Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever thought about your death? Making funeral arrangements, taking care of debts or other expenses, thinking about the care of your loved ones after you die. Now, trust me, I know that’s a weird question. I know it’s not the cheeriest of thoughts to have. But at some level, we all know it’s necessary, because death is inevitable. While we’d all love to think that we will pass peacefully in the middle of the night at the young age of 110 (Hey, it’s young compared to Adam—Genesis 5:5), we know that may not be the case. We know that death could happen at any time.
Now, why do I bring up such a cheery topic? The reality is that death is a powerful motivator. The thought of death can make people do all sorts of strange things. Humanity as a whole has been looking for ways to conquer death for decades so as not to face it. Such ideas like being frozen until medicine finds a cure, uploading your mind to the internet, or even biomechanical replacements for defective organs all stem from man’s desire to avoid death. Yet, all of these only speak to the sad reality of our sinful fallen creation looking for hope in all the wrong places.
In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus speaks to this very reality. He teaches us that our life isn’t to be lived as to avoid death, but rather with death before our face every day. Just as Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it,” Mark 8:34-35. All those who seek to preserve their life at all costs… they are the ones that end up never actually living life. But rather, as a Christian, we are to live as though we die every day. We are to live without fear of death, regardless the trial or conflict we face. For to follow Jesus, one must be willing to die rather than turn aside from the faith.
But you see, when we live life in such a way, with death ever before us, a strange thing happens. Instead of always living afraid to die, we live life to the fullest. For now, as we stare death in the eye, we can look past it. We can look up to the one who died for us, to Jesus, crucified for us! Even as Jesus invites us to follow him in this cruciform life, we realize that Jesus still leads us. He teaches us how to die so that we may follow him not just to death, but through death. For now, we no longer live to die, but rather we die to live! For by Christ’s death, he joins us on this road; he picks up our cross and leads us through our suffering, through our death, that he may grant us life everlasting! So, may we pick up our cross and follow, so that we may die everyday with Jesus, that Jesus may raise us to the newness of life!
O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!