Rendezvous With Death

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear..
..I have a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I, to my pledged word, am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Alan Seeger’s poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” was written in the trenches of WWI. It tells of the expected meeting between the narrator and Death. Though the poem’s narrator regrets leaving behind life’s pleasures and love, he faces death unafraid. He makes his rendezvous with death, a matter of honor and duty. This World War, was to be the war to end all wars and defeat was not an option. So he promises that he will not fail his rendezvous with Death. He will either emerge victorious, or he will die, but his death will contribute to a greater goal and a greater good.

Holy Week is Jesus’ rendezvous with death. On Palm Sunday He enters Jerusalem in humble majesty and focused purpose. Seated on the colt of a donkey, He comes to take on the sins of the world and do battle with Satan, sin, death, and the grave.

This epic battle would take place within the city walls of Jerusalem. There within Jerusalem’s walls Jesus would endure plotting and betrayal. Abandonment and Deception. Temptation and Abuse. Violence and Suffering. All leading to condemnation on a cross.

This battle would be finished on a hill just outside Jerusalem’s gates, and it would be all out war against sin, death, the devil, and the grave. Jesus’ victory would mean that that fight would never be fought again.

Jesus has a rendezvous with Death, and He will not fail that rendezvous. He will not shirk His duty. In fact, Jesus chose the time and the place for His rendezvous with Death. Jesus said in John 10, “I lay down My life so that I may take it back.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back.”

If you read the Passion narrative carefully, you will notice that Jesus does what no crucifixion victim could have done. He uttered a loud cry. He shouted! Physically the very nature of crucifixion would have made this task impossible, as a crucifixion is death by suffocation. And yet Jesus shouted! And then He expelled His last breath. He did it of His own strength and accord. He died when He chose to die.

In fact, Pontius Pilate was surprised at how quickly Jesus had died on the cross. Crucifixions typically could take days! Sometimes family members would feed their loved ones while they hung on their crosses, slowly dying in pain and agony.

Matthew 27:50 declares:  “[Jesus] gave up His spirit.” When Jesus met Death, He did so on His terms. He laid down His life, it wasn’t taken from Him. He gave up His spirit, He was not defeated. Instead, He defeated humanity’s greatest enemies.

And make no mistake, sin, death, the Devil, and the grave are our enemies. We fear them, perhaps fearing the grave most of all!

And yet, resolute to the task before Him, Jesus fixed His eyes on the cross and everything that He would endure to gain the victory. He has a rendezvous with death on that scarred hill outside Jerusalem, and He will not fail His rendezvous.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, Jesus enters the city, with His head held high, knowing the battle that awaited Him. Shouts of Hosanna will be replaced with shouts of “crucify Him.” Waving Palm branches will become thrashing whips. And cloaks strewn on the path will become Jesus own garments divided up and gambled for.

Jesus will be arrested in the middle of the night and tried immediately. They will be relentless in their mocking and beatings. They will not stop until he is completely destroyed.

This is Jesus’ rendezvous with death.

Jesus’ death on the cross was not some accident or tragic mistake, Jesus came for the purpose of suffering and dying to redeem us and all creation from our sins and to rescue us from death and the grave. On the cross, Jesus did what we could never do – He paid the price for every sin. He settled the debt between God and creation, for our sinful rebellion. And He defeated death, the devil, and the grave for us.

Jesus’ rendezvous with death, results in death, suffering utter and absolute defeat. For Easter, victory bursts forth from the tomb.

Life, triumphs over death. Forgiveness is victorious over condemnation over sin.

Jesus has a rendezvous with death. And He does not fail that rendezvous. For the death He dies, He dies for all of us.

You have a rendezvous with death. You don’t know when, where, or how. But because of Christ’s victory, you can journey towards it without fear. 

Jesus has a rendezvous with death
And He, to His pledged word, is true,
He does not fail His rendezvous..
His rendezvous with death,
Means life and forgiveness for each of you.