The older I am, the more I hate death. I hate it for many reasons.
- Death is a thief and a separator. It not only steals the breath of life; it severs the beauty of interconnected lives.
- Cherished memories and transforming legacies help to preserve those connections, but death physically separates us from loved ones.
- It leaves unfinished matters: unspoken words; uncompleted tasks; unreconciled relationships. The “could have” and “should have” become painfully real.
The wise teacher said, “There is a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). I wish he was only half right. I wish we never had to say good-bye.
It doesn’t surprise me that the bible refers to death as “the last enemy to be destroyed” (I Corinthians 15:26).
I must be realistic. Sooner or later, we all die. The teacher also wrote, “Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
When young, we tend to live as if there is no end. Growing older, we should become wiser about matters of living and dying.
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Some people believe that everything ends with death. But the thought of death getting the last word seems wrong. We were made for more.
When death strikes early, I struggle to think of it as the end of the person’s life.
An ancient question – “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14).
Someone once asked, “Where is there a hope large enough truly to overcome death? Where is there hope sufficiently encompassing to enable us to know that all our pain and suffering has not been in vain?”Unfettered Hope, Marva J. Dawn
Without sounding presumptuous, I’ve found this hope. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to life and death but what I’ve found has proven reliable.
I discovered this hope in the pages of the bible– a book about living, dying, and living again. It boldly announces the inevitability of death, yet clearly offers hope for those who are destined to die.
Look to the main character of the Bible – Jesus
Jesus Christ said amazing things about death and life after death. He used language of destiny and determination when speaking of his own death. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed…They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him…” (Mark 10:32-34).
Jesus spoke of being “the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He said, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again” (John 10:18).
Those unfamiliar with Christianity might find it curious how much emphasis the followers of Jesus attach to his death. As taught by him, they habitually eat bread and drink the fruit of the vine in memory of his death. They even spoke of boasting in the cruel instrument of his death, the cross.
Of the possible symbols of Christianity, Christians have always embraced the cross. You can find the cross almost anywhere in the world today in the form of art, jewelry and architecture.
There is something astonishing about this. In Greco-Roman culture, the cross was an instrument of degrading torture and death. It was reserved for violent criminals and traitors.
But when Jesus died, something happened on his cross that brought hope. I don’t know how to polish the truth for those who find it too hard to accept. Simply put, Jesus died for sinners like you and me. He died because death is the punishment sin deserves. He died to take our punishment for us and to free us from the fear of death.
Centuries prior to his death, the prophet foretold it, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…” (Isaiah 53:5).
The account of Jesus does not end with death. He broke death’s power. The Christian hymn says, “Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord.” Jesus said, “I am to the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25).
The hope I have found is in Jesus Christ — the one who said, “I am the living one; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).
We can only celebrate victory over death through Jesus. He said, “Because I live you also will live” (John 14:19). He promised that, “… everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).
When early Christians spoke of Jesus’ resurrection, they did not mean his influence remains; his cause moves forward. They were not referring to a spirit of resurrection; an ideal of new beginnings. They meant He lives.
The same Jesus who walked with them, taught them and died on the cross is alive. And apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection, I don’t know of any hope for life beyond the grave.
How sad it would be if death got the last word.
Steven W. Cornell