In a Commencement address at Stanford University, the late Steve Jobs said: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.”
Death is an enemy that terrorizes mortals, causing them to be “like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). Some enemies are short-term—we face them, fight them, and defeat them. But death is a lifelong enemy, the last one left standing: “The last enemy to be destroyed will be death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Steve was right, you know—we want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to have to die to get there. So we postpone the trip to glory as long as possible; we will spend our last dime to keep from boarding that bus.
Adam and Eve didn’t want to die. There were lots of trees in their garden, and they were free to feast on the fruit of all but one. Snatch a snack from that one and you will die, God said. The minute they sunk their choppers into that apple they knew they’d blown it, so they hightailed it into the woods to hide from God … and from death.
Esther didn’t want to die. Haman’s fiendish plot to destroy the Jews culminated in a savage decree: “Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and little children—on a single day” (Esther 3:13).
Unknown to the top brass, there was a Jewess in the palace: the queen, no less. Bizarre doings had put Esther on the throne. At the insistence of Mordecai, the cousin who had raised the orphaned Esther as his own daughter, she kept her Jewish ethnicity secret. But when Mordecai became aware of the planned annihilation of the Jews, he urged Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for her people. That had disaster written all over it, for the law specified that death was the fate of anyone who approached the king without being summoned. It had been thirty days since Esther had been summoned. Mordecai pressed the issue: “Who knows,” he said to his reluctant cousin, “who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Oh boy! Get everybody together and pray for me, Esther implored; then “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” She didn’t want to die, but was willing to risk it to derail the massacre.
Jesus didn’t want to die. He wanted to return to heaven: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began,” he prayed. But—anticipating a horrifying death—there was another prayer that he prayed, not once, but three times: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” He wanted to go to heaven, but he didn’t want to die to get there. But if that’s what it took to get us there too, he would do it, because he wanted us to share his glory: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (John 17:24).
Do you look for your name when you read Scripture? You should. I found mine in Romans 5. And guess what? I found yours there too.
At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. …While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8).
That has my name on it. Yours too. Romans 5 tells us that we were not his friends, but his “enemies”—“ungodly,” “sinners.”
While we were sinners Christ died for us. Can you get your mind wrapped around that? I can’t. I could understand it if Jesus had died for his mother. But for the venom-spitting thief on the cross beside him? For Barabbas, the notorious criminal who should have been on the center cross instead of Jesus? For me? For you?
Yes, Jesus wanted to go to heaven … but he didn’t want to die to get there. But when he ran his finger down the list, he paused at my name and said, “I’ll die for him.” When his finger underlined your name he said, “I’ll die for her.” And he did.