If you knew you had just so many days left before you died, how would you live them?
Today is Ash Wednesday, the annual day in the Christian calendar that ushers in the season of Lent, the time many Christians use as a period of spiritual preparation for Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter. While it was invented to give Christians a way of preparing for and experiencing the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it wouldn’t be anything, of course, without the death and resurrection of Jesus in the first place.
So let’s use the days of Lent and try to put ourselves in that original scene. At some point in time in the closing months of his life, Jesus was in fact 47 days away from his resurrection. He was also 45 days away from his death.
Was he aware of that? Many Christology scholars will say he was, that he had foreknowledge in all things, particularly that appointment with his divine destiny to die for the sins of the world. Others will say he didn’t necessarily know, though he did know he was probably walking into trouble when he went to Jerusalem for the last time. The gospel writer Luke suggests Jesus knew death awaited him when he reports of Jesus that, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51 NRSV)
We all have a date with death. What a nice thing to say, Bill. Well, we do. In fact, by virtue of perhaps an unwelcome medical diagnosis, some people with a terminal disease know they have just ”so many” days or months left to live. On the other hand, not to be offhanded about it, we are all “terminal” cases. Some of you will have heard me use this story. Vin Scully, the eloquent announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was commenting on an ankle injury sustained by outfielder Andre Dawson. In terms of his playing condition, he went on to mention that Dawson was listed “day to day.” And then after a pause in his voice, Scully added, “But then aren’t we all?” Yes, aren’t we all.
But in spite of the inevitability of death, a good spiritual exercise for Lent is in fact to walk with Jesus through his days ahead, beginning with Luke 9:51, as he set his face toward Jerusalem, and see what keys there are to Life with him and in him---not because death is imminent for any one of us, but because life can be full for everyone of us.
We’ll have to explore that some more.