The Englishman John Donne was one of the great Metaphysical poets of the 17th century. His most famous sonnet “Death Be Not Proud” is part of a sequence of poems called “The Holy Sonnets.”
The poet personifies death and says you are not as tough as you think you are.
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.
The poet is right. But why?
Don’t we dread death? Isn’t death regarded as mighty? Powerful? Scary? And inevitable?
Jesus, not John Donne, came to change our entire perspective of dying and death. In one of the great verses of the Bible the Savior says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
The Master made this affirmation to Martha following the death of her brother, Lazarus. When Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick and that Mary and Martha called for him, he waited two days before leaving for their home in Bethany.
When he arrived, Martha met him and said, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus responded, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha thought he was referring to the final resurrection and expressed faith that he would rise again in the last day.
But Jesus had other plans. There was no need to wait. Because He who was “the resurrection and the life” had arrived. This audacious claim moved their hope from some far off event to the present time. Following his prayer to the Father, Jesus cried, “Lazarus, come forth!” And indeed he did.
It is ironic that as they journeyed from Bethany to Jerusalem, the apostles were concerned about Jesus’ safety. And theirs as well. They might be killed. Yet, they stood in the presence of life. But didn’t fully comprehend it.
The fact that Jesus is “the Resurrection and Life” impacts our lives in a dramatic and practical manner.
(1) He offers victory over sin.
When Adam and Eve sinned they brought death into the world. So, Paul would conclude: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
However, “through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Rom. 5:18-19).
Because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, we can enjoy a victory over sin. We are not slaves of sin. Bound by sin. Doomed because of sin.
(2) He provides victory over satan.
When Jesus was crucified on Calvary, satan thought he had finally destroyed God’s plan of salvation. Satan entered the heart of Judas, turned the crowed against Christ, used the rebellion religious leaders to convict Him, the political leaders to sentence him and the brutal Roman soldiers to murder Him.
It seems satan had won. The devil and demons could celebrate. But their party was short lived. Jesus arose from the grave and satan’s scheme was squelched.
For all of us who believe on Jesus, we too, can defeat the devil.
(3) He grants victory over the second death.
Yes, it is “appointed unto man once to die,” but our death is not final. As followers of Christ, we know that we cannot die spiritually. And we are confident that just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, we too, shall be raised.
Donne was correct as he closed his sonnet with these words:
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman