I make it a point not to watch movies that are too real about murder, mayhem, and gore. I confess that the Agatha Christie mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, or Midsomer Murders are among my favorites for a dose of psychological thrillers, and I do like a great war or historical movie now and again. But when I saw the heading for John 18, my heart sank: “Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane.” Always, my throat tightens and my stomach churns when I read the devilry that superseded Christ’s death.
And Jesus knew what was coming. Still, we who live would like to know how to stop this train heading towards a broken track spanning the gap between this life and the next. I am more aware of my thoughts about death now that I’ve lived long enough to have mourned the passing of my grandparents, stepfather, mother in-law and father in-law, and even my precious daughter. Friends younger than I have already left this life, and now I must acknowledge that my mother is ‘slipping’ in her vigor and ‘letting go’ of what used to be of importance to her happiness. No, the train is unstoppable.
Yet Jesus did not just accept the inevitable. I’m not so foolish as to think that He was joyful about His prophetic death but knowing…really knowing that the end was near inspired the most tender love letter we have from Christ. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world…and [I desire] that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Excerpt from John 17:24, 25.
I recently hit a deer while driving to work in the early hours of morning. I thought about the poor creature that had no clue, as he crashed into the side of my car, that he could not race across this lonely stretch of interstate. I cried miserably. But I had to keep up my wits as I drove on, not wanting to stop where there truly was no source of help and willing myself to pay attention to the sounds and feeling of the car for damage. It was not until later, in the brightness of the morning sun, that I began thinking about an outcome in which I, too, went crashing out of this life.
Being held tightly by my husband, hearing the catch in my granddaughter’s throat as she asked worriedly about any injuries, seeing the startled gazes of co-workers, reminded me that living in this time and space is a fragile existence, at best. How then can each moment, each day, and if so ordained by God, each year of life be meaningful? The ‘looking back’ at my life or the ‘what would you do if you only had one day to live’ exercises are not so interesting to me, especially since I do not have power or control over the past or the future. Yet, it was in the moment I glanced at the poor creature hurling himself toward my car that the one thought, the most meaningful thought, I had was “Jesus!”
There was no time to ask for anything from my Lord. Only time to say His name. And I could feel my heart slow down. Whatever happened next was unknown, yet inevitable and accepted. That is what death is like for we who love God and are called His children. One last breath here and the next in His presence. I still do not want to experience any means of dying, but I am at peace with knowing that the name of Christ Jesus will be on my lips at the very end. And what a comfort this is to me.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for You knew not only what awaited You in Your suffering, but that glorious peace to come in Your resurrection. You have given us those same promises of resurrection and peace. I am awestruck tasting the evidence of Your promises. Whatever we suffer on earth will not compare to being in Your presence. What joy there is in being loved by You!