Reflection Sunday 30 January 2022
Does God take life?
4:30 But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
I have always wondered how Jesus walked through the people who were about to kill him and went on his way. I can imagine the men in the synagogue getting very angry with Jesus. Jesus came into the Synagogue filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, but the men in the synagogue reacted to Jesus’ words with anger. They became filled with rage or perhaps filled with another spirit. They reacted greatly when Jesus said that no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown and gave the examples of the prophets Elijah and Elisha whose miracles were not done in Israel but among foreigners in neighbouring countries. In their rage the men forced Jesus out of the synagogue and out of the town and they led him to the brow of a hill with the intention to kill him. I presume they grabbed hold of Jesus and led up the hill. But how did he simply walk away? How could he have got away with so many around him?
In another incident in John chapter 8, John tells us that Jesus was teaching in the temple and clashing with the Pharisees, but no one arrested Jesus because his hour had not yet come. This suggests that God the Father was protecting Jesus, allowing no harm to come to him, until it was his ‘hour,’ his time to die on the cross.
Often Christians who are grieving the deaths of loved ones, console themselves by saying it must have been God’s time to take them. This is sometimes said when someone has died in tragic circumstances or when someone dies quite young. But can we really say it was God’s time, when for example someone dies in a car crash when an oncoming speeding car crosses the white line and ploughs into them? In our grief we sometimes clutch at hopes that may contradict. When Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary died, Jesus wept (John 11:35). I imagine that God weeps with us in our grief when any person in the world dies; for everyone’s life is precious to God. The emphasis in the story of Lazarus is not on a God who takes life but one who restores life, one who affirms the life that is in Jesus and the life that is Jesus.
It seems to be that we get many of our beliefs about God controlling whether we live or die from the book of Job. Rather than giving us the answers to why there is suffering in the world and why good people suffer while the not so good seem to prosper, the book may be raising questions, the very same questions we are asking, the very same questions that seem to have no answers. Beware of reading the book of Job literally. It may be a work of fiction, a story about good and evil, and why suffering happens and whether God allows it. In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus seems to say that accidents happen. Accidents are not caused or allowed by God. People happen to be in the wrong place at the time. Perhaps when the tower of Siloam fell, it was the sin of poor workmanship or the sin of cutting corners that led to the tower falling. It was not their time nor God’s will.
In other parts of the Old Testament, the length of our life appointed by God is not set down to the very hour or day, but in years. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away Psalm 90:10). In Psalm 39:4 -5 David prays, “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.” Perhaps we need to read these Old Testament passages in the light of the Word of life that Jesus brings.
Our lifetime is short, for some shorter than for others. Whether it is short or long, whether we live or we die, our life is always in God’s hands, our life is always part of God. (Nothing)… will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). Whether our life on earth in our bodies is long or short, God’s will for us like God’s will for Jesus, is that we live life to the full, that we live in the Spirit, filled with the Spirit. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit with the fullness of God’s life flowing in harmony with our life, as one. When we die it is not our life that leaves us but we who separate from our bodies. We are life, raised up into eternal life.
So, what ever we face may we remember than our life cannot be taken from God, for our life and God’s life flow as one in the Spirit.
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation