Death Not the Final Word
“Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.” Ecclesiastes 5:15-17
Death is never far from Solomon’s mind. Some people might say he is obsessed with it. I think he would say that most of us desperately try to avoid it. We swiftly change the subject to something more pleasant. But we would be better off if we thought about our own death more often.
A16-year-old girl lay dying in a hospital room. A close friend came by for a final visit, not knowing what to say. As he tells it, he must have looked dreadfully upset for “she looked upon my worried and harried face and said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’”
Such is the heart of the Christian theology of death. It is most profound when it is the dying who can say to the living, “Don’t be afraid.”
As a pastor I spend a fair amount of my time dealing with death. Hardly a day goes by without someone asking me to pray for a loved one who is dying. As I write these words I can think of a half-dozen people who languish in nursing homes and hospital beds. Several have heart problems, others do daily battle with cancer. Any of them may die before the week is out.
Meanwhile Solomon points out that we go as we come—naked. We’ve even coined a term that proves his point. If a person has no clothes on, we say he’s wearing his “birthday suit.” To add insult to injury Solomon points out that you can’t take anything with you when you die. The rich man dies like the pauper. The surroundings may be different but the one is just as dead as the other. The rich man can’t take his riches with him, nor will the poor man take his poverty. Both leave it all behind. Death plays no favorites.
Most of us, if we thought about it, would like to live a long time. Maybe not forever, but at least for many more years. It’s only natural to feel that way. If given the choice, we would keep our families together so that death would not intrude.
It is only in recent years that Easter has become my favorite Christian holiday. When I young it was mostly a day to dress up and hunt for Easter eggs. With each passing year, it becomes more meaningful. Open the paper and death stares out from every page. Death is everywhere. Where is the resurrection?
Easter reminds us that death is not the worst. Fear not. Those who sleep in Jesus will not sleep forever.
Lord Jesus, hasten the day when death shall die and I shall rise from the grave never to die again. Amen.