Becoming Spiritual Decathletes: Part 10

(no audio was recorded this week)

Pastor Mark Mikels – August 31, 2008


(“Connecting With Christ” Series – Part 49)

(Mark 15:37-39)

Intro … Our study of the Gospel of Mark is nearly done – more
specifically our Spiritual Decathlon is nearly completed. Eight events
of the ten have been conducted – only two remain.

So far we have seen Jesus engage in Temple Cleansing and Question
Handling and Future Facing and Battle Preparing and Extreme Distress
Managing and Betrayal Surviving and Silence Maintaining and just last
week … We saw him engage in Darkness Enduring!

In each of these, we have said that Jesus not only demonstrated his own
phenomenal skills but he laid down a pattern for his followers to

Today’s challenge – the ninth of the ten – is suggested by …

Today’s Key Scripture … Mark 15:39

And when the Centurion … saw HOW he DIED, he said,

“SURELY this man WAS the Son of God!”

“How he died” … Sometimes our view of death as Christians is more
pagan than Christian. We fear it just like the pagans do … We are
reluctant to talk about it … We discourage anyone who is approaching
it from acting like it is getting close. We see it as the most horrible
thing that can ever happen. None of this is uniquely Christian.

A Christian view of death and Christian behavior in the presence of
death is distinctively different from that of the unbelieving world
that surrounds us.

There was certainly something “distinctively different” in the death of
Jesus … something that caused a grizzled, battle-hardened Roman
Centurion to conclude that he was in the presence of one who was indeed
the very

“Son of God”.

It’s that distinctively different something that I want us to consider
this morning and it’s incredibly important that we do this for in his
death (like in all the other events of those final days of his earthly
life) he laid down a pattern for us to follow.

By the very title that I have given this ninth great challenge, tension

is felt for I’m calling …

Christ’s Ninth Great Challenge …

“DEATH EMBRACING” … I’m suggesting that

“Jesus died wrapping DEATH in his ARMS like a welcomed GUEST.”

This morning we are going to draw on all Four Gospel accounts since
critical elements of this incredible task are recorded in each of them.

1.Jesus Embraced His Own Death With A Sense Of COMPLETION

“It is Finished” – John 19:30a

Only the Apostle John records this triumphal declaration. The horrible
ordeal was over … the full impact of the darkness had been endured.
The price of sin had been paid … the purpose for which he had come
into the world had been fulfilled. The “cup” which he had so resisted
in the Garden of Gethsemene had been drained to the last drop.

Mark simply says, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” This was
no whisper that could barely be heard – the final gasp of a set of
tortured lungs. This was a triumphant announcement intended to rattle
the gates of Hell itself. Its power was generated by something more
than mere human energy.

And so Mark records …

“And when the Centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus,

heard his cry and saw how he died, he said,

“Surely this man was the Son of God.”

Oh, what a way to embrace one’s death … with a sense of completion!

But there’s more …

2.Jesus Embraced His Own Death With A Sense Of CONFIDENCE

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” – Luke 23:46

Here Luke provides the essential account … This statement was also
uttered “with a loud voice” … a voice that reached all the way to the
courts of heaven. The Son was coming home! The spirit of this God
become Man would be placed in the Father’s care until the moment of

There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind where he would be one second after
his eyes would close in death. He knew the plans and purposes of God.

He knew that the moment had come for the granting of the prayer he had
prayed in the presence of his disciples just hours ago … (John 17:5)

“And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory

I had with you before the world began.”

To me this is one of the great examples of faith in the entire
Scripture …

Faith in the plans and purposes of God, faith in the faithfulness of
God. Faith that the very ONE who was required to turn His back during
those necessary hours of darkness would now open His arms to receive
him home.

Jesus embraced his death with an incredible sense of confidence!

This next one might seem a bit of a stretch but it’s most meaningful to
me and forms an important part of the pattern that we are to follow.

3.Jesus Embraced His Own Death With A Sense Of CONTENTMENT

“He bowed his head” (John 19:30b) “and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37)

Contentment – relief – release … all of these seem to be contained in
that simple physical action …

Only John – his most beloved disciple – mentions that just before the
end, “Jesus bowed his head” … The fight was over – the victory had
been won – the warm welcome in heaven was already prepared.

