Day 174: Matthew 20:18-19

Listen, we are going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn him to death and then hand him over to the Gentiles, who will make fun of him, whip him, and crucify him; but three days later he will be raised to life.

Once again Jesus speaks these words privately to his disciples.  This is the third time that has alluded to his upcoming demise, and this time he provides a little more detail concerning the fact that he will be ridiculed, tortured and crucified.

I’m sure Jesus is concerned for his followers.  He wants to be sure that they will be prepared.  He doesn’t want them to freak out when they see everything going bad.  He wants them to have faith that it will all turn out OK in the end.  He also wants to know that they will carry on his ministry.

He sounds so detached.  There is no emotion here, no clue as to how he felt about all of this. He’s not panicky and hysterical, we know that.  But is he fierce and defiant?  Or passive and resigned?  There’s no clue.  It’s a neutral statement.  He doesn’t say it’s good or bad.  He simply offers a statement of fact.  It is what it is.

What is it to know that you are going to die?  Is it a blessing or a curse?  On one hand, if you know you are going to die you can make preparations.  On the other hand, if you don’t know you can live your last few days without a cloud of gloom hanging over you.

Death is such a profound mystery.  Some people see it coming and others do not.  Some go kicking and screaming while others wait impatiently for its release.  I’m thinking of some of the people I’ve known.  I remember Sharon.  She was visited by an angel a few weeks before her death.  I remember Winnie.  She wrote everyone notes during the last few weeks of her life, thanking them for all of their support during her lifetime.  I remember Sokari.  He had a vision of his upcoming murder and urged everyone to commit their lives to God.  I think of the John and Kelly.  John has multiple myeloma and has cheated death twice.  They treat every day like a party.   They live life extravagantly and with great joy.  I think of my grandpa who decided to stop being treated for his leukemia. He then invited all of his family to come see him in New Mexico and enjoy one final joyous Christmas together.

I remember my Mom.  It was almost like she was living in this world and the next at the same time.  She kept asking if her white dress was ready.  And even though she had dementia, she also had supernatural knowledge.  She was living her last days in a nursing home and my dad was living in a senior independent living apartment building in a nearby town.  He visited her every day and ate lunch with her.  One night back at his apartment Dad told us a story from his childhood about how his country school teacher had arranged a trip to town that featured hot dogs and ice cream.  This was a big deal for little country kids 80 or 90 years ago.  Anyway, when they got to town the restaurant was closed.  Somehow the town rallied and came up with some food for the little country kids.  It was a cute story.  The next day when we got to the nursing home my mother was very agitated.  She held my hand and said, “What about the kids?  Did they get their hot dogs?”   She kept saying this over and over.  I remembered the story dad told us.  I assured her that the kids got something to eat and that made her happy.  I figured she drifted off and missed the end of the story.  But then I remembered that she wasn’t with us when Dad told the story.  She was 15 miles away.  It was amazing.  It was hard for us to deny that somehow she must have been able to hear us talking.  Her spirit was only tenuously bound by her body at that point.

 TunnelMy dad didn’t want to die.  He was 93 years old and highly functional up until the last year of his life.  He always said he wasn’t afraid of death, but it was the process leading up to it that scared him.  As a younger man he had a lot of bravado about dying.  But when his body began to shut down and it was apparent that the end was near, he fell into a very deep depression.  He didn’t want to die and he was furious with everyone.  He struggled to have control over the situation and avoid the inevitable but of course it was futile.  It was a pretty horrible ending, and many of his Christian friends were worried about his eternal destiny.  He didn’t like religion.  Sort of an agnostic, really.  Maybe a secular humanist. He was always a champion for the underdog in any situation.  A very good man, but very vested in logic and rebellious of all things spiritual.  I’m so grateful that a couple of years after his death I had a very strong vision of him smiling and happy and in a much better place.  I was very grateful for that vision which helped erase some of that unpleasantness we all experienced near the end.

One more thing I remember is a teaching about holiness by a really wonderful Christian lady.  She said that as she progresses into old age she is spending more and more time in prayer in the hopes that the line between life and death will become blurred.  She said she hopes that dying will then be a matter of taking a small step rather than a big jarring leap from this world into the next.  I rather like that.

Back to the scripture.  The first time Jesus makes the statement that he is going to die (Days 148-149), Peter reacts with outrage and denial, but Jesus calls him Satan for getting in his way.  The second time he mentions his fate the disciples do not protest.  Instead they react with sadness and resignation.  After this third time they begin to think about succession and who’s going to be in charge.  Tomorrow we’ll see where their thoughts take them as they begin to plan for their future without Jesus.

What does this scripture say to you?

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