I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. [Luke 12:4-9 ESV]
If there is anything consistent in the makeup of man it is the reality of sin and consequent physical death. In our rebellion we excuse and ignore sin. We cannot ignore or avoid death. We can refuse to acknowledge God all of our physical lives until we come before Him.
Jesus told His disciples of His impending death at the hands of His enemies in Jerusalem.
“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’”[Matthew 16:21-22 ESV]
I think Peter spoke for the group. He pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him, suggesting Jesus was not going to die as He described. While we could debate Peter’s motivations his refusal to accept the impending death of a loved one is more prominent. He could not imagine the man before him, robust, quick witted, strong, facing death. Jesus bested the Pharisees. He would continue to best them. There is no way Jesus would be murdered by anyone.
Jesus rebuked the liar who inspired Peter to believe the lie. “Get behind me Satan” [Matthew 16:23 ESV]. Wishful thinking is just that. It has no foundation in truth and therefore no substance.
Christians are probably more afraid of the process of dying than of actual death. If we knew when we were going to die would we not get our house in order? Would we tremble and quake because we do not know Him or face death with peace because we do know Him. Moses was told he would not enter the Promised Land so he prepared the people to follow God after his death. Then was gathered to his people atop a mountain overlooking the land he could not enter. There is no indication he feared dying.
Often it is not the one dying who is afraid but those around facing the reality of losing a loved who are the most distressed. Leaving loved ones, through death, might bring resignation and acceptance of one’s circumstance. Trapped by the world, those staying want to build a false peace to placate their emotional upheaval.
“Rest in peace” is an accepted euphemism stuffed with wishful thinking. Where there is no peace with God there can be no peace in death. Where there is no fear of God there is no desire to be right before Him. Death becomes a purposefully ignored unknown filled with superstitious possibilities based upon fantasy.
Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem where He would face a violent death at the hands of professional executioners. He knew this and He was at peace. He asked God to take away the cup, but submitted Himself to His Father, for He knew the peace He had could not be taken, even by death. How we face death, our own and the death of a loved one, is a test. Do we know we have peace with God? Do we know the person dying has peace with God? Do we live for God?
Death could not hold Jesus. He was raised from the dead. Those who are His need have no fear of death. Those who are not His should absolutely fear death.