Bible Society of South Africa

Jesus’ wisdom for life and death – 31 March 2021

By Louise Gevers

Bible text(s)

4Someone who is always thinking about happiness is a fool. A wise person thinks about death.

Ecclesiastes 7:4GNBOpen in Bible reader

Death becomes an unavoidable reality when living in a pandemic. Nationwide, it provokes many anxious thoughts and discussions about how to stay safe, with the President, on occasion, joining in on television with sound regulations for the benefit of all. Yet what is emerging is greater joy with each recovery; greater appreciation of people we love, and sheer delight when we are reunited. This complex, heart-wrenching situation is affecting our understanding of happiness positively.

Solomon is shrewd in his observation today, and exploring his thoughts rewards us with a deeper understanding of our lives. As God endowed him with wisdom, his reflections stand alone and are not a copy of popular philosophy. When he considers death a worthier subject to contemplate than happiness, we ask whether Jesus, who taught about both, would agree with Solomon, and what our own thoughts would be.

Jesus certainly considered happiness an important part of life, as the thrust of His ministry was to enable people to find complete fulfilment in their lives through knowing God through Him: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV But although a closer look at what brings blessing (translated as happiness in the GNT) in His Sermon on the Mount, is surprising, it’s heartening, because it makes sense of our experience of life.

The blessed are the poor in spirit; those who mourn; the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted because of righteousness, and those insulted and lied about because of their loyalty to Jesus. (Matthew 5:3-11) Happiness comes through living out right values, with rewards that follow on earth, and after dying. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:12

Jesus never ignores death. He came to earth to die; to save us from double death and it was always uppermost in His mind, especially this day in Holy Week – Spy Wednesday – the day that Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The “spy” amongst them would lead the religious leaders in His arrest the following night. But Jesus was not caught unaware. “When he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” John 13:31

How hard it is to be betrayed to death by someone so close to you; yet Jesus was fulfilled in knowing that God’s purpose had been satisfied.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we follow You, thinking about death and happiness makes sense because You are our example. Please give me Your perspective in considering both, for “You (alone) have the words of eternal life” and can enable me to accomplish Your purposes in my life. Amen. (John 6:68)

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