I wrote this devotion just a week shy of a year ago. My friend, David, was called home to Jesus yesterday. I know his suffering is done, his pain is gone, and he rests in the arms of his Savior. We join with his family in grieving over our loss but also in thankfulness for God’s gift to David of a life of Christian love and witnessing. God is good.
Abba Father, please surround his family with your love and comfort.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27: 45 ESV
And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink. Matthew 27:48 ESV
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23: 46 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
The infection had made its way to his blood, his fever was high, and after more than 20 years of the ravages of Multiple Sclerosis the prognosis for a meaningful recovery were very slim. The bracelet on his arm read DNR and the empty IV bags indicated that the treatment was for everything but pain, had been stopped.
He was thirsty. The fever and the effort of breathing used up all available moisture in his body. He was so very thirsty. A family member took a sponge on a stick and put it into his mouth. The water on his parched tongue felt good. His lips closed tightly around the stick.
Jesus was thirsty at his death. The sponge lifted to His lips contained vinegar. It brought no comfort. He cried “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” and commended His spirit to His Father.
We have commended our friend and loved one to our Heavenly Father’s care. If this is his time for death, then, it is a good death. In the critical care room at the hospital he is not surrounded by nurses and beeping machines. He is not surrounded by soldiers and enemies. He is surrounded by family and friends, holding his hand, adjusting his pillow, bringing him comfort and care. He is surrounded by a cloud of witnesses as he finishes the race marked out for him; as he looks to Jesus.
His medicine puts him to sleep; offering him respite. When he wakes he sees faces of loved ones all around. As he rests their reminiscing remind him of the stories of his life. It was a good life. It is a good death.
The room is filled with people coming and going, with hugs and hand holding. There are moments of quiet, there are tears, but there is much laughter, too. He was a good and faithful servant. He is ready.
The Pastor stands at the side of the bed. He asks permission to give this child of God back to his Father. The answer is “yes.” One by one, each family member takes his hand and commends him to the faith they share. They set aside their grief to give him permission to let go of their hands and to take the hand of his Savior.
It is hard to call Jesus’ death a good death. He was forsaken, beaten, tormented, in indescribable pain, and weighed down by the burden of our sin. But it was a good death. It was an agape death; God’s perfect love right before our eyes.
Agape means my friend will also have a good death, as will his family members. For now, they will grieve over him and miss him, knowing that agape love will bring them together again, one day, in the arms of Jesus.