Death is a topic of conversation that most people don’t like to engage in. It’s not considered “polite”. But for those who love God and follow Jesus, death is the final hurdle that must be cleared before heading home to God. For born-agains, not to talk about death is like not talking about what temperature you should set the oven at to bake a cake. You need to know the correct temperature or you’ll either half-bake or burn it. In the same way, we need to know how to face death the right way or we run the risk of doing it wrong.
Doing death wrong? Sure. It’s the same as the rest of life, only it’s at the end. The grand finale. The finish line.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do death.
As always, we only need to look to Jesus to see the right way to do death. He didn’t initiate it, but he didn’t try to stop it, either. He didn’t embrace it; he endured it. He didn’t try to prolong his days; he was grateful that his time had come and he could finally go home.
He didn’t demand that he die with dignity. He didn’t demand that he be drugged into comfortable numbness. He didn’t have a prepaid funeral plan so that his grieving relatives didn’t have to deal with the expense and hassle of an unexpected burial. He just let the Romans do whatever they were instructed to do because it had to be done.
He didn’t fight it. He went through the process like an automaton, his mind far removed from the public spectacle of his execution. The death of his body wasn’t a failure on his or God’s part; it was part of the terms of his release, a type of baptism. He couldn’t be released from the bonds of this life until his body had died. He was not his body; his body was simply a container. What Jesus was he is still.
Jesus kept his mind on God throughout the entire process. God kept him strong and helped him endure. We should do the same, when our time comes. We are not our bodies; they’re just our containers. What we are now we will remain even after death. Like Jesus, we’ll get through the transition of death to life if we keep our focus not on our pain or our relatives or our regrets or our funeral plans but on God and God only.
A good example of how not to die can be seen in Judas Iscariot. His mind was as far removed from God as you can get. His focus was on revenge and money. And when he realized he’d screwed up, his repentance was all about saving his own skin rather than regretting how he’d betrayed Jesus. His “careful” tears didn’t fool God. His death came suddenly and violently in an explosion of viscera that would have made the special effects crew on The Walking Dead proud. While we’re cautioned not to speculate out loud where Judas ended up, we can still hold a private opinion.
Most people will change the conversation when you talk about death, but we need to stare it straight in the face. We need to learn how to do death right, just as we need to learn how to do our lives here on Earth right. And just like our lives here on Earth, doing death right means holding onto God as tightly as we can, knowing that “this, too, will pass”.