[Note: This is not actually “the post” that I recently said I was excited about, but a different post that was sitting in drafts at the time. I realized that they actually go together thematically and decided to publish this one first. Broadly, both are reflections on famous people, life, death, and eternity.]
On December 9th, 1980, Paul McCartney stood on a cold London street, surrounded by reporters. They wanted to interview him about John Lennon’s assassination, thirty-two years ago today. He had first heard the news that morning and spent the rest of the day in the studio. Caught on camera at the end of the day, he looks tired and worn-out. You can see him resolutely maintaining a fixed expression, mechanically chewing a piece of gum. He speaks with concentrated nonchalance, balanced on a knife-edge of pent-up emotion. “Very shocked, you know. Terrible news.” They ask him what he was working on in the studio that day. He replies, “Um, I was just listening to some stuff, you know, I just didn’t want to sit at home.” “Why?” they nag stupidly. “Look, I just didn’t feel like it.” A couple more painfully pointless questions before he desperately extracts himself with these now-famous parting words: “Yeah… drag, isn’t it? Okay, cheers, buh-bye.” Then he ducks away and disappears into a cab.
Solomon would have agreed. In Ecclesiastes, he tells us that all men are at the mercy of time and chance. Death comes as the end to us all. And the dead “know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” (Ecc. 9:5-6) The great irony in Lennon’s death is that he had made a mockery of God and Christianity all his life, even boasting that the Beatles’ popularity had surpassed that of Jesus and that Christianity was a passing thing. But where is John Lennon now?
Idolatry is a curse. It curses him that gives and him that takes. As Presley himself once said in an interview, “It’s hard to live up to the image.” Indeed.
There’s a reason why Jesus tells us to set our sights on things eternal. It’s because when all is said and done, all that’s left is the eternal. Solomon’s wisdom gets the first half of it dead right—the dead shall have no more part in any thing under the sun. But then it is Christ who brings the other half to make the whole truth: That God so loved the world, so loved John Lennon and Elvis Presley and every other broken, fallen human being in need of Jesus, that he gave them and us a chance to live on under a new sun, a new day. The question is, how many will let go of that which they can plainly see in faith that the invisible will one day be the greater reality?