Death doesn’t have the Last Word!
Talking through death and funerals yesterday with friends, one of whom has a probable prognosis of double cancer, but who has clung onto Jesus throughout a lifetime of painful loss of children, battling with depression and suicidal thoughts, physical health problems enough to fill a Merriam Webster Dictionary and family disappointments galore, we could only marvel at His faithfulness through it all, and trust Him with with the death bit and beyond!
Today, I read that John Donne the poet, (“No man is an island, entire of himself; … therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”) later became one of the greatest preachers of the 1600s. Earlier in his life, after many tragedies throughout his lifetime, including the death of his wife and five of their 12 children in their childhood, plagued by his own ill health, (he eventually died from cancer of the stomach, aged 59) he fell into a deep depression and wrote an essay endorsing and contemplating suicide!
But later, his writings clearly show his affinity for what lay beyond the tolling bells:
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so …
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
Writing on 1Cor15:36-38, Donne struggled to find language to describe the resurrection of our bodies. As a former librarian, he came up with the image of humankind as one book with one author: when a Christian dies, their chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language. Various translators are employed by God – age, sickness, war – “but God’s hand is in every translation, and His hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library, where every book shall lie open to one another”
Death does not have the last word!
1Cor15:36-38 from The Message “Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.”