Among the masses of humanity whose lives have been but a blip on the radar of obscurity, there have arisen a select few managing to mark their generation and ascend to heights among the stars.
Boasting lavish wealth, worldwide fame, and perceived exemption from the daily difficulties faced by mere mortals, they become the “gods” among us.
We sacrifice time and money to buy their products, watch their exploits, hear their advice, or simply be in their presence, hoping we too might learn their secrets and transcend the harsh realities of life to join them atop Olympus.
In their larger-than-life status, they lead us to believe there are those for whom the rules truly do not apply.
So is it any wonder why the world shakes when a Princess Diana, a Kurt Cobain, a Michael Jackson, or a Kobe Bryant is suddenly and unexpectedly cut off from the land of the living?
It seems the gods, too, are fragile.
The name Kobe Bryant is synonymous with excellence in athletics, one of the most talented and well-known basketball players to grace a court.
Not only was the “Black Mamba” a committed husband and a father to his four children, he also served as a father figure for thousands of young Black men who sought to emulate his drive and excellence in craft.
Kobe Bryant had not only arrived, he had planted a flag and established an empire.
Yet, on the morning of January 26, Bryant, together with his 13-year-old daughter, perished in a helicopter accident, prompting the world to wonder again what hope remains for the rest of us if not even the “untouchables” are safe from the random sting of death.
Such searchings in the soul hearken back to the dramatic scene in Scripture in which Martha of Bethany, racked with fresh grief of the loss of her brother Lazarus, leaves home to meet Jesus as he travels from Jerusalem to the place where his dear friend lay sleeping in death.
Having confessed her faith in her Lord’s power and in God’s sovereignty, Jesus comforts his friend and fellow worker with words of hope that reverberate in the hearts of believers and beyond the grave itself: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
This is the Christian hope, unimpeached by denialism or despondency, solid as an empty tomb with clean grave clothes folded neatly inside.
While mankind and his monuments wilt away like grass in the summer’s heat, Jesus Christ was raised to life immortal, a promised gift to all who will follow him in faithfulness.
It is his victory over the grave that allows us to face death with courage and strength.
While the gods among us are not really gods at all, but human beings formed from the shared dust of the earth, there was one in whom the fullness of God dwelt bodily and on the basis of whose resurrection we declare, “Death where is your victory?”
If anything can come from the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, or a friend or a loved one, let it be that we begin to ask God to teach us to number our days to gain a heart of wisdom, redeeming every one of life’s precious moments in the service of His Kingdom.
When we come face-to-face with death, may we too, with the faith and courage of Martha, move toward the Master.
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