Death has been all around me my whole life. Many times, I wasn’t aware of it or even thought of it much, until I began my law enforcement career. I’ll never forget the first homicide I responded to and the strange feeling that came over me as I looked into the lifeless eyes of the body lying on the sidewalk.
In that moment, death became very real for me. Again, it’s not like death had never touched me. Three of my four grandparents had passed before then but, somehow, death had been something that I never really thought about. But, in that moment, death became very real to me and an almost daily occurrence. Despite some close calls, I felt, at times, like death couldn’t touch me.
Then my sister died.
My world got rocked. Suddenly, someone that was dear to me had been “taken” far too soon. I remember beginning to ask questions of myself, of faith, of God. I honestly don’t think I had given much thought about it until then, despite the daily violence I witnessed as a police officer. It was only years later that I came to a truly Christian understanding of death.
In our culture, people think that death is the end. So, the way the world lives should be no surprise to us. If you believe that your 70-80 years or so on this plane of existence is all there is, then eat, drink, be merry and do whatever you want. In that scenario, truth is completely subjective, and death and sickness and aging are to be avoided at all costs.
If we are Christian, we know this is not true. If we are Christian, we know that humanity was created by God to be in perfect communion with Him and each other and His creation for all eternity. Death was never meant to be part of the equation. That’s why it feels so unnatural and uncomfortable to us; because it is unnatural. We aren’t meant to die. But just because it’s unnatural doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable.
A couple of weeks ago, I went with my wife to a doctor’s appointment. They hooked up an ultrasound and began to scan my wife’s abdomen for signs of life to confirm the pregnancy test she had taken. Sure enough, as I looked at the screen, I could see clearly the placental sack and the small life moving in my wife’s womb. Joy leapt into my heart. God had blessed us with another child! My wife jokingly said, “Only one, right?” The nurse doing the ultrasound said, “Well, let me take a look.” She began to move the little thing around and I saw it the same time she did.
Another placental sack.
I began to smile as I looked at my wife. She was staring at the screen with a stunned look on her face. Then the nurse said, “Hmmm, something’s not right. This one looks a lot smaller.” My body felt like someone had just dumped a bucket of ice water on it and I said softly, “Oh no.” The nurse did some more scans then left, saying, “I’ll be right back.” My wife and I both just stared at the screen until the nurse came back. After another scan, she said something that I will never un-hear. “The other baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”
Death in its cold cruelty has again touched my family. My wife wept as I held her hand.
But then, almost immediately, something else happened. I was reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus when He said,
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
And the words of the prophet Job,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I cried also. I cried for the child that we won’t know on this side of eternity. I cried because my wife was suffering such pain. I cried for my living children who will not get to meet their sibling right now.
But I also experienced great joy. The joy I have found is in the knowledge that our bodies will die, just as the physical body of our Lord Jesus died and was buried. My joy is found in the knowledge that Jesus was raised from the dead, being the first fruits of those who will be resurrected like Him one day. When that day comes, I will see my child. Oh, the joy of that day!
But I am also joyful because my child will never know pain. He/she will never know hunger or fear or sadness or disappointment or have scars or be cut from a team or break a bone or have their heart broken in unrequited love.
No, in the arms of the Creator, my child will only know the joy of the embrace of the Savior! Can you imagine?! In one moment, their little heart was beating in the safety of the womb. In the next moment, their eyes opened to see the glorious face of the Creator and Savior of the world! In His presence, there is fullness of joy forever and unto the ages of ages!
I am learning more of what it means to have a truly Christian view of the world and what it means to be human and be united to Christ. I know that my child is united to Christ in a way that I do not yet fully experience. But one day…. oh, one day, I will know full union with my Savior. And then, along with my child, my sister, my grandparents and all our God-bearing Fathers, we will know the glory and eternal rest of being fully restored to the glory we knew in the Garden.
