As people get older, you sometimes hear them say, “I’m ready to die.” Does this mean there is something wrong with this person? Is he suicidal?
In my own life, God has given me eighty-eight wonderful years. At this advanced state, I find my body is wearing out. Not long ago my doctor asked me to see a specialist in order to evaluate a particular discomfort I was having. I found the specialist to be pleasant, and he prescribed several physical tests and x-rays. However, I told him I did not want to take those tests. This surprised him, for he felt these procedures were necessary in order to find what might be wrong. So he asked me, “Is there a chance you might be depressed?” When I told him that I was not, he asked why I refused to take tests that might prevent me from dying.
“Well,” I said, “I am an old man. When the Lord is ready to take me, I will go to heaven, not because of any thing I have done, but because of God’s grace. He made it possible by sending his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. Doctor, you are a gifted physician. Yet, when this life comes to an end and we are with God through Christ, that is better than anything this world can offer us.”
The doctor stared at me and then asked me to come back for one more appointment. I left him with the reassurance that I would return and he needn’t worry about me dying from self-infliction.
At my next appointment, we didn’t talk much about medicine. Instead we talked about eternity and some of the doctor’s personal concerns. I tried the best I could to give him a clear presentation of the salvation that has been offered to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. I offered to meet with him again and pursue this matter further. I have yet to hear from the doctor and, as far as I know, Jesus Christ has not yet been received. But that is okay, for the seed has been sown, and the Holy Spirit will take it from there.
I believe that I am anxious to go home when the Lord is ready to take me. Two thousand years ago, an old man by the name of Simeon told the Lord he was ready to die. I mentioned in my sermon two weeks before Christmas that the Bible gives us some beautiful stories surrounding the overall Christmas story. We talked about Mary and Elizabeth. Today’s text has another one of those stories. It is about Simeon.
Simeon was a righteous and devout man. He had received a promise that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. Eight days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took him to the temple, as a requirement of the Law, to present him as one of the Lord’s own. This consecration of the Lord was very important for people who were God-fearing and wanted to please God.
While they were in the temple, Simeon took the baby in his arms and said. “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation . . .”
Simeon was saying, “I am ready to die; I am ready to go home.” Isn’t this story a beautiful part of our Christmas message? Simeon was anxious to let them know that this baby was God’s greatest gift. This child was God’s only begotten Son who had come to take away the fear of death. But his purpose on this earth would also pierce Mary’s heart as well. How she must have understood this as she stood beneath the cross of Jesus and saw his hands nailed to the cross.
“I am ready to die,” Simeon said. This is God’s gift when Jesus Christ lives in our hearts and we have received him. Then we, too, do not have to fear the grave.
Death is a concern to me to some extent. I hear people say from time to time, “I am not afraid to die, but I am concerned about how I am going to die.” That statement is true for me too. I don’t want to spend some agonizing weeks or months actively dying. That is something to be concerned about.
I am very attached to my loving family and don’t want to leave them. As a result of my wife’s stroke, she needs my care. Because of this reason, I would like to stay with her until she is taken to God.
I have had many great experiences serving in the ministry. I had a wonderful time as a young person, as a college student, and a seminary student. And what a great time I’ve had with a wonderful congregation who at times have had their problems but clung to their Savior.
In that sense of the word, death is more than deliverance and pain, for it has been conquered in Jesus Christ. Without our Savior, we are not prepared to stand before God Almighty, for he alone can speak on our behalf. Without our Savior, we will not go to heaven. Jesus told us in his Word, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you? I go to prepare a place for you. Where I go, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). God is not a universalist.
When Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”, Jesus replied, “I am the way, (THE way, not a way), I am the truth, (THE truth, not a truth), I am the life (THE life, not a life)” John 14:5-6.
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father but by me. Though I don’t understand these words, I still believe them. And on the basis of this promise, I can say “I’m ready, Lord. I’m ready to die.”
The funerals I have conducted have three parts to them. One part deals with the eulogy, for we need to acknowledge this person who has lived a long life. Generally speaking, no matter how bad the person has been, some good thing can be said about him.
So I say a few words about the one being laid to rest. Then I speak a good text from the Word of God. Often it is the one I just quoted to you: “I have gone to prepare a place for you. And if I have gone to prepare a place for you, I will come and get you.” The Word of God actually has hundreds of texts referring to death being conquered in Jesus Christ. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-56).
For the third part of the funeral, I spend ten minutes or so telling the people what Jesus Christ has done. Then I ask the people, Are we ready to die? Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you know that he has conquered death for you?
Many of them will perhaps say, “Yes, I do. Jesus is my Savior. I am ready to die.” However, some of those present will not be ready to die. A funeral is a marvelous chance to share the gospel with a person who will face God alone because he has rejected the Christ.
I am ready to die. That’s not a morbid statement; it is victorious. I am ready to die! Not because of my life and anything that I have done, but because of God’s grace.
I am ready to die. With that certainty, I can enjoy life here on this earth while I wait for the Savior to come.
We need to be ready. And we need to be concerned that our friends and our relatives are also ready. When the time is right, it is our God-given obligation to tell them so they will not live with the false hope that everything is all right and we are all going to heaven. For this is not the case.