This is the story of Death.
He was born in the most pristine of settings, at the dawn of creation. His first cries were heard amidst the teeming, shining newness of plants erupting joyfully from the fresh new earth.
Along with the birdsong and the rippling rush of four rivers had been the sound of a Voice. Once it issued a warning: “the day when you eat of that tree over there, you shall surely die.
Life was off to a grand start. But at the crunch of a bitten fruit, with the drip of its juices running off human lips, the shadow slipped darkly into world. This was the birthday of our story’s protagonist.
He was there to drink Abel’s blood when it soaked into the dirt. He was there amidst the many sounds of clashing steel and whizzing arrows. He laid joyfully in the sun on the red ground, smiling broadly while he fed corpses to his precious pets—the great black birds with noses for rot.
Death’s rise to supremacy over all the lands was almost immediate.
This was not a reign marked solely by quick endings. He does not just bring the absence of life. He is happy to poison life, to make its every breath raspy, its every heartbeat a quiver. Death can be a slow influence as well as an instantaneous stopping of the heart. He seeps into veins and vessels, into neural pathways, into the mystical fibers of souls. He is as pleased with administering his signature work of bringing closure through slow, subtle processes as well as by the sudden swing of sabers.
His reign has not gone entirely uncontested.
Rumors were whispered. Sometimes a voice shouted. Prophets raised clenched fists into Death’s snarling face and announced that his rule was terminal. Isaiah talked about a meal in which Death featured as the main course for the hungry jowls of the living God. Ezekiel saw a mass grave resurrected from a heap of bones to a living, breathing army.
Then another birth took place amidst the shadows. This birth was viewed as posing some sort of death threat to Death. Soldiers were dispatched to a small village with drawn blades to bring an ending. The little boy somehow made it out. Alive.
This child became a man. His every breath was breathed into Death’s face. Once a tomb even got emptied. No contender had ever shown such potential for unseating the Throne of Violent Endings.
Then Death got the upper hand as the hands of this tomb-emptying Contender were nailed to a dead tree. Finally, Death could regain his grin, cupping the flow of unstaunched blood with glee. He had his way with this man, this man whose ending put an end to all opposition.
No one could really have guessed the sudden turn that comes next in the tale. It was unforeseeable.
The tomb-emptying dead man escaped the ultimate place of closure. This man clutched so tightly that his blood and breath were squeezed out forever put an end to his own ending.
There is a breech in the system. Fissures popped in the impenetrable superstructure of Death’s governance. The empty tomb of the Crucified is a hole that cannot be patched, a ripped open tear than cannot be resealed, a puncture wound that cannot be plugged.
This is the day Death began choking on his own fumes.
This is the day Death began to age and wrinkle.
This is the day Death began to die.
This day is today.
The biography does not end on this day. Not yet. Death is coughing and spluttering, but his claws are still sharp, his teeth still red. Chomping, snatching, stealing, threshing… it is all still underway. The black birds still fly with bellies full.
Death’s biography cannot be written posthumously. Not today. But the story’s ending can be recorded here with confidence. And the genre is “tragedy.” The great tomb-emptying antagonist of Death has trumpeted news of a new order. The endings will end.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.
Easter tidings to all.