As I was doing my devotions this morning, I was challenged with the thought, what if I am wrong about life after death? We all know that some day we will die. We don’t dwell on that thought. That would be too depressing. But, it remains always in the back of our minds. The reality of death raises the question, what comes next? Is there life after death, or is this all there is? People have struggled with that question forever, coming up with many different answers.
As a follower of Christ, I have come to believe and put my trust in the promise of eternity. By putting my faith in Christ, I am assured of spending eternity with him. That was the clear promise that Jesus gave to his disciples in John 14.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 (NIV)
In the face of realistic doubt, Jesus gave his disciples realistic hope. Most of my life, I have staked my life on that hope. But even with a lifetime of faith behind me, as I move ever closer to the end of my life, I experience times of doubt. What if I got it wrong?
There was another committed man who struggled with doubt, and his name was not Thomas. It was John the Baptist. John was an amazing man. From his birth, God set him aside for special service. He was the forerunner to the Messiah. He was clear about his role. He fulfilled it with passion. Then Jesus showed up.
Jesus and John were cousins. They were only six months apart in age. It is very possible that they had contact with one another as they were growing up. In fulfillment of his calling, John went to a wilderness area along the Jordan River and called people to repentance. His message was radical. No longer can you rest on your heritage. You must repent of your sins, be baptized as an act of cleansing, and live differently from now on. Even though this message was radical, and offensive to some, people flocked to John. They wanted to be sure that they got it right. Then one day Jesus showed up on the banks of the Jordan. John was taken by surprise. Jesus didn’t fit the pattern, and John knew it. In fact, John tried to switch roles with Jesus, but Jesus insisted upon being baptized. It seems from that point on John recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah, or did he?
As John faced the reality of his death, he struggled with doubt. Did I get it right? John had been arrested by Herod, because he had called Herod on the carpet for his immoral actions. As John was in prison, he had time to think. It was there that his doubts began to haunt him. He just had to know the truth. So he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to make sure.
John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'" At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." Luke 7:18-23 (NIV)
Jesus told John to examine the evidence. Rather than give John a straight answer, Jesus offered him tangible proof that He was the Messiah. Many had come before Jesus claiming to be the Messiah, but only Jesus actually fulfilled the tangible requirements. I believe John went to his death convinced about who Jesus is.
When I examine the evidence of Jesus’ life and teaching, I find confidence to face the future. Jesus stands alone among all the religious leaders that the world has ever produced.
There came a time during Jesus’ ministry when the crowds became disillusioned with Jesus. The things that he was teaching them were hard. They were not the words the people wanted to hear, so many of them turned away from Jesus. At that critical moment Jesus turned to his chosen disciples and asked them if they wanted to leave as well. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:68-69 (NIV)
When doubts begin to arise in my mind, and I contemplate all the other options available to me, I come back to the same conclusion that Peter had. Where else can I go? Jesus is the only one who has the words of life. So when death comes, and I walk through that dark curtain that separates this world from the next, I fully expect to find Jesus standing there, waiting to welcome me home. I’m staking my life on it.