Life and Death
Yesterday, two people died. One was 86 and one was 17.
I got a call in the morning about brother Joe Smartt, who lived across the street. In March of last year we got a call that Joe wanted to be baptized. He was homebound and feeble. It was a joyous occasion, made all the more so by his daughter Cindy joining him in baptism. Yesterday, Joe passed away peacefully in his home, with his daughter by his side, as she had been the last couple of years.
Not long after I got home from their house, Grant came in the door. I thought maybe he was on lunch break, but he said that Tate has passed away in a car accident. From what I have heard, he was driving behind a truck hauling round bails of hay, when one of the bails fell off and hit his car. Sarah heard that his parents were following behind him and saw it happen.
There are things that I don’t understand. Most of them related to “why”? Why does one person live to be 86, and one 17? Why does a freak accident happen to one family and not another? Why not me? Why do some people experience more tragedies and loss than others?
What can you say to the friends and family that will help?
I know what to say to Joe’s family, but it doesn’t take away the sorrow and pain.
Today, instead of a usual sermon, I just want to make a few points about some things we know for sure.
A. Death comes to all
Eccl. 9:11-12 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.
Time and chance. We look for meaning, for explanation. But often, we are left with only “time and chance.”
What does time and chance have in store for you? For me? We do not know.
B. The Lord knows and understands
I can somewhat understand what the Joe’s family is experiencing, although everyone’s experience and relationships are unique. But I was at my grandfather’s side, at almost the same age as Joe, in a hospital bed in his living room, just like Joe, when he passed away.
But I know that losing a grandfather is not the same as losing a father, and I haven’t lost either of my parents, so I cannot really say that I have been where Cindy is.
But the loss of a child. Whatever hell on earth Tate’s parents are going through? I’ve never known it. And selfishly I confess I hope I never do.
Some of you do.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a spouse. Some of you do.
Or a brother or sister.
I can’t sympathize fully. But you know who can?
Heb. 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
And do you know who has experienced the loss of an only Child? Our Father in Heaven.
C. Judgment is coming
Heb. 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
It would be nice to believe that everyone, regardless of how they spend their time here, meets up in Heaven on the other side. But the Bible is very clear that a judgment day is coming. Jesus taught this.
After the judgment, according to the Bible, there will be a second death for many. Because of sin, people will be cut off from God for good.
D. In Christ, we have hope
But Jesus died so we don’t have to experience the second death.
Heb. 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Think about this. God sent his Son to die, and yet we all still face physical death. Jesus didn’t suffer all that to save us from sickness, cancer, car wrecks, heart attacks, or old age. He died to save us from something much worse.
We can’t avoid our earthly death, but we can avoid the second death, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice.
On the occasion of a funeral, the death of his good friend, at which Jesus wept, he said to Lazarus’s grieving sister:
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Through Jesus, we can overcome death. In Him, death is a doorway. I heard a title of an old sermon on death called, “The Bright Side of a Dark Door.” From our side, the door of death is dark. But from Heaven’s side, it is bright.
Rev. 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 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.”
E. Life is short
We don’t know how long our lives will be. The heartbreaking thing about Tate’s death is that he seemed to have most of his life still ahead of him. He didn’t know that his life would only be 17 years long.
Jam. 4:13-14 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
But even if you live to 107, it’s still just a vapor. Like the flower of the field that is here today and gone tomorrow. What’s important is what comes next.