Summary: Message about the fear of death that grips our existence
Fear Factor – Death
As Halloween approaches, death gets a bit more airplay. So let’s talk about it. It is a subject we don’t like to talk about. Especially, the Chinese who superstitiously avoid the number 4 because it sounds like the word for death! If anyone is jeopardy due to Chinese superstition it’ll be me because I live at this address 22240 Cochrane Drive here and when I was in Calgary 24 Bergen Crescent. (2 sounds like the Chinese word for “easy”). I am doomed to die easily, hah...ha
There is no doubt that death is fearful. If it is possible, people want to escape it. But no one escapes this. As George Bernard Shaw once said “The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die.” Or as Billy Graham puts it, “It (death) is the most democratic of all experiences.” It is a tragic and fearful thing to encounter death. One brave man wrote...
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me. ( Ps.55:4,5)
Do you know who wrote those words? It comes from the pen of the brave King David, a great hero, the one who starred down the giant Goliath in battle. And he fought many battles, with death all around him. In song he was celebrated as one who has slain tens of thousands (1 Sam.18). Yet he too, as we have read, was gripped by the fear and the horror of death.
If you were out fishing one day in a boat and you were caught in a perfect storm with howling winds, water threatening to capsize your boat, how would you feel? This was what occurred in the life of Jesus’ disciples, and some who were rugged outdoorsy fisherman. Their response - “Lord save us! We are going to drown!” (Matt.8:25). The fear of death... It is a purely normal human experience.
Jerry Watson, writing on the topic of death has noted that there are 3 general responses on how people respond to the fear of death.
1. Hedonism : indulging in selfish, often destructive pleasure seeking. The motto for such folks is “You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can.” Their strategy lies in ignoring life death. Numbing themselves to the fear of death usually by using or rather abusing chemicals.
2. Pessimism: death is coming, nothing else matters and might as well get the dying over with. Hmmm... life of the party stuff. Rock band called Queen echo this sentiment
“Who wants to live forever,
There’s no chance for us,
It’s all decided for us, ...
3. Denial: avoidance – spend much effort in seeking the elusive fountain of youth, seeking more health, strength, fame, fortune... they go around wearing masks, gloves, buying anti-bacterial solutions by the case load, some even die at the plastic surgeon’s table... Does it seem like very liberating or hopeful to you?
Does it seem to you that none of these 3 common responses is very helpful? So how can we live with certainty of death looming over us?
To an audience that is gripped by the reality and certainty of death due to severe persecution, the writer of the letter to Hebrews wrote this
9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews writer wants to remind his readers that that supreme God of the universe has never left them alone to die with no hope. He tells them God Himself, Jesus, took on human flesh and experienced real suffering and death to comfort and strengthen them. He is with us in this experience! The pain, the struggles, the emotional anguish, God Himself felt them! The word “author” – has the notion of the chief leader, the champion, the captain. Implication of Jesus battling death.
God lived in our shoes, battled death, He suffered death, tasted it, not with a heavenly ten foot pole or a remote control but in all it awful gory details. And became our champion, destroyed death with His crucifixion, rising from the dead. So we read in Heb.2
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Heb.2