In this Lenten devotional series we are looking at Death. Death is capitalized for a reason, because of sin, Death takes on a larger than life role in all of our lives. There is no greater certainty in our life than it will end in Death. And yet, we insistently push Death to the margins. Death is taboo. It’s the thing that we watch on TV, but don’t talk about in polite company.
That’s why this Lent, we’re meditating on Death. It’s a long standing tradition in the church. Our theological ancestors did it, calling it by the name memento mori which means literally “remember death.”
Why meditate on Death? Because in remembering Death, there is wisdom. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” And he also says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.” There is wisdom to be found in meditating and considering the end of a thing, as it brings a soberness and clarity to life. Groups meet to talk about death. People practice forms of meditation on death in order to enjoy life more fully.
Until the last century, death was such a common experience that it was unavoidable. You had to face it, and you had to come to grips with it as your coming reality. That has changed. This is why we are meditating on Death this Lent; Death the enemy of us all. But an enemy that has been defeated once and for all by Christ.
By “glorifying Death” we are in actuality bringing Christ greater glory in his victory. For how much more glorious of a victory is that defeat? The victorious reminder Christ is greater than Death itself. Christians meditate on death, with the hope of the resurrection not far behind. We can look Death square in the eye, and then look straight through Death into the sunrise and the New Day that is dawning.
Last week, we considered the fact we are dust, and to dust we shall return. We considered Death, the doorway all of us must enter, because of sin. This week we consider the fact that Death seeks company. Death is a destroyer. Our Scripture meditation passage is from Genesis chapter 4.
“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
Our first encounter with Death in Scripture is in the murder of brother. The eldest son murders the younger. Sin seeks to destroy us, and those around us. God is the God of unity, and integration. Sin is the “god” of disintegration and destruction. Sin pits one member of the family against the other. Where there should be love and unity, there is hatred, anger, and violence.
The Lord’s words are penetrating.
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”
Death has massive implications. It is not merely the outworking of one person’s rage, it’s actually the working out of Death in its all consuming terror. Proverbs 30 references this: “The grave, the barren womb, the land that does not accept water, fire, all these things never say ‘Enough!’” The gaping maw of death seeks to consume. Death is the fruit of sin. Sin is the pathway to death.
When sin is crouching at Cain’s door, sin’s desire is to destroy. Sin’s desire is to beget Death—even by murdering a brother. Or a child. Or a father. Yet we see this wickedness played out again and again. Death is a Tyrant. Death seeks to destroy all life. When Death is given its way, that which is full of life gives way to futility. That which was made to produce abundantly, instead is desolate. That which is meant to conceive life, is barren. The land that was made to be our home, is now our place of wandering. The ground which was made to give us security and rest, now only reminds us of our destiny, the grave.
Death is the closest force we have to God, apart from God himself. Death overcomes all. Death is overcoming. And yet, there is One who overcomes. That’s why this Lent we expectantly meditate on Death’s Overcoming.