Death comes as a thief. You are never prepared, and it always takes more than you thought it could. It is jolting, stunning, unbelievable. It is unnatural. We were not made for death, but it has its way with us all.
Perhaps the worst part is that none of us are immune. We will all be touched by death, both here in life, and in our own death someday out ahead. The pain of it rips through like a southern summer storm – fast and mighty – but lingers like a New England snowfall – long and thick.
Death is the anti-life. It is the end of all. It is the abrupt ending to the world we spend so much time creating. It is the leaving behind of all that we have. It is final. There is no recovery. There is no hope. Death is, and life is not.
Unless there is somewhere a life stronger than death. Unless there is somewhere a life that supersedes death, outlasts it, was before it, and will be after it – then hope springs. Unless death meets the same end that it seeks to bring to us can we truly live. If death is imminent and final, pack your bags and leave right now. The pain will only increase the longer and better you live.
But if death has a death day, just as it had a birthday in the Garden of Eden, then there is light shining through its thick shadow. There is a hope that shines at the end. And what happens after death, if it is the final thing in life, must be the final-final thing we face. And if there is light, then death is not as final as it feels. It is final for this brief period but leads into something that lasts longer. If there is a light, and the light has come into the world, and the light comes toward us, and we enter into the light, then death loses its sting. Death dies, if that light exists. The great question then becomes: is that light there?
Philosophers will say we cannot know for sure, because we cannot experience death personally and impart that knowledge back to the living. They are wrong. We need not a philosophy of life – or of death – to reason this out for us. We need a Person to prove there is life, and a person to prove death is dead.
We have such a person.
Jesus is the light at the end of the tunnel. Not only that, he is the light that illumines the path of life. He is the light that we can enter into. We can do so because he came down into our darkness. He walked in the shadow of the valley of death. He let his bones be broken, and his side pierced, and his lifeblood flow. He went into death to go through death to defeat death. Death is a result of sin, and a sinless man cannot die – not unless he chooses to pick the fight to defeat the power. And that’s what Jesus has done. He picked the fight with our greatest enemy so that the bully would leave us alone.
He didn’t philosophize about that. He did it. He proved it in his personhood, his life. He lived. He died. He lived again. Now, what can you do to a man like that? Indeed, what can you do to his friends if he chooses to beat the bully for them?
You and I will die. It is inevitable. But because of the work of Christ on the cross, the death we die is the entrance into the light that we can see only a pinprick of today. There is hope because though death looms thick like a summer fog, the sun is rising to burn it all away. The way in? Faith. That’s all it takes.
So, Death, where is your sting? Where is your great boast? Where is your victory? Where is your championship trophy? Where is your hall of fame? Where is your pride? It is nothing. You have nothing. Not as long as Jesus is King. Death, you are a joke. A terrible, terrible joke that causes pain and sadness, but a joke you are. Ten billion years from now when those in Christ are partying in heaving with him forever we will look back on you and laugh as you laughed at us. We may have born you into the world, but Jesus has taken you out. Goodbye, death. Goodbye, fear of death. There is a new, greater reality in town. His name is Jesus. His presence is life.