Be Safe Out There!
It is my habit to avoid traveling routes, activities, and areas that present a danger. I don’t like pain, and I am not eagerly seeking ways to accelerate my own death.
Not long ago I spoke with executives from a local company that had flown one of their employees to Afghanistan to consult with a potential customer. I was incredulous at hearing they had done so! Afghanistan? People are dying daily in Afghanistan. It is not a safe place to be drumming up new business.
When we fly, the tendency is to chart our route around storm cells. We do not drive in areas where we know there is flooding, or ice-covered roads. When tornados approach alarms sound, alerting people to take shelter. When hurricanes threaten, we are warned to find safe locations to ride out the storm.
Courage to Face Death
In sharp contrast to our own sense of self-preservation, Jesus pressed boldly, resolutely toward his own death.
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” – Mark 10:32-34, ESV
Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” – Matthew 26:50b-54, ESV
Every Sunday, in my small church family, we have a time for community prayer. There is usually a theme – youth group, marriages, outreach, or a family of focus. It is typical for people to share a praise or a prayer request. It is a very special time for us.
A few months ago, one of our dearly-loved members shared that she was diagnosed with a particular condition that left her with about two years to live. She was elated! She’s ready to go. The rest of us, while we understood her attitude, were less thrilled with the news.
This past Sunday, during community prayer, my friend shared that the fatal condition had reversed itself. It was undetectable. She has been healed.
She was upset! We all applauded, but she was sincerely distraught over this. To her, death was a welcome intruder.
Sigmund Freud once wrote, “And finally there is the painful riddle of death for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably ever will be.” Freud could not possibly be more mistaken in this. As Warren Wiersbe responded, “Christians have victory in death and over death!1
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:52b–55, ESV
For the Christ-follower, death is a welcome friend, a doorway to our life eternal in the presence of God. For a worldly attacker, what he believes is the worst thing he can do to me is actually the best thing. If he should take my physical life, he merely ushers me into the presence of Jesus.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day. – 2 Timothy 1:12b, KJV
1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 619.