Today is another Easter, the day in the Western calendar that traditionally marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This year, Easter falls on the first day of April, which is also in the Western calendar as April Fools’ Day. There are, no doubt, some people who would see a certain irony in that coincidence, since to them Easter probably holds the same amount of weight as April Fools’ Day—that is, none of any consequence. I’m reminded of a Bible verse here: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Recently, two famous men came to the end of their earthly lives: Billy Graham (1918–2018) and Stephen Hawking (1942–2018). Even if you are not a Christian, you have probably heard of Graham the Christian evangelist; even if you are not a scientist, you have probably heard of Hawking the eminent physicist. Accompanying those gentlemen, in stark contrast, was a young woman (c. 1996–2018) from a remote village in Papua New Guinea, who was abandoned by her husband, who died in childbirth, and whose name you and I will probably never know.
Graham and Hawking would both have been aware that they were approaching death. Graham was nearing 100 and Hawking, though only in his mid-70s, had obviously been in precarious health for decades. In the case of the young woman, there seemed to be no prior indication that anything was going to go badly for her, right up until the day she delivered her baby boy.
Statements regarding life after death have been well publicised for both Graham and Hawking. It is clear that Graham subscribed to the Bible’s teaching, and Hawking did not, and each would have seen the other’s viewpoint as folly. Many people around the world would have supported one or the other, and would have cared what those men believed. The young woman would almost certainly not have shared either of those beliefs, and relatively few people would have cared about what she believed.
I dare say that most of us are, in many ways, closer to the young woman than we would ever be to the two men. We are not famous, our health and our beliefs are the concern of relatively few people … and if or when we die, we are probably not going to make the headlines. That would probably also be true of family or friends whom we have lost suddenly and unexpectedly—and if we are frank, none of us can guarantee that we ourselves will be here tomorrow.
If there were to be a particular time of year to think about life, death, and life after death, then surely Easter would be that time.