The praying mantis continues to be a favorite subject of photography for me. They are such a cool looking insect. They seem to have personality, which can’t be said for most insects. For weeks now, I have been closely watching the butterfly bush outside my backdoor, hoping to get a glimpse of what my mantis are doing today.
However, finding them on the bush is often a bit of a trick. Praying mantis are excellent at disguising themselves, waiting for a prime opportunity to strike an unsuspecting victim. The mantis is said to be able to capture prey with its front legs (really, they are spiked claws!) in 50-70 milliseconds flat. In the course of a day, I witnessed one stealthy mantis eating 3 moths. They were all harvested from one location; the mantis never had to move. The sluggish moth would stop to drink sweet nectar at a beautiful flower and wham! The moth didn’t stand a chance!
Being a softie, I didn’t enjoy taking this photo. In fact, it was hard to not stop the act of violence against the poor, oblivious moth. However, I understand the fall of mankind has plunged all of creation into this reality of death being necessary in order to sustain and produce life. Not only is this true in the animal world, but in all of life forms including plant life. Jesus made this point when He said,
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.John 12:24
He was proclaiming something much more profound than the obvious when He said these words. Something, or more pointedly, someone must die in order to bring about new life. Ultimately, He was referring to His own death, which would pay the ransom for many and bring spiritually dead people to life.
The Injustice Of Death
There is something in the heart of man which cries out against the injustice of the innocent dying in order to further life for another. When a praying mantis mates, it is normal for the female to bite the head off the male, then eat him. The one who had just passed on his DNA in order to impregnate the female and generate new life, paid with his life, albeit unwillingly.
As for the moth, it was simply doing what it needed to do in order to further its life (ie…eat). Secondarily, it was promoting the reproduction and life of the butterfly bush through the process of cross pollination. Ultimately, the mantis was only concerned for her life and progeny; the male mantis and the moth both contributed to her well being and future offspring.
Life In A Circle
The “circle of life” is such an intricate design pointing to the all wise God who created it. That said, the circle of life which includes death, was a straight line until Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Their disobedience to Gods one command plunged the whole world into a fallen and corrupt state. Their sin brought about death for all mankind, both physically and spiritually.
Thankfully that wasn’t the end of the story! The same God who said “Let there be light” is the same God who would enter the fallen world as a vulnerable baby. However, this moment in time was a drastic deviation from the norm as far as life’s cycle is concerned. God did something new when He sent His son Jesus into the world.
Death Of The Truly Innocent
Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life but died a sinners death. He hung on a cross and was buried in a tomb. Because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), Jesus who never sinned, wasn’t worthy of death. He was innocent! Therefore death couldn’t hold Him in that tomb and He rose again the third day.
Although unjust to our finite minds, this was God’s plan all along to rescue man, who could not be redeemed otherwise. All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That sin had to be paid for somehow…someone must die. In His kindness, mercy and grace, Jesus took our place.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…1 Peter 3:18
Unlike the ignorant moth or male mantis being eaten by the female, Christ knowingly went to the cross to give His life in order that others would have life. As the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, He willingly laid down His life; it was not taken from Him.
Jesus understood the torture and pain He would endure on the way to the cross. He knew what was coming in regard to the physical agony of hanging on the cross, held in place by only two nails in His hands and a nail through His feet. He understood His Father’s wrath would be poured out on Him; the mental and emotional anguish which would accompany that moment. Yet He willingly laid down His life.
The Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world had to die in order for the children of God to be born. Jesus quite literally brings dead people to life through His own death.
Life For The Guilty
So then, how does the death of Christ transfer life to one who is dead? Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
But the circle of life doesn’t stop there for a Christian. For the rest of my physical life I will have to die to sin and die to self in order to live for Christ and proclaim true life to others He will save. As a child of God, I have the opportunity to produce much fruit if I’m willing to die.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.Galatians 2:20