Reader Yurie Hwang pointed me to a thoughtful reflection on the death of Steve Jobs titled Steve Jobs: the Secular Prophet. I commend it, and would like to lift a Jobs-quotation from it, and head off in a different direction.
Speaking of his cancer-diagnosis in 2003, Jobs said:
And thus, Steve Jobs defeated death and preached the gospel.
Were I a Christian reader who knew nothing about the writer (me), at this point I'd be spluttering, "Wait, what? No he didn't!"
What did Jobs do to defeat death? Wished it away. Said words. Redefined.
whistling (and myth-making) past the graveyard. The squash is still a squash, the liver is still liver — but the logomagician tells you it tastes really good. Or perhaps, more to the point (since tastes differ), the raging fire still burns, but the word-wizard tells you it won't burn you, it will cleanse you. And that may be enough.
Until you enter the blaze, and reality (blind to the rhetorical spell that was woven) crashes in.
And what of his gospel? "Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." Indeed. Adolph Hitler knew what he truly wanted to become, as did Robert Carnegie, Martin Luther, Jeffrey Dahmer, "Mother" Theresa, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Dr. George Tiller.
But whose heart-dream was idyllic, and whose demonic? How do we tell? In the kingdom of the heart, there are no walls, no lines — or what lines there are constantly shift, constantly reform and reshape. As I explain and develop at length elsewhere, the heart is a broken gauge, an internal Jacob, incurably self-deceptive. Trust that, you say?
And ironically, the moment our first parents trusted their hearts and reached for the fruit, the cancer that took Steve Jobs' life had its inception.
But now I point you to another Gospel that has its literary beginning in that same chapter, in verse 15 (also developed at some length in the same place). God spoke of a Seed of the woman (!) who would come and crush the serpent's head. The rest of the Old Testament traces and develops the trail leading to that Seed (which I develop elsewhere), and the New Testament unveils His arrival, and His mission.
Jesus, too, defeated death and preached the Gospel — except really.
To Jesus, death wasn't a good thing. It was the result and penalty of sin, and its aftermath held terrors which those on this side of the divide can only imagine. But Jesus used the most lurid and frightening imagery to try even to hint at the horrors that death held for each and every one of us, apart from a miraculous act of God. In fact, He would tell the tale of a rich man who lived his dreams, and dreamt of more and more, until death dashed his expectations and brought him face to face with the myth-shattering reality of God's judgment (Lk. 16:19-31). Where were his heart's dreams then? Lost in the flames, drowning in oceans of regret. Death was not that rich materialistic dreamer's friend.
In fact, as Jesus' spokesman would later affirm, death is man's enemy, his last enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). Not his friend.
So now those who believe savingly in the Lord Jesus walk in newness of life, and need not fear death. Why? Because of some word-games? No. Because Jesus actually (and not merely rhetorically) defeated death, and because Jesus actually preaches a saving Gospel that brings us peace with God (cf. Acts 10:36; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:13-22). This Gospel does not leave us chained to the deception-factory of our hearts, but frees us to serve the living God (Rom. 6) and know the true freedom only His expressed thoughts can bring (Jn. 8:31-32).
Thousands of years ago, the psalmist sung of two totally different paths (Ps. 1). Jesus spoke of the same (Mt. 7:13-14), and warned of any who would try to blur the borders (7:15ff.).
Nothing has changed. One way leads (in thralldom to our hearts' dreams) to death. The other leads (away from our hearts and word-games) and to life, to Him who is life (Jn. 14:6).
So when Steve Jobs said of death, "No one has ever escaped it," he made yet another critical miscalculation.
Christ escaped it.
Thus Christ alone defeated death, and Christ alone preaches a Gospel which saves in reality, and not merely technologically nor rhetorically.