grave-682_1150394aPeople have been trying to mask death since it first reared its face as a result of the fall, slithering in on the forked, but successful tongue of the serpent.

Even on the first Easter morning, the women were on the way to the gravesite to do just that. They were going to the cemetery, anticipating exactly what you’d expect at a tomb – a dead body that is beginning to decay. So they were bringing spices to cover the smell of death.

If we are honest, what the women attempted on Easter morning is no different from what many of us try to do every other day of the week. We want to mask the stench of death. We want to hold our nose, cover our eyes, plug our ears – anything to keep from thinking about the looming specter of death.

How do we go about masking death? We try to cover up the reality of death in one of three ways.

1. IGNORE DEATH

I know people who never go to a funeral. They have never seen a dead body. They don’t want to put together a will or pick out a cemetery plot. The idea is too much. They say, “I just don’t want to think about it.” So they don’t.

We can do our best to ignore death, but death doesn’t leave us alone. We want to shut out the idea and think of pleasant thoughts. If we can just put it out of sight, we can put it out of mind. So we think.

We’re like the rich fool in Jesus’ story – taking into account all the space we need for big barns and harvest and money and wheat, and yet at the end, the only space we need is a box in which to be buried.

2. EXPLAIN DEATH

The second way people try to cover the stench is by overanalyzing and examining death’s processes. We obsess over death in its details, and we analyze its causes and effects. But we do it safely through our televisions.

Some shows deal with the gory details of how the body passes from life to death, the gruesome crime scene, or the analysis of dead bodies. These types of shows revel in the details and desensitize us to death. Others shows use zombies, vampires and other monsters to show “death come to life.” Death has been glamorized.

But death can’t be contained to a flat screen. Science cannot explain it away. Pop culture cannot make it hip. Not when you are personally affected by it. When you lose someone you love, no amount of scientific explanation is going to satisfy you. No television make-up can hide the pain.

3. SPIRITUALIZE DEATH

The third way to mask the stench of death is to spiritualize it, to redefine it as something good not bad. So we talk about death in peaceful terms. We say things like, ‘Death is a natural part of life.’

We soften our language and talk about “passing away.” We speak about people who’ve died as if they are angels in the heavens or stars in the sky.

But no amount of spiritualization can take away the sting of death. Deep down, we know this is true. There is nothing more unsettling and saddening than to watch someone else suffer and die.

WE DON’T NEED DEATH TO BE MASKED…

Over the past few years, my father-in-law battled cancer, and over time, he wasted away – the disease capturing the last of his strength, until the final days were spent in agony, moaning with each breath. We gathered in his room and watched him close his eyes for the last time.

I will never get out of my mind the picture of my best friend and next door neighbor growing up – seeing him in his casket. He spiraled out of control mentally at the age of 16 and took his own life. I remember standing over his casket, looking at his body and thinking, This isn’t right. Someone do something! It stung. It still stings. The stench is there.

Who hasn’t turned their head away in horror at the scenes of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center, the scenes of babies butchered in clinics in Philadelphia, the pictures of the wounded and dead in wars across the world, the scenes of flood waters rising and sweeping people away, or the little casket being lowered into the ground just days after a newborn entered and left this world?

You can’t tie a ribbon to death. A nice little bow won’t suffice. The women might have felt good by bringing spices to anoint the body of Jesus, but their spices could do nothing to change the horrible situation. Death is final, and dead people stay dead. We may feel better by covering the stench, but we cannot change the outcome, as much as we might try.

The good news is that we don’t have to try to cover it up.

… WE NEED DEATH TO BE DEFEATED

Death is not our friend. It is the fallen wages reaped by sinful man. It is the last enemy to be defeated, not a friend to be embraced.

But for the believer, Jesus has conquered death.

The resurrection changes everything. Death didn’t have the last word on Jesus, and for those of us who are in Him, it won’t have the last word on us either.

No, we cannot mask death in feeble attempts to disguise its ugliness. But we can trust in the accomplished work of Christ. He stood face-to-face with death, unmasked it forever, and came out victorious on our behalf.

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11 thoughts on “3 Ways We Try to Mask Death”

  1. Clayton says:

    Trevin, regarding the statement “The women might have felt good by bringing spices to anoint the body of Jesus, but their spices could do nothing to change the horrible situation.” I’m not sure if this is what you are implying, but I don’t think the myrrh-bearing women were trying to mask death by bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body. They were trying to pay respect and honor to his body as was Jewish custom. But this wasn’t a masking of death.

    I think we can learning a thing or two from these women, and from ancient Jewish (and Christian) tradition. Instead of sending dead bodies of our loved ones off to anonymous morticians to inject them with harsh chemicals (this really is an attempt to mask death), what if Christians cared for and prepared the bodies of our fellow Christians for burial in a more natural (I’d even say Christian) way. As an act of love for our departed brethren, this would be a truly counter-cultural action that would testify to our belief in the bodily resurrection.

  2. Andy says:

    We’re all a mere second away from death. Thousands of people will die today and I wonder what the percentage of them is that were just going about their everyday lives. Kinda sucks I suppose. There but by the grace of God go all of us.

  3. Ty Walsworth says:

    Thank you, Trevin. This was timely. I just started following your blog a few weeks ago and I am glad I did. This past Saturday the teen daughter of a close friend suddenly died from the flu complicated by asthma. The family chose not to vaccinate. They have an older teen son who is autistic and they link the beginning of his symptoms of autism to vaccines… it’s a rock and a very hard place.

    The mother has penned a beautiful declaration her commitment to Christ through all of this. The father, my friend, just lost his job and is still standing strong for his family of six-which-used-to-be-seven.

    The news stations are vilifying this family. It is not surprising to me when worldly people act like worldly people, but it is no less shaking to see the indifference paid to this grieving family to make a great story. No news report has mentioned the autistic son.

    I needed to read this today. Jesus conquered death. With a storm raging around us we can cry Abba Father and know that He is with us. The storm does not define us. He defines us.

  4. Steve Wright says:

    I know we are talking about physical death here, but the truth is we will live on either with God or eternally separated from him.

    I don’t mean to out spiritualize anyone, but I think that fact puts things into perspective. Perhaps living like there are consequences for living a life apart from Christ as opposed to pretending that everyone goes to a “better” place might drive us to be more intentional about sharing Jesus with those around us.

  5. Mark says:

    Totally agree with this article’s premises – that, uniquely in America, death is a vocabulary word that we don’t think about often. It seems like everyone is entitled to life and we dress it up in a way that it doesn’t or will not affect us. Many in society deem those that die in accidents, natural disasters, or by ways of criminal activity are “unlucky.”

    Entertainment, like Wax stated above, has ways to make death like its a ‘natural’ part of life or minimize it in a way that death is just a by-product of the show, the body to be examined. Consider next time on a show like this, where the body is the evidence: that the deceased has a soul and that person was someone’s friend, family member, and colleague. Also, ghost stories and films have the impression that life to death is seamless; the tragedy is that death leads to judgement, and most people do not know the accountability that awaits them.

    Jesus is our true hope in a world that is stung by death, but someday He will return and stamp death, and the word itself will never be a part of our vocabulary again.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    3 Ways We Try to Mask Death

    And from discussing these 3 ways, it’s a natural thing to then share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

    Thanks Trevin.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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