As you probably know, John Piper's father passed into the Lord's presence. Piper writes of the final moments, movingly, here. Piper's words are redolent of his love and admiration for his father, and for the message that his father's life was and remains.
I think about death fairly regularly—my death, that is. I suppose that sounds morbid, and it can be. But consider the words of the Preacher:
2 It is better to go to the house of mourningIt's funny, isn't it? Some single people will get married, some won't. But all think about it. We think a lot about many things that may or may not ever happen to us. But the one thing that is about as statistically certain as it gets — our death — many seemingly never give much serious thought.
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
...4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
(Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4)
There's actually a lot I could write about this, and may return to it. But for now, just one thought.
Recently in this connection I was struck by almost a passing statement in Mark, chapter 14. You know the story. The Cross is looming, and Jesus dines with Simon the leper. A woman slips in, breaks open some extravagantly expensive perfume (a year's salary!), and pours it over Jesus' feet.
Judas is outraged. The disciples fall right in line with his outrage, and rise to their full self-righteous height to condemn her excess. They object to this act of wasteful, appallingly bad stewardship. I imagine they expected Jesus to approve of their solicitous attitude towards the poor. But Jesus slaps them down something fierce.
In the course of the smackdown, the Lord says this: "She has done what she could." That's the ESV. But woodenly literally, the three words of the Greek text [ὃ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν, ho eschen epoiēsen] read, "What she had, she did." Rotherham gives it as "What she had, she used."
Now, this woman did not paint Jesus a painting. She didn't "have" that. She didn't build Him a monument. She didn't preach a sermon to thousands, in His name. She didn't write a poem, a letter, a book. She didn't "have" any of those things.
But Jesus wasn't interested in what she couldn't do, or what she didn't have. He didn't have a word to say about what she didn't have, what she couldn't do.
She did have perfume, and very expensive perfume. What had she been thinking when she purchased it? Surely only of herself, of how lovely it was, of how delightful of a fragrance it would give her, how people would see her and think of her.
But she was converted at some point after this large purchase or acquisition (I hypothesize). What to do with this gigantic bauble? She could have done many things with it. She could surely have done exactly what the disciples suggested. She did not. What she did do was to pour it out on the Lord. Extravagant, breathtaking waste; it really peeved the disciples. But Jesus loved it.
And so, reading that phrase in Greek—"What she had, she did"—I thought: "Now, that wouldn't be a bad gravestone: 'What he had, he used.'"
Will that be, to any degree, a fit epitaph to my life? Could it ever truthfully be said, in my obituary, "What he had, he used"? The beginnings of many of my gifts for study, thought, expression and whatnot originated in sheer self-concern and self-interest. I read what I wanted to read because I wanted to read it; I said and wrote what I wanted to say because it amused me, or got me something I wanted, or gave vent to some feeling.
But I was converted, drawn by sovereign grace to repentant faith in Jesus Christ. This changed everything. What to do with all those abilities, and whatever new abilities came with conversion? The whole was recast. The entire scene shifted, the world changed, priorities were crashed, dashed, rebuilt, replaced. What to do with it all now?
Now, 30+ years later, statistically I am closer to the day of my death than to the day of my birth. What have I done with it all? What can I do with it in the remaining minutes, hours, days, years? Am I using what I have to its fullest? Will I?
The question presses on me more urgently than I'm able to communicate to you.
Now I offer you the thought as well. Could it truly be said of us, "What he had, he did"; "What she had, she did"?