Summary: The fear of death is universal. And through the centuries, people have tried various ways to overcome their fear of death, but Jesus offers us a solution that actually works. What does Jesus offer that no one else can give?
In the early 1900s there was a famous psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Carl Jung. He developed an intriguing test that psychiatrists/Psychologists will sometimes use to help their patients deal with a specific fear everyone seems to have. They tell their patients to imagine being in a white room, filled with white furniture. The walls are white, your clothes are white… EVERYTHING is WHITE. Then (after a few moments) the patient is asked to describe how they feel about being in that room. What emotions did they experience being in that totally white room? And therapists found that many of their patients would speak of feelings of anxiety, fear… even terror. Then the psychologist explains that the white room represented death. And how the patient felt about that room revealed what they thought about dying.
There have been numerous studies over the years asking what people fear, and one of the most prominent fears that folks have IS this fear of DEATH.
One Philosopher said (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) “No man dares to face death … without fear.”
Sigmund Freud said: “Finally there is the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably will ever be!”
An ancient Chinese philosopher explained it this way: “The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow. The longer he lives, the more his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.” Chuang—Tzu (369-286 B.C.)
Our text today tells us that Jesus came to help us to deal with that fear. Hebrews 2:14-15 tell us through His death on the cross Jesus destroyed “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Jesus came to free us from that bondage. To free us from the fear of death.
Now, that doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried coping with that fear without Jesus. Many people have tried to deal with their fear of death by… simply ignoring it. There’s an old Chinese superstition that holds that if you just mention death… invites it. And there’s lots of folks who seem to believe that’s true, and they tend to ignore any discussion of death. They don’t want to talk about it!
Another approach to deal with the fear of death is to try to POSTPONE death itself. Believe it or not, there was a fad that was very popular about 8 years ago in the Silicon Valley of California. It seems that many of the rich tech people from Silicon Valley were buying the bags of blood plasma to inject in their veins. And not just any old blood plasma… this blood came from young people (ages 18 to 25).
Now why would these tech people do that? Well, these were aging computer geeks - RICH older geeks. The theory was that the blood of these young people would extend their lives, and so they could live longer as long as they could afford to buy new plasma every once in a while. According to one of companies selling this product:
The cost for this “young” blood plasma was $8000 per bag. (https://mashable.com/2017/06/01/parabiosis-blood-transfusions-startup-silicon-valley/#es3VMZ4MFOqb)
A Fox commentator named Greg Gutfeld commented on this fad saying: “I have a theory… these ultra-rich billionaires in Silicon Valley got rich really young. So, they’re in the 30s and they’re billionaires… But the one thing they don’t have is immortality. They have everything else. And it’s on their brain, and they’re like ‘I don’t want to lose all this, and one day I’m going to die. I’m a billionaire!”
They hoped to buy eternal life… and avoid death.
Now there’s another approach that sounds a little more reasonable. There’s this famous clinical therapist from Canada named Dr. Jordan Peterson. I like the guy. He says a lot of things that make sense. But you need to know that Peterson is NOT a Christian. For example, he doesn’t believe in bodily resurrection of Jesus. And so he believes death is final. We’re not going to get out of the grave alive!
But speaking about the fear of death Jordan Peterson said this: “I think the only way you can combat the fear of death is to live fully...” In other words… he believes you can beat the FEAR (not death itself … but the fear) of death by living a productive and fruitful life that you can be proud of.
Now, he’s not the first guy to come up with that. There’s been a lot of people who have lived driven lives who were motivated to beat death in the same way by trying to do things that would live on long after they’d died. But they all seem to come up a little empty. No matter how many good things they may do, it’s still hard to deal with the fear of dying.