How do we deal with death? How do we find a way to deal with each death? How do we wrap our heart around death each time it happens? Is there a coping method that relieves our grief? Is there a remembering that eases our sorrow? Do some take death harder than others? Do some seek therapy? Do we draw strength from others who seem so strong? Do we go home and sit by ourselves, emotionally overwhelmed by the moment? Do we even want to talk about it, or are we just stuck with the cruel grip of death on our heart, and no talking will relieve the pain?
What can we say about the dead whom we count as the worst of losses? We ask, "What good is there in death?" Seduced by nostalgia, we remember the people we've lost. Their unique personalities. The experiences we enjoyed, and struggled through, together. We clutch at the memories of them. We ruminate on what they gave us in their life, and in their death. We ask ourselves, "What did their life teach me, and what does their death still teach me?" We examine the mark they left on us. We yearn for those precious moments. We are frantic not to lose those precious memories. We imagine their beauty. We pick through what they gave to us.
Then comes death. Death is wretched, and horrible, and cruel. Death isn't fair. More than that, death is inescapable. With death, there's no way out. With death, no one gets out alive. Death is part of life. Without death, there’s no urgency to life.
Where Jesus says, “She’s not dead, she’s sleeping,” death dies.
That’s life as we see it when we are not with Christ Jesus. On the other hand, there is no death with Jesus. With Jesus, death has lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55). Death has lost its bite. In Matthew 9:14, where Jesus says, "She's not dead, she's sleeping," death dies. Where Jesus says "You're not dead, you're sleeping," death dies. As Luther says, Jesus is the Death of death (LW 26: 156, 281).
Jesus sets us free from the wretched, horrible, cruel grip of death. Jesus sets us free to give us to the day He's created for us. Jesus gives us to the day to live for Him and our neighbor. Jesus gives us to the day to wake up with gratitude, to wake up with praise and thanksgiving for His mercies, which are new each morning. Jesus gives us to the day so that we may go into the world to live as Christ (and celebrate death as gain; Phil. 1:21). But we don't live life as we see it, not life that’s gnawed on by death. Jesus gives us to the day so we may live free from fear of death's wretched bite.
So we don't need to cry anymore as if those we've lost are lost permanently. We don't need to mourn anymore, like those who have no hope. We remember but do not dwell upon death. Instead, we laugh, and love, and embrace, and praise and thank Jesus for Life. He is our Life and all He gives to us today. We live with Christ Jesus, and those who now sleep, wait for Jesus to come and speak to them, to wake them up, and to call them home.
To death, Jesus says, "No more. No more excuses for why someone should stay dead. No more chasing people down. No more preying upon people’s indecision. No more lies that paint over the truth. No more preying upon people’s weakness." No more time for death because now is the time for Jesus, God's strength and will, who says to, "Death, you shall die!"
Jesus does the work. Jesus holds the line. Jesus suffers and bleeds. Jesus hangs on the cross that is meant for us. And there, on the cross, our wretched, horrible, cruel death hung upon Him so that we can now say with total confidence that we've been crucified with Christ. It's no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. And the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gives Himself for us (Gal. 2:20).
Jesus does the work. Jesus holds the line. Jesus suffers and bleeds. Jesus hangs on the cross that is meant for us.
How do we deal with death? How do we find a way to deal with each death? How do we wrap our heart around death each time it happens? We say, "Jesus is the Death of you, my death. In Baptism, I died with Jesus on the cross, so that I may now walk in a new life."
On account of Jesus' work for us, we live a crucified life because Jesus is the Death of death, and the life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gives Himself for us. Jesus does the work for us. Jesus holds the line for us. Jesus is the Death of death, and for this reason, He is our Life.