“A Matter of Life and Death”
Final Message Facing the Giants
What it would be like if a man came riding a horse down Ridge Road this morning announcing that He was God. Would it make the newspaper? Yes. Would it be on the evening news? Probably. Would most people believe him? Probably not.
Through the years a number of men have come forward saying that they are the Messiah, the promised one. One of those men was named Theudas. He came forward around 45 AD and ask everyone to take up their possessions and follow him to the Jordan River. He said that when they got there he would part the waters. According to the historian Josephus, not to be confused with Bocephus the musician, Josephus tells us that many followed him and many died as a result.
Another man, Simon Magus asked people to follow him and he promised to fly through the air. He jumped off a mountain. He’s dead.
But back to the question...what if am man came riding a horse down Ridge Road this morning claiming to be God? We would likely find it very hard to accept...very hard to believe. About 2000 years ago, we believe on a Sunday Jesus came down the main street of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey announcing that He was God and that all who would believe would live forever. Hundreds of prophecies from the OT were fulfilled in what happened that week that we now call Holy Week.
The sequence went something like this...
Sunday...triumphant entry. People are waving Palm branches ready to make Him King.
Monday...Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.
Tuesday..very busy day. He preaches..teaches several parables... That day Judas agrees to betray Jesus.
Thursday...prepared for Passover. Washes the disciple’s feet. Identifies Judas as the one who would betray Him. Institutes the Lord’s supper. Prays so hard he sweats drops of blood.
Friday... arrested, placed on trial by Annas, then Caiaphas, then Pilate, then Herod, then Pilate again. He is crucified on the cross and then buried in a borrowed tomb.
Saturday... He lies in the tomb.
Sunday... Jesus appears...to Mary Magdalene. Then to the other women. The guards report His resurrection. Then He appears to 2 disciples...then to 10 w/o Thomas...a week later to disciples with Thomas. Then to 7 by the sea. Then to 500. He gave some final words and then ascended to Heaven.
When I recount this list of events I see 3 events that clearly stand out....... the institution of the Lord’s supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection. All 3 of these events speak to what I would call life and death issues. They are all matters of life and death. In al 3 we see death....in all 3 we see life.
In the OT book of Job, we remember that Job has faced one trial after another, lost his home, his material possessions, his children, ....now his wife and his 3 friends are questioning him about his faith. How can he serve a God who allows these things. Job comes back with a great question in chapter 14. Job 14:14.
Man has attempted to answer that question in a variety of ways through the years. Some say they have had near death experiences and that for a moment they were able to lok into eternity...into Heaven and they describe it in their latest book.
Some turn to psychics charging $5.00 a minute to tell you the future.
Paul reminds us in the NT, he says I do not want you to be ignorant brothers concerning those who have fallen asleep/died; Paul said this because those in his day had become confused. Guess what? We still are. Some say life is temporary. Death is final.
Others say they’re not worried about it...they will get their lives right before they die. The problem with that is we simply cannot predict when death will occur. But let me quickly give you several things we can and do believe about life and death.
1. We can face death with confidence. There is no need to be afraid. The writer of Hebrews tells us that by the death of Jesus on the cross that those who have been in slavery because of their fear of death. They have now been set free.
2. Life can be at times, very difficult. The longer a Christian lives in this world, the less attractive this world is. Paul compares the body to living in a tent. And he says while we live in this tent we groan and we are burdened because we want something better. My family and i used to go camping...we had a nice tent...it saved us a lot of money on vacations and our kids loved it. We did get into a rainstorm once and there were a couple of things i quickly noticed. One is that a tent is not very secure. You can’t lock the door, not very good protection, when the wind is blowing they can collapse. Paul knew all of this because he was a tentmaker..that’s what he did to support his ministry. We have to be reminded that tents are vulnerable and they can be destroyed in a second. They also become uncomfortable after a while....you lie down for the night with a sleeping bag.. it’s too hot or maybe it’s too cold , mosquitos are biting and the ground is just really hard. You lie there and you think about the lack of AC, no indoor plumbing and you think a lot about that comfortable bed you have at home...in fact more than anything you think about that bed. And the longer you toss and turn, the more uncomfortable you feel. And you keep thinking about that bed.
The scripture reminds me that one day this tent will be destroyed and my spirit will leave and go home to be with Jesus. Our bodies are a lot like a glove. The longer you wear one, the longer you have it the quicker it takes on the shape of your hand. In fact when you remove your hand from the glove the form remains the same....but that which gives it form has been removed. And then that body will be completely changed. I am reminded of a funny story I heard of a farmer and his son who ventured into the big city for the first time. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and back together again. The boy asked his father, dad what is this? The father having never seen an elevator said son, I’ve never seen anything like this before. I don’t know what it is.
While the boy and his father were watching wid-eyed a woman in her 90’s limping slightly with a cane slowly walks up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the lady walks between them and into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his dad watched as small numbers on the wall lit up. They continued to watch the numbers light up now in the opposite direction. The walls opened up again and this time a beautiful 25 year old woman steps out. The father says to his son, Boy, go get your Mama.
So what’s it like to die? Well we will be changed for sure but the best description I think that the Bible gives us of death is that of falling asleep. When Stephen was stoned by the angry mob, the Bible says he fell asleep. When Lazarus died Jesus said Lazarus was asleep. Paul said don’t be ignorant concerning those who have fallen asleep.
Catherine Marshall in her book beyond ourselves tells the story of a friend of hers whose teenage son died of diabetes before insulin was discovered. He asked her one day, mommy what does it feel like to die? Not knowing what to say she ran into the kitchen pretending to be doing something at the stove and she said Lord tell me what to tell my son. She said Kenneth you remember just a few years ago when you would play so hard that when you would come in you would fall into mama and daddy’s bed. You didn’t undress you just fell asleep, but then the next morning you would wake up and you would find your self in your own bed, in your own room, where you belong. That was because your father would come along with his strong arms and would lift you up and carry you to where you belong.
She said...that is what death is like. Our heavenly father comes along and he carries us to the room...the bed it where we belong.