In this past week, death, like an unwelcome reptilian guest, once again reared its monstrous head, with the tragic passing of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes. In the wake of this horrific tragedy, the profound sadness that has invaded public consciousness has only been matched by a pervasive sense of disbelief. It shouldn’t happen like this. Cricket is a game. Phillip was only 25 years old, about to celebrate his 26th birthday. Young, healthy men don’t die playing a game. Yet it happened. And in disbelief, we mourn. And underneath our grief, we realise that death might not be as distant as we believe it to be.
On Tuesday night I was asked to pray for my indoor cricket team. An occurrence as surprising as it was solemn (and a great privilege). Confronted with the unavoidable reality of death, we cannot help but be confronted by our weakness and limitation. We might feign bravado or indifference, but the shocking realisation is that we cannot stop the cold, clammy hand of death. Our vitamins cannot, our money cannot, our books cannot, our well-furnished homes cannot, and devastatingly, our protective gear cannot. And as much as secular culture wants to tell us that death is simply the disintegration of matter, or the termination of existence, as if we get off the train of life at Nothingness station, we know it’s deeper.
Death is not natural. In fact, it is decidedly unnatural. In the Christian worldview, humans were given life by the eternally existent God; the source of life, the One who is life (John 1:4). To reject Him, then, is to reject Life itself, and so, in essence, to choose death. This is the insanity of sin. It is the rejection of God and the embrace of death. Death now permeates human existence. It renders us, even now, spiritually dead, insensitive to God (Eph. 2:1), and it lingers like a dark cloud, standing at the finish line of life, ready to take us into its foul embrace.
But death does not have the last word, let alone the last laugh. The gospel declares that God has the last word and that word is “life.” Jesus Christ, on the cross, died our death. The death we deserved. And in rising from the grave, placed death under His feet. Death, that tyrannical tyrant, has been dethroned by Jesus, and now, like a condemned criminal, awaits its final destruction (Rev. 21:4). This means, though we still feel keenly the sting of death, and still rightly mourn, we do not, because of Christ, mourn as those who are without hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The resurrection of Christ is our sure and certain hope, both now and in the age to come.
So as we consider death and the tragedy that unfolded at the SCG that day, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and let’s pray. Let’s pray for Phillip’s family, for his friends and for all those affected by his death. Let’s pray that as they contemplate this tragedy and the foul embrace of death, they might find eternal safety in the embrace of Jesus, our sure and certain hope.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4