At the young age of 41, legendary basketball athlete Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, tragically died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
Why am I choosing to write about this? Those of you who know me well know I am no sports enthusiast. I don’t follow any sports closely. The only one that comes remotely close is hockey. I don’t watch any basketball.
I am writing about this because of our culture’s desperate search for a saviour.
Another celebrity is dead. It seems to be a trend lately (not as if celebrities dying is a new thing; they’re not immortal). In 2016 alone, 30 celebrities died. By the end of the year, people were looking forward to 2017 with hopes that all these tragic celebrity deaths would cease. People made 2016 out to be this sentient being unjustly taking the lives of celebrities like David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, and Carrie Fisher. The Grim Reaper had a full schedule, it seems.
However, the celebrity death toll would more than double in 2017 with 67 celebrity deaths, some key names being John Hurt and Bill Paxton. In 2018, 19 celebrities died, including George H. W. Bush (and right before him, his wife, Barbara Bush), Stan Lee, John McCain, Aretha Franklin, and Stephen Hawking. Last year, in 2019, we saw 54 celebrity deaths. And already this year, in 2020, we’ve had two significant celebrity deaths: Neil Peart and Kobe Bryant. My brother and I are huge fans of Rush, so we took the loss of Neil Peart pretty hard. And it’ll be a dark day when Betty White dies.
Why all that morbid reminiscing? To make this point: death is not normal. We all know there is something seriously wrong with death. That’s because it’s not normal. Whomever dies, celebrity or not, death is always tragic. Death has its natural end, but death in and of itself is by no means “natural.” Death is a part of fallen creation. Before man rebelled against their Creator, there was no death. It was not a part of God’s original design. Death is totally unnatural in God’s design. We all know we must die, even celebrities, but nobody wants to die.
Therefore, our culture is looking for a saviour. They do not realise it, but they are on a desperate search. Social media is filled with “RIP” posts and tweets. Yet the sad reality is that no one who ever dies apart from Christ can ever rest in peace. Sinners who have not clung to Christ in faith can by no means rest in peace when they die. It saddens me to say this, but it’s true.
Our culture is desperately looking for a saviour, and boy do we Christians have Good News for them: There is a Saviour! His name is Jesus Christ! When a loved one dies in Christ, we do not grieve as “those who have no hope.”
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.1 Thessalonians 4:14-18
Everyone knows death is so wrong, but not everyone knows or believes the answer to this inevitable end: the crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ. In Him, death meets its end. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? Do you believe Him?
I may not be a basketball fan or Kobe fan, but I am sad for all those who will shout, “Kobe!” as they air-shoot an air basketball into an imaginary net, remembering that one of their favourite basketball players is dead. And I am sad for Kobe and Gianna as well. Death is terrible, no matter how a person dies. I pray they were believers so that they might be with the risen Lord upon His glorious return. Most especially, let us pray for his family and his grieving fans. Even more, let us proclaim the Gospel to them.
A young man has died, and a very young girl has died. This is tragic. This is not normal. Thanks be to God that we have a Saviour who entered the world to suffer death for us that we may not see death eternally but rather, upon the Last Day, shall see life eternal just as God originally created us to be.