Wednesday, January 6, 2010

His dying breath

"Now when the centurion, who stood facing (Jesus), saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was God's Son.'"
(Mark 15:39)

I've had the privilege of being present when a few people have died.  It's an awe-inducing experience.  Not in the "Academy-Award-winning-death-performance" kind of way... nor in the Hollywood "shoot-em-up-dramatic-death" kind of way.  It's simply amazing to be there at the moment a human being breathes his/her last.  To know that the silver cord of life is being cut is quite humbling.

At the end of Jesus' life, one person in particular is deeply moved.  A Roman solider.  A centurion.  He responded by saying the now famous line, "Truly this man was God's Son."  I'd always assumed the magnitude of the entire crucifixion experience weighted heavily on his heart and he finally glimpsed the divine truth.  That still may be what actually happened... but today I noticed something Mark wrote, that I hadn't noticed before.  He note that t was when the centurion saw how Jesus "breathed his last" that gave him the revelation.  Verse 37 says of that particular moment, "Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last."  Was it the loud cry itself that did it?  Was it whatever words Jesus may have cried out?  Was it the way in which Jesus held his composure through that final moment?  We don't know.  But something about that final breath became a witness to that Roman soldier.

John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) once remarked that one of the distinguishing marks of a Methodist is that "we die well."  Again, I don't think he was referring to a motion-picture type of ending... but rather a peaceful calm in the face of death.  How one LIVES his/her life goes a long way toward how one embraces the end, I think.

As Christians, we talk about "living as one prepared to die."  Preservation of life (at least our lives) is not the ultimate goal... but rather living this life tot he fullest - in the way God intended.  That brings a peace and contentment that speaks volumes... even when you can't speak any more.  AMEN.

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