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Thursday, July 07, 2005

What Death Looks Like

Nearly a year ago, Marla Swoffer wrote an excellent piece on what it's like to watch someone die:
As that last evening drew nigh, I found myself begging God to take him. The fluid amassing in his body had filled his lungs and he sounded like a human coffee pot. The nurses reassured us that he was not in pain. They said it was the natural sounds of the body's shutting down process. But it was totally unnatural to me that anyone should be in this transitory state of existence. No matter how cruel my stepfather had been to me, and how much I wanted him to die so that my mom could be free from his control, I didn't want him to die like this.
Then today, she offers some further reflections on the anniversary of this event:
Everything I am is affected by the life and death of this man, but all of me is being transformed by the life and death of another man--Jesus Christ--who unlike the first man, didn't set himself up to be god, but who actually was and is God.
I'd encourage you to read both articles carefully. Marla has learned some valuable lessons that I think we can all benefit from, and I found myself seeing a lot of overlap with the sermon I'm working on for this coming Sunday: "Why Did Jesus Have to Rise?" (Jn. 20).

If we view the work of Christ simply as 'atonement' – something that happened in X's death, something that just gets us into the kingdom – we end up with a message that is not real relevant to unbelievers (because most of them aren't interested in abstract concepts like 'sin' and 'righteousness'), or to believers either (because after all we're already in the camp).

If we take a shallow view of Christ's work, as simply something that happened on the cross, that means most of our own life work will be up to us. Work hard, try to get ahead, try to change ourselves, try to find happiness and fulfillment. Try, try, try. Is it any wonder that so many Christians live lives that are virtually indistinguishable from those of unbelievers?

Almost all of us are self-centered, we are interested in what benefits us, we want LIFE! And that's a big part of the reason why Jesus had to live: our life can only come through his life, his living. We need to see Christ's work, to see the Gospel, as a message of life - Christ lives and is actively intervening in our lives in order to make us live too. So yes Jesus did need to die, but even more importantly, he also needed to rise, to live.

It's nice to see Marla looking death in the face (both her stepfather's and Christ's) and making those connections back to life...


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