Oh Death…

A reality that we will all face in our lives is death. And a likely event to occur on our journey toward death is the death of someone we love.

Yesterday my wife and I attended a memorial service for Mr. Bill Saunders who I had the privilege of knowing and spending some time with over many lunches and small group meetings the past three years. He was 71 years old and had been married for 47 years to his wife Kathy. The memorial service yesterday was preceded by the news that my grandfather passed away the night before. He was 93 years old and had been married for 65 years with my grandmother, who was by his side with my mom and her twin sister when he passed.

Death of loved ones…

Last Sunday the pastor of our church opened a new sermon series by reading the whole book of Hebrews as his sermon. You can listen to it by clicking here. While hearing God’s word read out loud, it was fascinating to see what phrases and words repeat throughout the whole book. As it turns out, Hebrews talks a good bit about death. But the death Hebrews points to is the very specific death of Jesus.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Someone died a death that was tasted for everyone. More specifically, Jesus died a death that was tasted for all of us who believe in Jesus. When Jesus died, God’s own Son experienced death. It was a death of a loved one. 

Death of loved ones…

The weight of death is just difficult. No matter when you see it coming or know it’s certainty, it’s difficult. We look at it and wonder, “What good is there in death?” Yet, we learn when reading the Bible that God has turned death upside down. In the most remarkable way, God used death to bring about life.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Through death, Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, the devil, and delivered the offspring of Abraham, which are those of us who believe in Jesus, from the fear of death to give us life. Through Jesus death we have life. How is this possible? Jesus became like us in every respect so that through his death he would satisfy God’s wrath (propitiation) for our sins. So God most clearly turned death upside down with the death of His loved one.

Death of loved ones…

But how do we cope when we lose the ones we love? How do we cope when the trials in life seem to multiply instead of decrease? Yesterday’s memorial service and the news of my grandfather’s passing are just two events in the midst of many other things that seem to pile up and magnify the weight of each thing. How can we bear it all at the same time? I think the answer is that we can’t. We need to find that answer outside of ourselves.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

As we encounter all kinds of trials and difficulties, we are tempted to turn our attention and focus to our suffering. Jesus has experienced our suffering, and he has given us an example we can follow in our suffering. Jesus, although the Son of God, still offered prayers and requests to God, someone outside himself. Part of our coping is to pray to a God who lost His loved one in order that He can answer our prayers and love us for eternity.

Death of loved ones…

So as we remember our loved ones and think of memories that make us both joyful of their life and sorrowful that they are no longer with us, we must be trusting in something outside ourselves to endure these heart-wrenching times. As much as Jesus is our example as we stare worry and anxiety in the face, Jesus is still more than that for us. We most certainly need to behold Jesus as the perfect Son of God, but we also need to be held by Jesus to get through this. Behold Jesus and be held by Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Behold and be held. Let us look to Jesus who endured the greatest trial any man will ever face, sympathizes with our weakness, and ultimately succumbed to death in order that we all might experience life. In doing so, Jesus saved us to the uttermost such that we can draw near to God as Jesus himself is making intercession for us right now. Jesus is praying for us in the midst of our trials. As we behold Jesus, we can believe and trust that we are being held by Jesus. The more we behold Jesus the greater we will be drawn to him. He does not push us away but holds us even closer and gives us mercy and grace in our time of need.

As our hearts our sad and sorrowful today and many days ahead, let us draw near to the throne of grace through Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. And we will see that Jesus will never disappoint us. Join me as we lay our troubles at the foot of Jesus, him we behold, in order that our hearts might be held. Behold Jesus and be held by Jesus.

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