Rodger McDaniel is the Pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church
in Cheyenne. This is an excerpt from yesterday’s sermon.
They say your whole life pass before your eyes in the instant before death. One psychologist described this phenomenon as a brief overview of your life. Not the mundane hours that would end up on the proverbial cutting room floor, but the few glowing or tragic memories that you've never been able to forget.
Luke records that moment as Jesus languished on the cross. “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
In these last few moments Jesus’ life passed before his eyes. Between the moments when he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and the last moments before death overtook him and Jesus commended his own spirit into his Father’s hands…in those brief moments, what did Jesus see?
When all we know about someone is what we read in their biography or one their grave stone, we are purposely denied a glimpse of the mundane. The epitaph of Don Quixote reads: “Here lies the mighty gentleman who rose to such heights of valor that death itself did not triumph over his life; he did not esteem the world for he was a frightening threat to the world…for it was his great good fortune to live as a madman and to die sane.”
These words are appropriate for the tomb in which Jesus lay for three days before this morning. Those words allow us to imagine the parts of his life passing before his eyes those last moments. Can you imagine knowing, as did Jesus, your impending death is not the end. Think of how that would affect the highlight reel of your life. The Gospel is a highlight reel of the life of the man on the cross. Close your eyes and let some of the images of his life pass before your eyes.
His baptism in the Jordan River. The 40 days in the wilderness. Wandering along the banks of the Sea of Galilee turning fishermen into fishers of men’s souls. Confronting demons. Confronting chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and Romans emperors. Speaking hard truths to those who did not want to hear them. Times spent caring for those who were rejected by even the religious folk. Saving that woman from stoning by simply suggesting he who is without sin should cast the first stone.
Jesus may have died on Friday with all of those images passing before his eyes but he awoke on Sunday with visions of the future firmly printed on his mind. And us? Can we proclaim such a certainty of belief in God’s power to restore life that when we see a brother who is hungry we give him food, or see a sister thirsty we give her something to drink, meet strangers and welcome them, see those who are naked and give them the shirt off our own back, learn of one who is sick and take care of them, know of those in prison and visit.’
Can we be so recklessly curious about Jesus to go beyond studying his life and his teachings to be a genuine follower? In this culture that would be so counter-cultural as to make us appear to live as madmen and women but Jesus assures us we will be remembered as sane…and compassionate and caring…and as Christians.
And perhaps we will earn a gravestone etched with the words, “Here lies the mighty gentleman who rose to such heights of valor that death itself did not triumph over his life; he did not esteem the world for he was a frightening threat to the world.”