Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Church

Holy Thursday Sermon - A Good Death

by Dn. M.E. Studebaker

Gospel - Gospel readings on The Passion of Christ

A Good Death

Invocation of the Trinity

Tonight we have heard, the whole of the historical account of Jesus' passion (meaning sufferings) & death. After all of that, there is little else to say.

Jesus' death was a horrible, agonizing way to die. Not a pretty picture at all.

Yet we call tomorrow 'Good Friday' as if to suggest Jesus' death was a good thing. At the same time, we know from the Book of Genesis, that death is a curse, a result of our rebellion against God - death is never a good thing.

And in the Divine Liturgy, and many other services of the Church, we pray that God will allow us 'a Christian end' to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord..in-other-words, we pray for a good death. So what is a 'good death' and is this even possible?

All men, at least all men who are sane, fear death. Fr. Alexander Schmemann, says:

"Fear of death is part of being human, because people instinctively feel a kind of terrifying, one could say awe-inspiring, discord between the experience of one's own self and the knowledge that this self must die and come to an end. No matter how often I'm told that death is a natural event, an obvious law of nature, my own self feels that [my] own death is not only unnatural, but contrary to nature. This discord gives birth to fear, because everything strange or unnatural is frightening. And in spite of all we are told [in the world about] the naturalness of death, the fear connected with it is the best proof that everything here is not so clear and simple. It is natural for human beings to desire what is natural. But death, disappearance, dissolving into nothingness, the deafening sink-hole of non-existence is something no one desires."

So fear of death is natural. But the whole of the Christian message is that Christ has overcome death - and that for those who are joined to Him in this life, they too, can overcome death. Jesus told His disciples in John's Gospel, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

John, the Apostle, also wrote in the Book of the Revelation, "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." Here, he does not say, "blessed are those who are dead." Rather he says, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." In the Lord we have hope. In the Lord we have peace. In the Lord, we have the promise of eternal life. And Jesus did not merely teach these things, He proved them by His own resurrection for the dead.

Jesus' death on the cross was alone and isolated from the Father. We pray that we will be counted among the community of Christians when we die.

We pray, not that our death will be like that of Christ (though some have and continue to die through violence, or pain or in isolation and Christ can give us the strength to bear it), but we pray that our death will be IN Christ. What is a good death? One that is in Christ.

So while we have heard this evening all the terrible things Christ went through for our sake, let us not despair as though we do not know the end of the story. Jesus lives. And through our faith in and union with Him, we too can live, really live, both now, and after we die. Let us this day, commit ourselves and each other and our whole lives unto Christ our God.

Invocation of the Trinity

See Also:

Pesaha in the New Testament Tradition by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

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