A long time friend of mine passed away suddenly just a few weeks ago. He walked into his bedroom and told his wife, “I don’t feel well” and fell on the bed. After a few moments, as he laid down on the floor, he folded his hands behind his head and leaned back and said “I feel better”. Then he passed.
Another long time friend who told me about his passing told me that just the day before they had been discussing “that moment”. That moment when suddenly, at the blink of any eye, we are transported from “here” to “there”. What it will be like when we are immediately face to face with Jesus? Not the blue eyed hippie in the paintings that we know so well but JESUS himself. My friend had no idea I’m sure that in less than 24 hours he would be in that circumstance.
Today I would like to ramble on about three things. First is, the reality of Jesus. Second being, the reality of death and lastly, the reality of eternal life.
Jesus. For some it’s the sweetest name that ever passed through our heart to our lips. For some it’s the name of a character in a well constructed and crafted fairy tale. For some this name contains all our hope and reason for being. For some it’s just a swear word.
For some, in Jesus is found a savior, the ultimate expression of the love of God, a redeemer and a friend. Oh, how our lives become satisfied and meaningful just to be a friend of Jesus. What a friend.
For some, he is just a system of control only bought into by the weak and feeble and to be categorically rejected and never even slightly considered as a reasonable reality.
But what if Jesus was really who he said that he was? What if his claims were real? What if he is really the first fruit of the resurrected eternal life? What if he really is the way, the truth and the life and that no man or woman comes to the Father but by him? Who in their right mind would not consider Jesus? I suppose that “right mind” would be the operative term.
The second is death. Let’s be honest here. Death sucks and it’s something that is going to happen to all of us. It’s not just some unfortunate event that happens here and there to the unlucky ones but the harsh reality this world and it is not something that just happens to “old people”. Unlike the rides at an amusement park, there is no height or age requirement to go on death’s ride. I won’t debate the reasons for death. Not just the facts of physical material breaking down but DEATH itself. Death is like a door that we pass through and once we are through it locks itself behind us.
Regardless of how we feel about Jesus, death is a reality we all have to contend with.
Thirdly is this thing called “eternal life” or life after death. What if it’s all just a bunch of nothing? Is it that we die and that’s it, we are just nothing but a memory, however short lived, to the ones we left behind? Then again, what did the Apostle Paul mean when he talked about being absent from the body and being present with the Lord?
If that is truly the case and that to leave this body we will come face to face with Jesus, then surely the claims of Jesus have to take on a new and entirely critical meaning. And what if the terms of this inevitable encounter were written not on paper or on stone but with blood? What if the negotiations for this encounter only take place this side of death? What if contemporary pop theology got it wrong?
But if the resurrection of the body is true, if life after death is true, if eternal life means being in the presence of Jesus, then who could not desire that?
All that being said, since I am not a writer nor do I spend a lot of time crafting words to impress or make one scratch their heads in confusion but only try to speak plainly in whatever blabbering comes to mind, all things considered, to use the words of Francis Schaffer, “how then should we live”?
I’m reminded again of a few things that I have tried to follow during my journey. They have helped me again and again as I’ve tried to negotiate the road of jealousy, greed, ambition, contentment, benevolence, poverty, prosperity, anger, fear, doubt, love, hope, faith and on and on.
First is to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”, secondly “as far as depends on you, be at peace with all men” and last, “love one another as I have loved you”.
Friends, our time here is short. Be mindful of this as you shove and hustle your way though social media, as you encounter the poor, as you contend with injustice and as you live life with your spouses, family, friends, enemies, co-workers. Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Death will come and you will be face to face with Jesus. Does not your heart race with excitement at the thought? It seems that the sting of death only touches those on this side of it and those passed over completely understand the meaning of “these momentary light afflictions”.