April 15th is tax day. There is a proverb that goes like this; “There are two things that are certain in life, death and taxes.” Someone gave me a new proverb recently: “These tax forms will be the death of me.” Our pay day for taxes is April 15th. But when is our pay day for death? Do you know when you will die or how you will die? We can’t answer these questions. But are you afraid of death or how you may die? Jesus has already walked through death and came out victorious on the other side of death; therefore, he can help us walk through death as well. Because of what Jesus did, we no longer have to fear death. Here are three ideas about death we no longer have to fear.
1. We no longer have to fear the pain of death. Death by crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment in Jesus’ day. So the Gospels don’t offer much explanation about how it was done. Mark simply says, “They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him.” Mark 15:22-24 (NIV)
Different articles I have read give this description. The arms would be stretched out and a nail placed into the wrists. The nail or spike would crush the large sensorimotor nerve which would produce bolts of fiery pain in both arms. The feet also would be nailed to the cross. The weight of the body pulling down on the outstretched arms would fix the intercostals muscles in an inhalation state and hinder exhalation. In order to exhale, the person on the cross would lift the body by pushing up with the feet and flexing the elbows. The movement placed more weight on the feet producing a searing pain. The flexing of the elbows would also produce the fiery pain in the arms. The movement of the body along the wooden cross would scrape upon the open flesh and muscle tissue. Each breath would become agonizing, tiring, and eventually lead to asphyxia. Sometimes, the legs were broken to ensure a quicker death.
Crucifixion was used to cause the greatest amount of pain to the criminal before the inevitable death. Jesus suffered the most painful death anyone could ever suffer. He gave of himself to endure this painful death for each of us. The soldiers did not have to break his legs. Jesus gave up his life willingly. Therefore, he knows how to comfort us if we should encounter a painful death. So we can let go of our fear of the pain of death.
2. We no longer have to fear the humiliation of death. While on the cross, Jesus suffered the humiliation of being stripped of his clothing, mocked as a king, and insulted for his promises. Mark describes it this way. “Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” Mark 15:24-32 (NIV)
Ironically, Jesus was the temple being torn down that would rise again in three days. Had Jesus come down from the cross to save himself, he could not have saved anyone else. In order to save us from the judgment and penalty of sin, he willingly stayed on the cross, even through this humiliation.
If you have a fear of humiliation in death, then I ask you to look at the cross today and see Jesus as one who has already been there. He suffered in complete humiliation in his death. That doesn’t mean that we will escape humiliation in our death, but it does mean that Jesus will be there to walk with us through that experience.
3. We no longer have to fear the loneliness of death. Mark describes Jesus’ death in this way. “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’–which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of those standing near heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he’s calling Elijah.’ One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,’ he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” Mark 15:33-37 (NIV)
This is a difficult passage to understand. Even the people there were uncertain what Jesus was saying. It’s obvious he was speaking in Aramaic, and it is obvious to us now that he was quoting from Psalm 22:1. But why did Jesus say this with such a loud cry? After studying this passage and looking at many different thoughts, I have come to the conclusion that Jesus was suffering the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of being God-forsaken. On the cross, Jesus who had no sin took upon himself the sins of the entire world. Therefore, God as Father separated himself from God as Son. Jesus not only suffered the physical pain of being tortured to death, but also he suffered the emotional and spiritual pain in his soul of being alone, apart from his Father. Jesus was given no comfort, no help from God, and no strength from the Holy Spirit. He died alone, without the Father. Because Jesus suffered in death without God’s help, no one else will ever have to suffer in death without God. No one has to go through the loneliness that Jesus went through. No one ever again has to suffer without God’s help, God’s strength, or God’s comfort. Sadly, many people choose to suffer without God because they refuse to believe in what Jesus accomplished for them.
Perhaps you have a fear of dying in loneliness. You can let go of that fear today by taking hold of the hand of Jesus. Believe in Jesus as your rescuer from sin and from the fear of death. Call upon him right now and he will come into your life to save your from your sin. I encourage you to let go of your fear of dying a lonely death; instead, take hold of Jesus who has already died alone so that you don’t have to.
Rather than fear death, walk through it with Jesus.