I believe that the combination of that satisfying sense of completion
and that sustaining sense of confidence would precipitate a soothing
sense of contentment.

If the great Gospel song had already been written and if Jesus had
known the words, it would have been a most appropriate moment to sing
… “It is well – It is well with my soul”.

“I have lived well … I have fulfilled my purpose …

My father in heaven awaits my return … I die a contented man!”

And now just one more wondrous thing …

4. Jesus Embraced His Own Death With A Sense Of COMMAND

“He gave up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50/John 10:18)

“Jesus gave up his spirit” … Those specific words from Matthew’s
Gospel call to mind the words of Jesus recorded in John 10:17-18

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take
it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own

I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

This command I received from my Father.”

I believe that it was this demonstration of authority – this ability to
“give up” or “dismiss” his own spirit; this ability to “command death”
– that over-whelmed that Centurion.

Here was a man who ended his life by command! Never had he seen that
done before and never would he see it again.

He had never seen anyone die like Jesus died …

Jesus embraced death – Jesus died wrapping his arms around death like a
welcomed guest with a sense of completion and confidence and
contentment and command! It was an incredible display!

Surely that Centurion and the others standing there that day had never
seen anything like it but the truth is in the years that followed they
would see something similar again and again, for in his death

Jesus laid down a pattern that untold numbers of his followers have

CONSIDER The Apostle Paul’s Death Embrace As An Example …

Paul put his views of death in print … It’s amazing how much of a
parallel there is … Here are four key texts that suggest to us the
manner in which we should engage in this great end of life challenge.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 … “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the

I have kept the faith.” – COMPLETION

God would have every one of His Children come to the end of their lives
with a sense of completion.

And what is and what has been my task? How do I know if I have
completed it or not?

It’s simple really … There is only one you … You are the only one
in all the vast centuries who can use your particular life to honor
God. To come to the end of your life with your faith intact … to come
to the end of your life trusting in Christ and yearning for Him is your

You are the only one on the face of the earth who can do that and doing
that brings great glory to God … It is your primary life purpose!

It’s my desire as your Pastor to assist you in doing that.

Here’s Paul second statement revealing his attitude towards death …

2 Corinthians 5:8 … “We are confident … and would prefer to be away
from the body and at home with the Lord.” – CONFIDENCE

There is a God-Given, God-Generated sense of confidence in the heart of
Christ’s followers. We know that to be absent from this body is to be
present with the Lord. We know that death is merely a doorway into
heaven itself. And that confidence can sustain us through whatever
process death itself presents.

And as the days of our lives pile up and the list of challenges faced
lengthens, we find ourselves more and more ready for that moment to

Death can find us in a spirit of contentment with the prospect.

Here’s how Paul expressed it in …

Philippians 1:23 … “I desire to depart and to be with Christ which is

better by far.” – CONTENTMENT

Paul had definitely come to the place where he was content with the
idea of leaving this life and being with Christ …

He understood that death was a doorway into a much better life. He, in
fact, yearned for the day when that better life would begin.

But he also knew that his work here was not yet done for he goes on to
say to the Philippians …

“But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

We can never make the decision ourselves …

God has not given to us the authority that he gave to His Son. God will
determine when it is time for us to come home. But while we wait we can
be content ourselves with the idea that someday it will happen.

A sense of Completion – A sense of Confidence – A sense of Contentment

Paul demonstrated them all … and so can we.

Just one more remains – how about that Sense of Command?

Now since we don’t have the same authority in these matters that Jesus
had, we cannot determine the time or the manner of our own death but we
can demonstrate that we understand that death itself is no longer in

We find Paul making such a recognition in 1 Corinthians 15 – his great
treatise on death and resurrection …

1 Corinthians 15:55 … “Where, O death is your victory?” – COMMAND

These are words spoken on behalf of the victor Jesus Christ Himself!

These are words that come from the mouth of one who no longer sees
death as something to fear but as something to embrace.

Final Thot …

DEATH provides our final opportunity to demonstrate LIFE!

Death is one event in the Christian life that we will only experience
once. It’s the last thing that anyone on this earth will get to see us

It becomes the final chapter of our earthly testimony.

Let’s be ready to do it well!