Regardless of who it is it’s never easy when a person dies. Whether it’s old age, disease or a some other cause, natural or unnatural, “the same destiny happens to us all…we die”. (Ecclesiastes 9:3, The Voice) Not all deaths are the same though. Some, like that of Princess Diana, can be felt for many years after they happen because of the major impact that the person had on the cultural level while they were alive. For many people across the country and the globe Kobe Bryant, who spent his entire 19-year carer with the Los Angeles Lakers, was more than just a Hall of Fame basketball player he was a cultural icon, a symbol of achieving the American Dream. He was an active member of the Los Angeles community and a role model for millions of children everywhere. Sunday afternoon the National Basketball Association, and the world, lost Kobe and his daughter in a tragic helicopter crash. While we don’t yet know the details of what led to this accident it is clear that he is someone who will be missed by many people for a very long time. As an impromptu memorial sprang up outside of the Staples Center his tragic and untimely death sparked many tributes, like this one in Memphis, across the sport of basketball and around the world.
It’s in moments like this that I’m reminded that my time on this earth is limited, that my life and yours is “like a mist that appears one moment and then vanishes another”. (James 4:14, The Voice) Like many people I like to think that I’ll live forever but reality paints a very different picture and while death isn’t the end it does mark a very important transition. In verses 27 and the first part of verse 28 in chapter 9 the writer of Hebrews tells us that we “are appointed to die once and then to experience a judgment”. (The Voice) For years scientists have been trying unlock the secret to living forever and there is a very real sense in which this will happen for each of us. The problem is what the eternal part, after our lives on earth are finished, will look like. Jesus came to solve this problem when he “was offered once in death to bear the sins of many”. (Hebrews 9:28, The Voice) Because of this we can triumphantly sing “O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory?…The glory of God has defeated the night”. (‘Christ Is Risen’ – Matt Maher) For Christians “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54, ESV) and we can live confidently knowing that Jesus “will appear a second time, not to deal again with sin, but to rescue those who eagerly await His return”. (Hebrews 9:28b)
I don’t know where Kobe Bryant stood with Jesus but I do know that death, by its very nature, is the point of no return. Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. If he’s either of the first two then this whole discussion is a moot point but if he’s the third then our decisions and actions have consequences, whether we intend them to or not.