Matthew 27:57-66; Psalm 3:1-8
Death is an enemy, the ultimate antagonist that seems as if it will eventually claim victory over each of us. However, the truth remains, it isn’t supposed to be this way. Yes, death is a part of life marked by the fall, however, we should never believe the lie that this is how it was meant to be.
I am certain that you have felt the sting of death in your life. Some of us are acutely aware of the pain of loss. I have experienced the evaporation of dreams and watched future plans crumble before me when my first wife of 17 years suddenly died leaving me not only a widower, but a single dad with a nine month-old son and crying, “It is not supposed to be this way!” Death is a thief of joy and hope in every circumstance. All people bear the image of God and when someone passes from life to death, it should be a clear reminder that death is anything but natural.
I was reminded of this recently as my family was on our way home from church. As we turned into our neighborhood, we saw a police car, yellow tape, and the lifeless body of a local homeless man. After I got my family into the house, I went back to the scene. I saw him lying right where he would frequently sleep, only this time he would never wake. His final expression was not one of peace, but of uncomfortable pain with eyes half-open and mouth frozen agape – an image I will never forget. I didn’t know his name. I had never spoken to him and he never asked me for anything – I only remember seeing him around the neighborhood. One of the police officers said the cause of death was “unexplained.”
My spirit was, and remains, greatly troubled by this experience. I’m troubled that an image bearer of our good God died in such a way. He left this world and no one was with him or cared for him at that moment. Some may point out this man’s decisions put himself in such peril. That may or may not be true, but it does not change the fact that death is coming for us all, regardless of privilege or position, and this man’s final facial expression will be forever imprinted in my mind that it is not supposed to be this way – it never was. My heart is grieved by the state of this world and I yearn for the world to come.
The cross of Christ is the pinnacle reminder of this sentiment that death is not natural. When Jesus died, it seemed the promise of his glorious kingdom reign died with him. All of his followers fled (Matt 25:26) out of fear and despair. I would have to think they were certainly saying to themselves, “It is not supposed to be this way,” even though Jesus told them it would be so. While Joseph of Arimathea provided a proper burial for Jesus, the only people at the tomb were Mary Magdalene “the other Mary,” and a guard of soldiers (Matt 27:57-66). This was an inconceivable funeral for the King of Kings.
Thankfully, we have the benefit of knowing that mourning would turn to joy with Christ’s resurrection the following dawn. I think we would do well in the days leading to our celebration of Resurrection Day to let ourselves grieve of the state of this world and then let that spur us to remember the inconceivable death of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, was necessary so that things would be put back the way they are supposed to be. This weighty truth moves us to remember that Christ’s death, his putting things back the way God created them to be, is the foundation of our hope. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)” and Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10).”
May God bless you as we look to Resurrection Day and worship our Lord who defeated death and set things the way they are supposed to be.