Today’s Reading: Luke 13
There are more than 7 billion people on earth. Nearly sixty million of them will die this year. That is approximately 153,000 people dying every day, 6,400 people dying every hour, 107 people dying every minute, two people dying every second. Not a great thought to start your day.
Death is unavoidable and undeniable, and you will one day become one of these statistics. Statistics tell us that one out of one will die. I know that is hard to believe, but it is true.
We try to sanitize the topic of death. Years ago people would die in their homes; today they die in hospitals or nursing homes. We try to keep death far from us. We think out of sight is out of mind. We don’t even let our pets die; we put them to sleep.
We use nice phraseology to deal with death. We say, “He is no longer with us,” “She is resting,” or “He has passed away.” None of this changes the definiteness of death.
They now call funeral homes eternal management care centers. Funeral home directors don’t want to be called undertakers or morticians, they call themselves death managers. People don’t care about what you call death as long as they can avoid it.
The great American poet W. H. Auden said, “Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.” No matter what your picnic is, you still hear the thunder. People will try to avoid death and listening to that distant thunder through any means they can.
There is this crazy thing called “cryonics” in which scientists will put your legally-dead body after death in liquid nitrogen and hope one day through technology they will discover a way to wake the person up. The fee can be as high as $200,000 or more for whole body cryopreservation and $80,000 for a “neuro,” or head-only option.
There is something about our mortality and death we don’t want to talk about. You can take vitamins and drink green tea but we all will face death. You may live longer doing this stuff, but no one will know at your funeral whether you ate tofu or Twinkies.
Speaking about death is hard. But processing tragic death is even harder.
Jesus deals with this topic and how we are to process it in today’s reading. The opening scene of Luke 13 is intense. People come to Jesus with a tragic death story and then Jesus intensifies it:
Some of those present informed Jesus that Pilate had slaughtered some Galilean Jews while they were offering sacrifices at the temple, mixing their blood with the sacrifices they were offering.
Jesus turned and asked the crowd, “Do you believe that the slaughtered Galileans were the worst sinners of all the Galileans? No, they weren’t! So listen to me. Unless you all repent, you will perish as they did.” (Luke 13:1-3, TPT)
Jesus doesn’t stop there, but then tells more tragedy to make His point:
Or what about the eighteen who perished when the tower of Siloam fell upon them? Do you really think that they were more guilty than all of the others in Jerusalem? No, they weren’t. But unless you repent, you will all eternally perish, just as they did. (Luke 13:4-5, TPT)
“Why did these people die?” the people ask Jesus, and Jesus responds by telling them that they are asking the wrong question. Basically, He tells them, “There is a better question you should be asking, and here it is: why haven’t you died yet?”
Jesus essentially says, “Do you think they died because they were great sinners and deserved it? Of course not but keep this in mind all of you are going to perish one day, a great thing to do while you’re breathing is to repent.”
Instead of processing why they died, we need to process if we are prepared to die.
Always remember, the Bible is not like a newspaper; it doesn’t have new stuff in it every day. It is always the same, because it’s the truth. And truth has no expiration date.
Jesus is telling us the issue is not why were these babies aborted, but why haven’t we been aborted. The issue is not why my friend died in a highway head-on collision with a drunk driver but why haven’t I? The issue is not figuring out if someone bad got cancer and deserved it, but why haven’t I?
The people were asking the wrong question. And too often we ask that same wrong question. That is the question Jesus is asking us to skip and to fast forward to something more important.
There are very few death scenes in the Bible because the Bible is concerned with how you live now. Consider this story:
A little girl whose baby brother had just died asked her mother where the baby had gone.
“To be with Jesus,” replied the mother. A few days later while talking to a friend, the mother said, “I am so grieved to have lost my baby.”
The little girl heard her, and remembering what her mother had told her, looked into her face and asked, “Mother, is a thing lost when you know where it is?”
“No, of course not.”
“Well then, how can the baby be lost when he has gone to be with Jesus?”
That’s the part you have to settle while you are alive. It’s not tragic if we know where they are. We have to settle on where we are going.
Until you are ready to deal with the question of your eternity then you are not prepared to deal with your death. Here is a way to explain it: Have you ever worked on a jigsaw puzzle? What do you do before you start putting pieces together? You start with the picture on the box in front of you. With the focus, you are able to make the crazy pieces make sense and as you connect them, you can see the big picture alongside the little pieces. If you don’t have the right box top in front of you while you are living, then life is confusing. The pieces don’t fit together.
Eternity is confusing, and how to get to heaven is confusing.
You need the correct box top in front of you. The way not to see life and tragedy as confusing is to see it from an eternal perspective. It is to set the box top in front of you—to put the Bible and Jesus in front of you and define the little pieces with the big picture, God’s picture.