Death is not something I have wrestled with a whole lot in my life. I can’t remember a particular moment where I panicked about death or even thought overly about what would happen if I died. My first time being exposed to death by a close family member was when my Opa passed away when I was fifteen. My Opa had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years prior to that so in the last two years we didn’t really get to experience the true Opa.
Parkinson’s is a hard disease to deal with because even though my Opa was around five years after his diagnoses, we couldn’t really connect with him for a while. His mind started degrading and he started acting irrationally. I remember my Oma calling several times when my Opa wouldn’t take his medications or was acting out and she felt scared.
Before the Parkinson’s, my Opa worked as a carpenter and I remember visiting and starting projects in the backyard where we would shave and mold wood into fantastic creations. I still have a helicopter we built in my room. There were so many great things that I remember doing with him, but as time went on it was harder and harder to connect with him and eventually he was in his own world. It almost felt like pulling a band aid off, but slowly.
At the funeral for my Opa I remember being confused a lot of the time. I felt like I should be sad and shaken by his death, but we had all known it was coming for years now. He had lived longer than the doctors had expected. When people would wish their condolences to us, I thanked them, but didn’t really know how to react. My Opa was a good man, and I knew that the pain and confusion that had been haunting him with his Parkinson’s was gone now. I found it hard to be sad, I think, because I knew that he was better off know. He was living with Jesus and away from the body that was hurting him.
I’ve lived in a pretty close knit Christian bubble for a lot of my life and because of that I think funerals and deaths of friends and family haven’t had as much of an effect on me. I believed that everyone was going to a better place anyways so I never had anything to worry about. I think it would be very different if a close friend of mine who hadn’t accepted Jesus into his/her life, passed away. I wouldn’t have the same assurance of knowing what would happen to them.
I lead a small bible study group each Tuesday and this week we talked about spreading the gospel and why evangelising is so important. One of the guys in my group summarized it really well I think. “If you truly believe in an eternal life where you can either go to heaven or hell, then you must really not care about someone not to tell them about the gospel. If you knew someone was going to get hit by a truck and they didn’t believe you, how long would you wait until you threw yourself at that person to knock them away from the truck?” It’s a harsh reality, but that really hit me recently, I should try to spread God’s love more, because I really want to see a lot of people in heaven.
So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
When I read this passage, I am reminded of Paul and his ow trials and tribulations. He consistently uses a “we” when he speaks through this passage and discusses the outward vs inward worries that Christians should be dealing with. The Corinthians at the time were worried about visible objects and troubles and triumphs. They spent their time expecting that followers of Jesus would reign as kings and queens, but Paul, in this passage, is ready to tell them otherwise.
The first sentence in this passage Paul is reminding us to accept that our physical bodies are in decline, but that we should not be in distress as God is helping build our spiritual strength. Physical injuries and harm should not bear us down as we should have faith that God knows what’s best for us. Following that it would seem that Paul is telling us that as a follower of Christ we should be expecting afflictions, true Christians have problems too and we should not get tied up in our troubles.
The last verse in this passage expresses Paul’s attempt at encouraging the Corinthians to stop worrying too much about temporary this in the physical world and instead to look towards what God has in his kingdom for us. All of our senses are temporary and will eventually disappear along with sin. We will no longer be able to see, taste, touch, smell or hear, so we should not spend our time worrying about issues that we witness physically.
For me this verse is encouraging, but scary. Paul is telling us straight up, that our life will be difficult as a Christian. We will have physical pains, our bodies are going to decay and rot, but that should not be our focus. As our physical bodies start to decay, god will build up our spiritual strength. When I look at the issues that face our world today it is really hard not to worry. It seems that at almost any moment a new war could start, or an pandemic that cause so much physical pain that we can’t image. There are so many things that we could spend our time worrying about, but this would consume us completely. Paul wants us to instead set our mind to what is eternal and unseen.
Though it feels so fatalist, I personally find this quite helpful. I don’t enjoy pain or suffering, but I find it way more bearable knowing that we have so much more to look forward to. If temporary pain may bring eternal joy, then I would be fine taking a bit of a beating in this life.
Jesus, the center of Christian belief, and a large player in many other religions, did not claim to be God in the simplest forms. Jesus never once in the Bible said the words, I am God, but he did compare himself to God lots. Stating in John that he was sent from Him and is from Him,” you do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me," (John 7:29). Further into John Jesus says that He is akin to God, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). Throughout the book of John, we see Jesus compare himself to God, but never directly say He is God.
During this time comparing yourself to God was a form of blasphemy and even uttering the word YHWH was considered wrong. The Hebrews made the word hard to pronounce on purpose and instead when speaking of God would use the word Adonai instead. The reason the Hebrews did this is so that they would never accidently use God’s name in vain.
Since YHWH was hard to pronounce and there were no other words that were fitting for Jesus, he would instead describe himself. He would speak of himself as the gate for the sheep." (John 10:7 or as "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1) Using many different variations of explaining that he is, in fact, God.
I think this is such a cool way for Jesus to speak to us and to relate with us. He understood the Jewish people of the time and followed their culture and did not boast himself as a blasphemer even though what he was speaking is true. There are not many kings who would understand and do this.