Hope in the face of death
Reflecting on the death of Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.
The tragic death of Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes, has shocked not just the cricketing world but the general population. People who never met Phillip have been in tears. After his initial injury, the Herald Sun newspaper's headline read: "Pray for Phillip Hughes". Sadly, the prayers of many were not answered in the way we might have hoped. I joined with many in commenting on Facebook posts and joining the #PutOutYourBat memorial.
Phillip Hughes was just about to turn 26 years when he was struck in the head by a cricket ball bowled at 140kph. Hughes momentarily staggered then fell to the ground. Despite first aid and surgery, he never retained consciousness. He will be remembered as a highly unconventional but gifted batsman who had his best years ahead, potentially becoming one of Australia’s best … but we will never know. His century in both innings of only his second test still remains a record, achieved when only aged 20.
And yet, in a world where people die everywhere, everyday, one wonders what it was about this incident that has affected people in such an extraordinary way.
On the one hand, I’m sure many are saddened to realise they will miss out on the gift of his batting in coming years. But it must be more than that. Perhaps it’s also the reminder that one ball could take the life of any cricketer, no matter what their ability. As a youth coach, I never expect to hear a player say, "I have to wear my helmet".
But above all that, I think what has touched us the most is the appreciation that death is real and that it can happen at anytime. It just didn't seem to be his time!
As thousands have shed tears over the death of Phillip, we are reminded that Jesus was affected by death too. John 11:35 says “Jesus wept” at the death of his friend Lazarus. This story captures Jesus’ deep human sorrow surrounding the loss of a loved one.
But Jesus also offers much comfort and hope in the face of tragedy.
While we mourn, the Bible says that death has been defeated because Jesus conquered the grave: "'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
The bodily resurrection of Jesus from death to life shows that physical death is not the end: " We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him" (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
We are also encouraged to make the most of the life we have, on loan from God, for as long as we have it: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
Finally, we are reminded that no matter how great one's sporting ability or talents might be, it is not eternal: "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).
As we mourn the loss of Phillip Hughes, we are reminded of our own mortality. But we should also remember the profound eternal hope of an 'innings without end' which God offers us through the resurrection of Jesus.
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