Oh, what a day that will be! Until that day, we grieve for those who have fallen asleep. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Let us rejoice in the hope of resurrection!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!
“Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews, but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
John 18:33-38 (RSV)
I’ve been thinking about this text all week. I guess it’s appropriate, given that we have entered the Easter season. This exchange, in various forms is found in all four of the Gospels, by the way. There are variances of the exchange but, in all four Gospels, the question “Are you the King of the Jews” is asked and answered.
This is something we’re meant to pay attention to.
I have some thoughts and questions for us to consider on this most holy weekend.
Pilate’s question seems kind of funny, don’t you think? Why does he care who calls themself a king in Judea? It’s not like his power or the power of Rome could actually be threatened by some backwater, podunk carpenter who claims to be a king, right?!
It’s fascinating to me that Pilate asks a question that is markedly sarcastic and seems politically motivated…at least on the surface. Consider it for a moment. Pilate was governor of Judea. This was probably not exactly a choice spot for someone with political ambitions. I mean, it’s the middle of the desert and he probably had to put down insurrections frequently. But…if this man he’s questioning is some type of king that the people will listen to, he could become an ally for Pilate to help him control this district. Pilate is thinking about his own personal agenda.
So Pilate asks a political question. But it was also prophetic. What Pilate probably didn’t know was that the Messiah foretold, the king that had been prophesied, was to be the King of all the world. He would, according to prophecy, bring all nations pouring in to Zion to worship and he would rule the whole world with justice and mercy. This was foretold.
I doubt Pilate knew that or had studied the Hebrew Scriptures much. His question, as sarcastic as it was, underhanded and politically motivated, was also prophetic. Out of the mouth of a pagan Gentile was Old Testament prophecy fulfilled.
Jesus’ answer is telling. He sees through Pilate’s question and answers him accordingly. Pilate is thinking worldly power and Jesus throws it back in his face. Jesus says to him, basically, “You’re coming at this all wrong, Pilate. If this was a political power struggle, my people would have never let this happen. If this was a power grab on my part, I wouldn’t be here. My people would have fought to make sure this didn’t happen.” Jesus confronts Pilate’s question head on and identifies what’s really important to Pilate: power and ambition.
Pilate was looking for an opportunity to get ahead. Jesus was fulfilling the Father’s will.
Here are the questions I’ve been considering all week as I’ve thought about this text.
How do I see Jesus?
Is He a means to an end, as He was with Pilate?
Or, is He the King of the world?
Here’s the thing. It really didn’t matter if Pilate acknowledged Jesus to be the King. Jesus was, and is, the King. Jesus didn’t need Pilate to acknowledge that, or even believe it. It was and is a fact regardless of Pilate’s belief. And Jesus tries to tell Pilate that. He says, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
There are some things that are objective fact, no matter how you or I feel about them. There was something that was objective fact staring Pilate right in the face.
The Truth was standing in front of him and Pilate asks, “What is truth?”
The King of the world was standing in front of him and Pilate is thinking about his own ambitions.
It really doesn’t matter if Pilate acquiesces to the fact of Jesus’ kingship. Jesus is King, no matter what Pilate thought. Jesus is truth, despite Pilate’s sarcasm.
How do you see Jesus?
Your King stands before you on this most holy weekend. Not like a king you would expect in pomp and circumstance. Not one who can fulfill your own personal ambitions or give you power. Your King stands before you bloody and beaten, dying on your behalf, proclaiming to the world the truth of sin and redemption.
The King has died so that you and I may live. Look long at your bloody and crucified King today. Worship at the foot of the cursed tree where Life died so that we may live. Go to that rocky tomb; anoint His body with the oil of your tears.
But know that He did not stay dead! In three days, He rose again! He has beaten back all our ambitions and selfishness with His love and obedience and sacrifice! He has risen again so that we may know freedom! He has risen so that we may know joy! He has risen again so that we may know the truth!
Behold your King!