Hi everyone, Rob here.
Over the last few weeks the headlines have been about terror and death. From Paris to San Bernadino to Jonah Lomu, the news has been about the power of death. In the midst of this my own Mum passed away peacefully after a 9 week battle with a brain tumour. The night before she died I sat by her bedside. We listened to hymns, I prayed for her, thanked her for everything she gave to my life, prayed for myself and over the room with the whole point being to renounce the power of death.
Death always comes as a shock to some degree. Even when expected death still has a way of disrupting us internally. This is because death was never meant to be a part of our story. At the end of Genesis 3, God says,
The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.
Adam and Eve couldn’t be trusted with the tree of life but that never changed God’s desire to give life to his people. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has “set eternity in the human heart.” Our hearts were made for eternal life with God but we simply couldn’t be trusted with it. Death reminds us that we are fallen and fragile but it also reminds us that life is sacred and gift. What do we do with that contrast?
What I am doing with it right now is allowing myself to feel the sadness and the pain of death, while also pledging my allegiance to the God of life who raised his Son from the dead. I miss my Mum. I grieve for the terror victims of Paris, California, Beirut and Baghdad. I feel sadness for the Lomu family whose dad changed the face of rugby while also being a husband and father. If we belong to Jesus then we remember that he too wept when faced with the death of a friend (John 11:35).
But we must not allow death to have power over us; to cripple us or to destroy us. It doesn’t have the last say. Christ has exposed its true colours through his resurrection. It is eventually judged and destroyed. Paul says that because of Christ death has lost its sting and its victory. Jesus came to give us life and in the final chapter of the Bible we see a beautiful reversal.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:3).
We get the tree of life back! We become people who can be trusted with eternity. Christ fills us and gives us life forever. He shows that life wins, not death. As Psalm 30:5 says,
…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
At the end of Les Miserables, Jean Valjean’s heroic battle comes to an end and he passes over to the other side. There he is met with the heroes of the story who have also fallen. They sing triumphantly and I start to weep. Death does not, can not, will not win! Christ does. Life does. We do. I will see my Mum again. As she said:
Don’t worry. I know where I’m going.