I went to the doctor today for my usual checkup. It is interesting as one gets older how the body changes and more limitations are discovered. There are more aches and pains and mortality becomes more of a reality than in the past. Now to alleviate anyone’s curiosity, my visit to the doctor was good.
That being said, there are some who have a false view of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. What they have done is they have created a terrible perversion of the gospel. They say that since Jesus suffered for me, therefore I don’t have to suffer. Along those same lines, some believe that I should be comfortable and prosperous. The stumbling block of the cross is removed if we say Jesus became homeless that I might have the finest of houses or that He was rejected by men that I might be admired among men. Did Jesus live in poverty that I might live in luxury? Did He endure suffering that I might enjoy ease and comfort?
Jesus taught just the opposite: “If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” If we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17). Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
When we saw Jesus die, we saw two things: the price paid to bring us to glory; and the example given for how we are to get there. So let’s learn from Jesus how to die, by focusing on Luke 23:44–46: “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
From this passage, there are four things we need to remember. The first is, when you come to die, remember that God reigns. “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” Who saw to it that the sun’s light failed? Who ripped the temple’s curtain from top to bottom?
Over and around the death of Jesus Christ is the ruling hand of God. He has not fumbled the ball. There are no loose ends. Luke made it crystal clear in Acts 4:27-28: “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.“
Jesus said to the mob who arrested him in Gethsemane, “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” This was such a powerful statement as it showed Jesus’ sovereignty over all. Even the power of darkness cannot operate except by the hand of almighty God.
In the Old Testament we read in Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me, I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” And in Isaiah 53:10 it says, “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him. He has put him to grief. We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted” When you come to die, remember God reigns and nothing has slipped between His fingers.
When the time comes for our lives to end, remember that God has mercy. To think that our all-powerful God who rules in life and death must also possess mercy is a must. Remember what happened when Jesus died? What was the meaning of the darkness at noon and the tearing of the temple curtain? When you think about how God clothed His world in majesty and beauty and yet He was willing to give His Son for us is amazing. To remove all barriers between Himself and His “enemies” shows mercy and grace. And it was all through His Son…
“It was the will of the Lord to bruise him”—but not without mercy, not without grief. “As a father has mercy on his children, so the Lord has mercy on those who fear Him. He knows our frame, that we are dust.” The nails and spear and rod and crown of thorns did not feel like pity. Neither do intravenous needles, respirators, tubes down your throat, and hand restraints. All the more reason to remember that God reigns and that as a father his child, so he has mercy upon you in your dying.
Thirdly, when you come to die, remember that you have a spirit that will live on. Jesus said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus knew and we should know that death for God’s people is not the end nor even a sleep for our conscious personalities. Paul put it like this in 2 Corinthians 5: “We are of good courage and would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Philippians 1:23, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” We will die like Jesus if we remember that like him we have a spirit which at the moment of death does not die but lives on with God.
Fourthly, we should remember that God’s arms are open and His hands extended to His dying children. Remember Jesus’ words, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Not: into the grave. Not: into the void. Not: into the dark unknown. But: into the hands of God.
One of the great temptations when death draws near is to believe that our death is a horrible curse from God and that therefore we are under his wrath and cannot commit our spirit to His care. We need to learn from Jesus. His death was a horrible blow from God. He became a curse for us. But Jesus did not abandon faith in God’s love for Him.
This leads to the last point. When death draws near, it is easy to complain to God about our circumstances. But when we see God as He truly is: that He reigns, He is merciful, and His loving hands are open to your spirit, then it puts all we experience, suffering and death, into perspective. And we need to remember that it is in those hands that take us into Paradise immediately after we die.
Jesus’ life was the example to us in how to live. His death too is an example of how we need to approach death. As He told the thief on the cross, “Today, you shall be with Me in Paradise…” That is what death is… it rings true and gives us hope. Death has lost it’s sting and through Jesus we will live forever.