Dealing With The Sting of Death

I can’t help writing about the subject of death. Over the last 5 weeks I have had to officiate at three funerals, including the death of my last grandfather. And now the death and devastation of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. There is no doubt about it, when death strikes, it stings!

Death MUST sting because of Who Jesus is and who we are in him. As the Adopted humanity and children of the Triune God in the humanity of Jesus, the Love and Life of the Father, Son and Spirit is being so shared with us that we share in Their grief over death. We share in Their pain, and in Their sorrow.

As sinners, how could we possibly know how stinging death REALLY is apart from that sting being shared with us by the Trinity? Since Life originates in God and God is Life, only God could know the true sorrow of something that is not life as God is and has intended for his creation. Yes, there is sorrow in the Being of God!

We see this sorrow in Jesus as he approached the physical death of his body (Matt 26:36-39), in the death of our human flesh and minds (Luke 23:21), and as he literally died in our sinful flesh without being sinful (Mark 15:34). What we are called to take seriously is that in his flesh Jesus was the fullness of God (Col 2:9) and the exact representation of the Triune God’s being (Heb 1:3)! Embracing this truth about Jesus  helps us see that God was not play acting in Jesus for our sake, but truly experiences and knows sorrow like we can’t even begin to imagine in our sin-filled minds and sin-filled sorrow!

Don’t get me wrong! It’s not that our sorrow over death isn’t genuine or real, that’s not what I’m saying! I’m saying that there is way more realness in our sorrow than we realize because of our gracious union with God in Jesus, but that we have no power on our own to know sorrow in its truest depths because only Jesus has really gone there having not sinned or being a sinner (which taints things negatively, including sorrow!)

BUT, be encouraged, there is no hopelessness  in the sorrow of the Triune God over death! How could there be when there is no such thing as death in the Essence and Being of God, Who is our Life? (Col 3:4!) And the even more exciting thing for all of humanity within this truth is that we are now in union with this God in such a way in Jesus Christ such that we can say in one real sense that we will never really die. Yes, our bodies will die and perish naturally or through immediate transformation (1 Cor 15:51!), but that doesn’t mean WE, ourselves, will be dead!

We must take some idea of an intermediate state between our dead, corruptible bodies and our Resurrected body, seriously, because of who we are in union with Jesus (not because we have an immortal soul or some power source of our own!!) Speaking on this subject of all of humanity’s union with Christ, author Darrell Johnson writes on p.68 of Experiencing the Trinity,

This, by the way, is why death does not end our relationship. We are now within the circle of God’s Self-knowing. Death does not take us out of the circle. Death changes the way we share but not the fact that we are still there in him and with him. That is what we mean by “the communion of the saints” – communion within the Trinitarian communion, a communion that death cannot destroy.

Think about what this means for those who have died in my family, in your family, in horrible ways, in less horrible ways, and in Haiti!

And, of course, this Life after death in Jesus is scriptural as well:

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39, NRSV – emphasis mine)

And so, we must and will cry, and scream, and pout, and shout as we face death till our transformed bodies come! But the only REAL note we can end the subject of death on is the note of truth that Jesus, The Father’s Son made human, and anointed in the Holy Spirit, entered death’s domain from within our darkness and has now robbed death even of its sting!

54 Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! 55 Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? 56 It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. 57 But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three – sin, guilt, death – are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! 58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. (1 Cor. 15:54, The Message)

Let’s be as encouraged as we can be in the grace of the Father, Son and Spirit!

~ Timothy Brassell

3 comments so far

  1. Ted Johnston on

    Amen to all you say here brother.

  2. Jason on

    “…only God could know the true sorrow of something that is not life as God is and has intended for his creation”

    Very, very encouraging Timothy.

    I think we can also say something similar about how it is that Jesus experienced our “temptation”, yet without sin, and the encouragement we should gain from this. In other words, because Jesus was fully human (in fact, the only true, authentic human being to ever live) and yet did not sin, we know that He experienced temptation to the full extent and power that temptation has and He came out victorious. We, as those who’ve yet to be perfected in our humanity, experience temptation as well but never to its full extent and power because at some point we succumb and the temptation is relieved or ends altogether. Oh, we may not always follow through completely with what we were tempted with, but more often than not we at least allow something of the temptation to move us however slightly…even if only in our thoughts.

    Jesus, however, felt the full weight and power of temptation without ever letting it have any hold whatever. This is why we can draw near to the Father with confidence. Jesus can mediate as the great high priest on our behalf because He has taken us up in Himself and not only knows our weaknesses, but has overcome them all! And because of our union with Him, He has not only given us final victory over sin and temptation, but we can come to our Father through Him and receive the love and comfort that He eagerly extends to His Children even when we find ourselves failing in our struggles at the present time.

    “Let’s be as encouraged as we can be in the grace of the Father, Son and Spirit!”

    I second that notion!!


  3. tjbrassell on

    Ted! Thank you Brother! Starting to catch up with The Surprising God Blog again and you are immersing us in the Good News over there! Good Stuff!

    Jason! Again, you have hit the nail on the head in expressing in your own words what I am trying to get across about Jesus going to the depths of everything for and with us! You have much to contribute in your participation with Jesus in his proclamation of the Gospel, so keep writing!

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