose bodily death, just as it isn’t easy for us to choose death to this physical life and its pleasures, however fleeting they might be.
But, of these things Paul was speaking when he said:
“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain…. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another…. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:36, 37, 40, 42)
Death makes no sense, but for the resurrection. In the light of the resurrection, it means everything, as Paul observes: (1 Corinthians 15:50-55):
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”