Recently I opted to watch the in-flight movie to help pass the time. The movie being offered was called The Bucket List and it featured two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The storyline is that two men of very different financial stratas are both dying within months. The create a “bucket list” of things that they decide to cross off as a team. Things they wanted to accomplish before they “kick the bucket”. One of those things was to visit the Pyramids and that scene was of particular interest. Morgan Freeman’s character Carter tells Jack Nicholson’s character Edward about a belief of the Egyptian people.
“You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ 'Has your life brought joy to others?’”
I don’t know enough about the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians to verify the truth of that dialogue. But I thought the questions were fascinating. It also amused me that perhaps the ancient Egyptians had their own version of “a guy dies and he meets Saint Peter at the pearly gates” jokes. For example…
Recently a teacher, a garbage collector, and a lawyer wound up together at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question.
St. Peter addressed the teacher and asked, "What was the name of the ship that crashed into the iceberg?
They just made a movie about it."
The teacher answered quickly, "That would be the Titanic."
St. Peter let him through the gate.
St. Peter turned to the garbage man and, figuring Heaven didn't *really* need
all the odors that this guy would bring with him, decided to make the question
a little harder: "How many people died on the ship?"
Fortunately for him, the trash man had just seen the movie.
"1,228," he answered.
"That's right! You may enter."
St. Peter turned to the lawyer. "Name them."
I thought about what the real question is to be admitted into heaven. For me it is pretty simple. Oddly the real question is the one that Saint Peter himself had to answer to reach those “pearly gates”. The questioner was Jesus and the answer was the truth.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. (Matthew 16, NLT)
That is the real question. Who do I say that Jesus is? I have confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The Gospel is the good news that, in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God has redeemed me.
So that is the real question. Who do you say Jesus is?
The answer to that question has framed my answer to the two questions posed in the movie.
Have I found joy in my life? Yeah buddy. I have found joy because of Jesus. I have found joy because of my beloved wife Joni. I have found joy because of three wonderful sons, Matt, Scott and Brett and two awesome family additions in daughter-in-laws Holly and Caroline. I have found joy in my extended family and my bride’s family. I have found joy in great friends. I have found joy in His creation and in simply enjoying the journey.
The second question is a little tougher. Has my life brought joy to others? I think so. But here is one thing I am sure of as I ponder that question. If I have brought joy to others a very large part of what I have contributed is because of the big question. Who do I say Jesus is? Because of Him I am learning to live out of His grace and share that with you. And I pray that brings you joy.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.