Dead Man Walking

Those three words freak me out.

The phrase used in a prison to announce the death row inmate’s walk to the execution chamber.   If you’re old enough, this may bring to mind a soulful Sean Penn advancing down a cold, grey hall while Susan Sarandon, as the dedicated nun, grieves.

At work years ago, I was involved in an event where an elder man’s last words were recorded shortly before he passed away.   He stepped in front of a vehicle after disengaging the call.   As I had to listen to the call I thought of this phrase and was sad.  I was aware for us, his wife and children the timeline continued.  For him, there was only a before and impact.

No after.

Well, no earthly after.

Dead Man Walking.  We don’t like to know death is coming.  Is right there.  Is breathing down the neck as it salivates with the scent of soon to be spilled blood.

The awareness is disconcerting.  We know death can’t be escaped.  We understand conceptually its coming.  For each of us.  We know the end game.

Birth, life, death.

We get it.

It is the early glimpse that freaks us out.  Death needs to remain a mystery.  Something out there.  Not here.  Death is a destination we don’t gaze towards.  We don’t want to catch that glimpse.

Maybe we should.  Death has a bad rap.   We only know what we are leaving behind.  We don’t see the glory of our destination.  We’re attached to our lives, our humanity, our world.  It’s how we live.  We don’t look at death like a door to somewhere better.   We see death as finality.  An end.

How beautiful and valuable our salvation?   Eternal life.  Death just a portal to a new forever in a life indescribably better.

What did Jesus say?  (John 14 King James version)

  1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

If this world that God created is so spectacular imagine how awesome His next one will be.  The world waiting.  Just on the other side.  Death the gateway.

I think about why Dead Man Walking is so disturbing.  The Bible tells us “we are none perfect, no not one.”   Dead men walking each of us born to live and die.  What a depressing idea.  No wonder the phrase gives us the creeps.   Yet, the other side of the story awaits. God steps in with His Son and provides this hope, this promise, this commitment in Colossians 2:13

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Not a Bible scholar, but “quickened together with Him” sounds like we are trussed tightly.  Us and Him.   We don’t need a theology degree to know what forgiven means.  Worthy.  Clean.  Sinless.

Blameless in His sight.   There is no greater gift than His love.

John 14 continues:

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

How cool is that?  We even get a roadmap.  The way starkly clear.

Death where is thy sting?  

It stings.   It does.  Sad to lose someone we love.  Sad to think about all we leave behind.  Death stings.  Yet, for a believer that’s all its power.  What changes is death is no longer victorious over our lives.  Here or after.

I will rise.  Now in Him I live.


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