Death. What does it mean to you? How does that word make you feel? Uncomfortable? Nervous? Afraid? We have a natural-born fear of the unknown. We stay in jobs that make us miserable because we fear the unknown, fear of what comes next. We stay in abusive relationships because we fear the unknown, we fear being alone. We sometimes would rather stay with the abuse we know than take a step into the freedom we don’t know.
We see this in the bible too. All the way back to Moses, people preferred bondage they knew over freedom they didn’t know. Over and over, they expressed their anger with Moses for taking them out of the bondage of Pharaoh – “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”” Exodus 14:12 ESV. They trusted more in the captors they could know and see than in God who was leading them out of their bondage.
What is more unknown to us than death? We know we all owe one. We all know and have loved ones who have passed away, and we know the finality of that. We know that once that last breath is taken, that is the end of all we can know about. We know the sights, sounds, pains, pleasures, joys, hurts, and all the emotional highs and lows that come with the bodies given at birth. We have no idea what we will feel and know and experience in our heavenly bodies when our earthly bodies ultimately fail us. So we fear that day.
We know the support, love and security we get from our parents and loved ones. We don’t know what lies on the other side of losing them holds for us. So we fear that day.
But what did Jesus have to say about death? Jesus spoke about His own death the night before His crucifixion. He spoke these words right after washing the disciples feet and telling Peter point-blank that Peter would deny Him three times that night. He gave us His own eulogy if you will.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? What is Jesus talking about? Don’t worry about what we can’t see. He knows He is about to go through His passion, through His suffering, and into death. He knew that this would be very difficult for the disciples, they would not understand. He would be going into that great unknown.
But he assures them. Don’t be troubled, don’t worry. They believe in God, the trust God. He urges them to also trust Him. His Fathers house has many rooms (at least one translation says many mansions). There is room for everyone. The kingdom of God is inclusive not exclusive. It’s there and available for all who call on and trust in the name of the Lord. No one has to be turned away. Just believe. Just trust.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. To Jesus, to God, this is no big deal. Death is simply routine. He says he is preparing a place FOR ME. FOR YOU. It is personal, not mass-produced. He is going to come personally escort us to be with Him. We will be with His forever in eternity.
We cling to this life, we fear the next. Just like the Israelites coming out of Egypt, we would rather remain in bondage in our bodies, living in this broken world. It’s what we know.
But think about this – why didn’t Jesus bring more people back from death? He had the power whenever He wanted. He healed hundreds. He fed thousands. But He only resurrected three – Jairus’ daughter, the near Nain, and His own dear friend Lazarus. Why?
Maybe it’s because He knows where they are is better than where we are. Maybe He just didn’t get any volunteers. Maybe once we are forced past our own fear of that great unknown, we will get to that other side and say “no way I’m going back!”
Isaiah says – “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.” Isaiah 57:1-2 ESV. Maybe dying is part of God’s mercy. Maybe he’s taking us away from the hurts to come. As unknown as it is to us, maybe it’s God’s protection from the future.
A lot of “maybes”. Because I just don’t know. It’s the great unknown. But I do know what Jesus says about it – Let not your hearts be troubled. So I will believe and trust Him.
“”Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.””
John 14:1-4 ESV