Big Death, Little Death

In this weekend’s Gospel reading (John 12:20-33), Jesus makes it clear that it is only through his death and resurrection that the Father’s name will truly be glorified (v. 28), the ruler of this world will be driven out (v. 31), and he will draw all people to himself (v. 32). Jesus’ hour has now come, and he will indeed endure to the end, in order for this salvation to be accomplished. The fact that Jesus’ soul was troubled in the face of death (v. 27) is especially humbling. 

In the final weeks of my grandmother’s life, I asked her if she was afraid of dying. She said, “No. Yes. I’m not sure. It’s just that…I’ve never done it before!” Her honest response gave us a reason to hug and laugh during a difficult time. Of course our souls experience trouble in the face of death. We’ve never done it before. 

Or have we? The Apostle Paul invites us to think of it this way: because Christ has died for us, all have died already (2 Cor 5:14). In baptism, we are joined to Christ, united to him in his death – in this way Christ’s death becomes truly for us. What’s more, in baptism we are also joined to Christ’s resurrection – in this way, his new life becomes truly ours. 

 Baptism of William Van Demark

Baptism of William Van Demark

Christians can then regard baptism as their “big death.” As Paul remarks in Romans 6, a person who has already died cannot die again. Our old self has been buried with him in the waters of baptism. But the grave was not the end of Jesus’ story, nor will it be ours. Through his death and resurrection, Christ shattered the power that the “little death” of this life holds over us. 

Our eternal future is thoroughly wrapped up in his – a comforting and overwhelming thought as we come ever closer to the end of the Lenten season and approach the cross, where the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice comes into full view. Let us draw near to the word through worship, listen, and give thanks and praise.

See you in church,
Pastor Katherine