Vicar Matt Doebler
Matins Devotional: February 2, 2023
Devotion for the Feast of The Purification of Mary and The Presentation of Our Lord
The fear of death is a powerful motivator. In the 16th century, it spurred Juan Ponce de León to go searching for the fountain of youth.
In our age, it's got us exploring the possibility of things like biohacking. Just recently I read about a group of scientists in Spain who were studying a species of sea creature called the “Turritopsis dohrnii”—what they affectionately call the “immortal jellyfish.” What captured the interest of the scientists was the fact that this particular type of jellyfish seems to be able to cheat death by “rebirthing itself”—rejuvenating its cells every so often. The scientists were, of course, intrigued by the possibility that a better understanding of the biomechanisms of this jellyfish might one day result in applications that could extend human life.
Why do we fear death so much that we’re willing to spend years searching for a mystical fountain or looking at jellyfish parts through a microscope?
The writer to the Hebrews knows. He describes death as a tyrant who holds us in bondage. Apart from Christ, our relationship to death is one of slave and slave master. Back in the first century—slavery was commonly caused by one of two things: debt or war. People became slaves because they owed a debt they couldn’t repay or they were part of a people that had been conquered in war by a superior enemy. This is why we fear death—because death is the collection of a debt we can’t repay and an inescapable reminder that sin has had its way with us.
Yet, Jesus does for us what no explorer or scientist ever could. Jesus became our brother in the flesh “so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death”—wiping out our debt by his blood and breaking our bonds by his resurrection. (2:14) Because of Christ, the venom has been taken out of the serpent’s fangs. In conquering death, Christ has taken the very iron chain that the devil used to enslave us to death and has used it to crush that serpent’s head. And now, we no longer need to fear death. You don’t need to search for a fountain of youth, because you’ve been baptized in the waters of life. You don’t need a team of scientists to invent a new wonder drug, because in the Supper you receive the medicine of immortality. When the fear of death creeps into your thoughts and threatens to rob you of your peace—remember what Christ has done—remember what he has promised you. And then say to death: “Death, where is your victory? Death where is your sting? I am no longer your slave. Jesus Christ, my Brother, has conquered you and set me free!”