Why Sit Waiting To Die?
“Why are we sitting here until we die?” Perhaps it seems an odd question to ask. Why would anyone sit around waiting to die? It was a question asked by four lepers in a massive predicament. There was a famine throughout the northern kingdom of Israel at the time. To make matters worse a massive Syrian army had invaded and held a siege on the capital of Samaria. The situation had gotten so bad that people were eating donkey heads and bird dung to survive, and even some had turned to cannibalism in their desperation. (see 2 Kings 7-8)
They saw that sitting around where they were was going to lead to their eventual death. They also knew it was no better in the city of Samaria; they would just die there, too. They realized that their only hope for living was with the Syrian army. It was very likely that the Syrians would just kill them. But there was a sliver of a chance that the Syrians might take pity on the lepers and let them live. While walking directly into an enemy army’s camp might not seem like a good idea at all, every other option was certain death. The Syrian army was only probable death. This made the Syrian army the unlikely hope of life.
This story reminds me of a story John tells about Jesus in the sixth chapter of his Gospel. Jesus is talking to the people, and he tells them: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51) The people understandably are confused and discuss among themselves whether Jesus was talking about cannibalism. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they ask.
At this point, Jesus does not stop the people from going down this thought path. He doesn’t say to them, “Oh, sorry. I was talking spiritually, metaphorically. You don’t have to actually physically eat my flesh.” Instead Jesus doubles down and says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him…” (John 6:53-56ff)
It was at this teaching, that not only the people listening to Jesus turn away from him, but “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). It was too hard, too confusing, it didn’t feel right. Jesus then turns to the twelve and asks if they will leave, too. Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Peter didn’t say he understood what Jesus was saying any better than anyone else. He was just as confused as everyone else. Peter just knew, that as unlikely as it seemed, even if he didn’t understand how, his only hope for life lay with Jesus.
I come back to this passage often in my walk with God. If things are too confusing, I lose my way, or I need some encouragement, I find it here. Peter did not know everything, but he did know that Jesus had the words of eternal life. There are so many competing religions and philosophies out in the world. And there is not space enough to consider them all in detail. But this question guides me: “Why sit here until I die?” The materialist who says that all that exists is what we see. From this viewpoint, we are temporary creatures doomed to die and never exist again. We are literally sitting waiting to die if that is true. If we depend solely on our good deeds to save us, we are doomed to die, as well. We are like the lepers in this case, unable to help ourselves, cursed by our sins, and the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). There is no other worldview that offers life like Jesus.
When the lepers entered the Syrian camp, they found it deserted. God had driven off the Syrians by his own power. The lepers had found riches and food more bountiful than they could possibly imagine. The lepers did not know how they would find life, but they went in the only direction it could have been. They found that God had provided. And they were compelled to share the good news of the life God freely gave to the rest of Samaria.
Jesus offers us forgiveness and eternal life. Where else can you go? Every other direction leads to death. Why sit waiting to die? Jesus told us who will receive the gifts of the Father. He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)