Last weekend was emotionally demanding. I received phone calls from two different sources, and each reported the death of a person I knew. A 92-year-old man had been part of my church family for years, and I had spoken with him several times about his impending death. When he died, it was no huge surprise, but it still stings.
The other news of fatal events focused upon one of my younger brothers. He was 29 years old, and he died of a gunshot wound on Saturday.
Saying it out loud and typing it here still feels strange… My brother is dead.
On Saturday night, I was lying in bed beside my 9-year-old son and my wife. I was making some last minute adjustments to my notes in preparation for officiating the older man’s graveside funeral service on Sunday afternoon. My wife and son were playing and talking beside me, and they were not trying hard to keep from distracting me. Once I finished, we talked a bit and prayed together, and then I carried my son to his bed.
Coming back to my own bed, I returned a call from my dad that I had missed a short time earlier. He relayed the terrible news, “Eric was shot, and they could not save him.”
Thoughts raced through my head. I recalled having said (on more than one occasion) that my brother would likely end up dead or in prison if he remained on his current path, but understanding the logical progression does not prepare one to absorb the decisive reality. Eric had been on a path of self-destruction for many years, with varying degrees of vigor. It seems this end, for him, was inevitable, but it is not welcome.
And yet, the middle-class, war veteran, upstanding citizen, nonagenarian still faced the same end as my brother. Of course, the means were quite different. My brother faced an abrupt end while he felt he was at the height of his life’s energy; and the old man died while he rested peacefully in a hospital bed after his days of vitality had long passed. But, the fact remains… Both men died.
This is the haunting reality that every person cannot escape. I will die. You will die. We will all face that dreaded and immediate removal of all of our illusions of power and grandeur. While we may pride ourselves on our ability to elude that final foe thus far, his stamina and success is sure.
This is what makes death life’s definitive equalizer. No matter what you do, you, like everyone else, will face death on equal footing – with your feet planted firmly in midair.
What will you do with this knowledge? How will you ease your anxiety?
The Bible tells us why all humans experience death, and why we all face such an enemy without hope of escape. All humans die (sooner or later) because of our collective rebellion against God’s divine authority (Rom. 5:12). All humans remain under God’s condemnation because of our collective disobedience (Rom. 5:16). Therefore, we are equally guilty before God, and we will face the judgment we deserve – no matter how much we tried to make ourselves believe otherwise in this brief mortal life.
And yet, there is hope. Not a hope in you or me, but hope that comes from God Himself.
God sends grace instead of justice, and provides genuine hope for all those who will trust Him, in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:21).
Jesus, the Son of God and God the Son, was born perfect, and He lived perfectly obedient to God’s authority. This morally pure God-man was counted as the vilest rebel before God who ever existed when He hung on a Roman cross. God poured out His unbridled fury against rebellious sinners on Jesus Christ, and this incomparably gracious substitute died. Jesus died. He, like all humans, died. Ah, but His death was the death of death itself!
In the death of Jesus Christ, the ultimate penalty for sin was paid. All those who look to Christ (who trust in Him as Rescuer, Redeemer, and Ruler) may rest assured that Christ’s death counts for them. Furthermore, Jesus Christ conquered death by resurrecting to eternal life. Indeed, He promises that all who love and trust Him will enjoy the same resurrection He experienced, and such a glorious end is the bedrock of hope.
So, what will you do with this knowledge?
I know what I do with it… I cling tightly to this Christ who has loved me so. I ache to know Him more and long to be with Him in eternal glory. Daily, I recount His promises, contemplate His work, and ponder His character. In times of greatest trial, when I am tempted to despair and even disbelief, I squeeze tighter to the divine hands that always maintain their grip on me.