What Can You Say When You Are Dying?

April 14, 2017

We have arrived at the day of Jesus’ death, about which he prophesied, for which he prepared his disciples, and to which he marched willingly. Time has not permitted an elaboration on the trial before Pilate, Peter’s denial, or the mocking and scourging designed to humiliate and traumatize our Savior. In summary, we can say that by the time Jesus walked from trial to execution, carrying his own cross, he was already exhausted physically and mentally.

It is important to recognize the potential for spiritual danger when we are completely and utterly spent. Exhaustion can weaken our guard against temptation, scramble our judgment, and even make us (literally) stumble and fall. The only other time we see Jesus at very low ebb like this was when he spent forty days in the desert, immediately following his baptism (Matthew 4 and Luke 4). Satan took advantage of the situation to harass Jesus and attempted to divert him from his mission.

On this Holy Week night-without-food-or-sleep, we can only imagine the weakness Jesus felt. Add physical pain and/or emotional torture, and we can catch a glimpse of Jesus’ state as his crucifixion approached. All signs read, “Danger! Danger!”

When I get tired, I tend to get snappy, irritable, and selfish. My body and mind say, “You’re done, babe. You have nothing left to give. Go to bed.” If you were to overhear my words at this low point, you would be very disappointed in me.

How much worse was the exhaustion, the pain, and the spiritual strain on Jesus the night he was betrayed into the hands of Roman soldiers, Jewish elders, and a mocking crowd. Yet, what came out of his mouth as he was hanging on the cross? What we call “the seven last words of Christ”:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)

“Truly, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

“Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother” (John 19:26)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

“I am thirsty” (John 19:28).

“It is finished [accomplished]” (John 19:30).

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

The gospel accounts give the impression that Jesus was largely silent in the three hours he hung on the cross. But the few words he did say reveal his soul, his intent, his mission, and his trust. What was his message?

Forgiveness: Jesus spends no energy whatsoever on anger or resentment. He asks the Father to forgive the people who were perpetrating an inherently unjust and undeserved punishment. He does not allow his spirit to be encumbered by bitterness. Take that, Devil!

Salvation: The very purpose of Jesus death was to atone for the sins of the world. In his weakened state, however, he does not overlook the salvation of one criminal hanging right next to him. Atonement is accomplished at Jesus’ expense, for our benefit. The thief who believes him and asks for consideration receives it freely and selflessly. No one is beyond redeeming! Take that, Devil!

Relationship: Jesus takes care of family business and gets his affairs in order. He possesses nothing of material value, but cherishes his mother. In a culture where widows were extremely vulnerable, he asks the apostle John to take her under his wing. Again, not thinking of himself or his own losses, but only of others. Take that, Devil!

Abandonment: Up to this point, the one reality Jesus could count on in life was the presence and guidance of his heavenly Father. On the cross, even that consolation is removed. I acknowledge great mystery about this moment. The God-Man Jesus feels his Father’s abandonment, distressing him greatly. But even in this dark despair, Jesus continues to speak to God who is silent. Take that, Devil!

Distress. The acknowledgment of thirst is so human and so basic. Physically, he is parched. But as Mother Teresa affirmed throughout her ministry to the destitute and dying of Calcutta, the human condition is one of thirst: yearning for living water, needing love, crying out for justice. Jesus at this moment is right alongside us experiencing neediness. He bears it. He is not satisfied, but he continues to trust God. Take that, Devil!

Victory. Like a marathoner crossing the finish line, Jesus recognizes that his dying is accomplishing the will of God and fulfilling his mission on earth. Nothing can be added now; he has done what he came to do. No guilt. No regrets. Only peace. Take that, Devil!

Trust. Jesus has survived scourging. Jesus has withstood mocking. Jesus has endured God’s abandonment to death. Jesus has finished his work. And now, Jesus gives up his spirit into the care of his Father. What trust! What resolve! What faith! Take that, Devil!

O Lord, that I may in the circumstances of my death be able to walk through the Shadow into your marvelous Light: trusting you, thinking of others, forgiving as needed. You have walked this path before me; now by your Spirit help me to live and die in confidence and serenity. Amen.

 

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3 Responses to “What Can You Say When You Are Dying?”

  1. Craig M. Rice Says:

    Mary,

    Your ordeal has been long and your perspective is wonderful.

    You started out with the situation in the PCUSA and moved on to bringing Christ to life in our lives.

    We left the PCUSA in 2013 when we joined the EPC with the Chapel Hill Church in Gig Harbor. We attended the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific meeting​ in Danville.

    All of our congregations are in the ECO or EPC.

    Blessings,

    Craig Rice

    On Apr 14, 2017 12:10 PM, “Bringing the Word to Life” wrote:

    > revmary posted: “We have arrived at the day of Jesus’ death, about which > he prophesied, for which he prepared his disciples, and to which he marched > willingly. Time has not permitted an elaboration on the trial before > Pilate, Peter’s denial, or the mocking and scourging d” >

  2. Gian Says:

    What a wonderful tribute. I am so blessed to know you and to be able to follow your beautiful words in person as well as virtually. Thank you for this, Mary.


  3. Beautiful……Thank You, Jesus…Thank You….AMEN.

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