The Thursday in the 5th Week of Lent
March 30, 2023
Let’s talk about death. When you read that, you cringed didn’t you? Modern society has come to the conclusion that death should be relegated to the basement of conversation topics. I am certainly not immune from this phenomenon. When I first John 8:51-59, I read the first line and wasn’t particularly excited to read the rest. “Oh great,” I grumbled to myself. The message got better though and wasn’t about death at all really, but more on that later.
Modern society has unconsciously decided that by distancing ourselves from tough conversations, such as death, that the effects of these difficult issues are somehow lessened. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
By distancing ourselves from discussing the topic of death, we have actually bolstered its impact. Because we do not openly discuss these issues, when the dark shadow of death does unfortunately descend on our lives, it descends on us like a ton of bricks, flattening us under its crushing weight.
Why do we run away from an issue that is so integrally interwoven with our existence and what it means to be human? There are probably a few reasons for that – lack of control and fear are two that immediately come to mind. Death is our greatest and most insurmountable problem, and it always has been. Our reluctance to discuss death shows just how scared we really are of it.
Older societies likely discussed death more often because it occurred more frequently and, as a result, was more difficult to shove into the junk drawer of conversation topics. The life expectancies were lower then, but they certainly had to wrestle with death through the strange maze of reason that we still use today. Despite them being more willing to discuss the topic, there is no doubt it was still their greatest problem.
Given this prevalent fear of death, surely a crowd would have been welcoming to the man who announced that he had the solution to death, right? One would think that, at minimum, the crowd would have listened to what the man had to say on the topic, what the proposed solution was, right?
In John 8:51-59, the crowd’s reaction to this declaration by Jesus is recorded. Jesus told the crowd that all they had to do to avoid death was to obey his word, to follow his teachings. The crowd’s response? To reach for the nearest rock, bring back their arm, and try to stone the man who was offering the solution to their greatest problem.
If this was the reaction of a culture who was even more willing to discuss death than we are today, how would we react to Jesus’ message? Yikes.
While thinking about death is important, it isn’t the central message of this verse. Rather, I encourage you to think about the way that you would react to the message of Jesus. Would you give him the opportunity to speak or reach for the nearest rock?