Death Be Not Proud

Our Lord Jesus Christ stood at the tomb of Lazarus and snorted with anger. Though it comes to us as groaned (KJV) and was deeply moved (ESV), my pastor showed us that the Greek word literally is the same word used of the snorting of a war horse. I have wondered if John Donne had this Scripture in mind as he penned his masterwork.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

~ John Donne, 1572–1631

A few short weeks later, on that first of all Good Fridays, He declared, “It is finished.” And now, Death, though still terrible, though still a cause of great groaning, agony, and even anger, is marked to die forever.

My facebook feed this week reminded me of a blog post from a young friend which I had linked to a few years ago. In it, Joe reflects on lessons learned from his early brush with this formidable foe. His mom, my dear friend Nancy, was claimed by Death after years of suffering cancer’s ravages. Death had done his worst, but for her, his sting is now over. Her short sleep is past and she is forever alive with the Lover of her soul. And back here in space and time, where Death holds temporary sway, he suffers daily defeat in the life and love springing forth from her children, all of whom serve the Lord to this day. Joe writes

Death’s greatest accomplishment, the slaying of Jesus Himself, was also its undoing.

Read Joe’s entire meditation here.

Meister der Schule von Nowgorod, Kreuzigung, 1360

Leave a Reply