You've been stretched in two directions as far as you can go, you have hung on in the becoming and stuck it out. What is left for you to do?
It's one thing for Jesus to give Himself to the Cross. It's another thing for Him to hang on in the midst of it. It's yet another thing still for Him to die. And it's not some passive death that just sort of happens when you've been hanging on for awhile. It's not something that naturally flows out of the stretching, out of the hanging, out of the angst. Yes, the Cross was known for killing people, but Jesus died. Intentionally.
We see it in every breath He took from the Garden on - He was preparing Himself to die. But we see it most profoundly in His last breaths. He uttered, "Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit." He uttered, "Father, I die." I choose to die. And He continued, "It is finished." Or, I am now done dying. There is no more of My living nor My dying left for Me to do.
And that's sort of the tricky subtlety of dying a good death. It's not so simple as dying in opposition to living. It's not that you are done living and so you die. It's not that there's nothing more that you can do and so you stop doing anything at all. That's not it. Dying is the point of knowing that God has done what He's intended to do to this point, and the next thing He needs for you to do is to die.
God was working on something in the person of Jesus; the Son knew it from the beginning, and the world was catching on. God was working on something through the Cross. It was the atonement for sin. It was mercy poured out. It was Jesus becoming the sacrificial Lamb that the Old Law required, to become a pleasing aroma to the Lord. On the Cross, He was doing that. But that wasn't all that God was doing through the person of Jesus; He was also preparing grace. He was making a way for eternal life. He was making a way for man not only to be reconciled, but to be redeemed. At some point, in order for God to be doing that, Jesus can no longer be living. He has to die.
That's what Jesus is reflecting on on the Cross. That's what His last breaths are about. Not that the work of the Lord in Him is finished - we know it's not. We know that Sunday's a-comin'. What Jesus knows, and what He speaks from, is that God's work in His living body is finished and it is time for Him to pass into a new phase of God's plan. The work of reconciliation is done. The Lamb has been quartered and drawn, His blood spilled, an aroma pleasing to the Lord has lifted to the heavens. The work of redemption must now begin.
God is working on something in the person of you. Maybe you've known it from the beginning. Maybe you're just now catching on, but He's doing something. Whatever this Cross is that you're bearing, this way that you're being drawn in two directions and left hanging, this way that you're becoming...it's all for something. It's mercy poured out. That you're not getting what you deserve but you're being swept up into something bigger. On the Cross, you're doing that.
And that's what we need to take these moments to reflect on. That's what we need to make our last breaths about. Not that the work of the Lord in us is finished - we know it's not. Sunday is still a-comin'. What we need to know, what we need to speak from, is that God's work in this phase of our life, God's work with this Cross, is finished and it's time to pass into a new phase of God's plan. The work of today is done; it's time to move toward tomorrow.
All this talk about death, and it's easy to get wrapped up in old age and cancer diagnoses and lives wasted and lives well lived, but it's not about that. Sometimes, sure, it's about passing from this world to the next. But more often, it's about passing from this Cross to the next. It's about knowing that this season must come to a close and a new one begin. We blink, and we find ourselves back in the Garden, praying over the next thing to come.
So many of us spend our lives hanging on the same Cross, carrying it with us through too many seasons because we believe that's what God is doing through us. Maybe it is. Or maybe it just was. Maybe God meant for us to die to that thing long ago so that we could be drawn in and drawn out by something new entirely. Maybe He's intended that we die so we can come to a new place of hanging on, a new season of becoming where we die again and again. Life is not leading to one death; life leads to many deaths, all for the work that God is doing in you, through you, and on account of you.
The question we have to think about, and this goes for all of us, is how long have we been hanging on? How long have we been about the work of becoming in this place? And is it maybe time that some of us die? That we move on to the next phase of what God has for us and set about the work of becoming all over again, of becoming something new?
Yes, you must carry your cross. You must. And you must give yourself to it. And you must hang on while it does it cruel, agonizing work in you. But you also must, at some point, surrender to it and die.
That is, if you ever want to live.