On June 25, 2009, the news of the death of Michael Jackson was greeted with shock and disbelief. Madonna was crushed: “I can`t stop crying over the sad news. The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever.” Dick Clark commented: “Of all the thousands of entertainers I have worked with, Michael was the most outstanding. Many have tried and will try to copy him, but his talent will never be matched.”
Admittedly, and probably unsurprisingly, I fail to share the reaction of the Madonnas and Dick Clarks of the world. I have never enjoyed Mr. Jackson’s music and find neither his dancing nor his lifestyle as particularly attractive models for boys aspiring to manhood.
The news of Mr. Jackson’s death and the attendant round-the-clock analysis of his life and death, however, does have some important lessons for us. Here are a few observations.
First, the masses have no concept of the holiness and justice of God. The throngs who are grieving the death of a popular entertainer are unconcerned that he will stand before the absolutely holy God to be condemned to an eternal hell. There is no evidence that Mr. Jackson feared God and repented of his sin. There exists no evidence that Mr. Jackson believed on the crucified Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Doubtlessly, Mr. Jackson died in a lost state and awaits divine condemnation. Indeed, the entertainer was reared as a Jehovah’s Witness and is rumored to have converted to Islam. Whether the rumor is true or not, there is no evidence he ever trusted in Christ, evidence in either word or lifestyle.
Unfortunately, though, such is the position of most mortals. This world and its pleasure is what drives the thinking of the masses. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Universal amnesia fails to recognize the reality of Hebrews 9:27: “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
Second, Michael Jackson’s life is one to be pitied, not admired. He led an incredibly empty and self-indulgent life. Drugs were his comfort; fantasy was his existence. After all, his estate was named Neverland, a kind of dream-land utopia. His lavish lifestyle revealed a heart never satisfied, always looking for pleasure and comfort in the excesses of debauchery.
Few people can look upon Mr. Jackson’s self-indulgence, however, from a position of moral superiority. Most people do not engage in hedonism to the extent which Mr. Jackson displayed simply because they do not have the funds or influence to do so. They would if they could, as evidenced when someone wins a multi-million dollar lottery. He soon comes to ruin as the innate desire to indulge his fantasies now finds no limitation due by a lack of funds. No sacrifice, no living for others, no submission to a holy God. It’s all about fun and frolic.
Third, fame and fortune will not ward off death. We live in a fallen world, disease and danger abound, and death awaits all. Michael Jackson had physicians and health care at his beck and call, but death would not be averted.
But what about us? How many of us awake in the morning with the conscious recognition that this very day may be the last of our mortal existence? Though written centuries ago, Thomas Adams’ words ring true today: “All are like actors on a stage, some have one part and some another, death is still busy amongst us; here drops one of the players, we bury him with sorrow, and to our scene again: then falls another, yea all, one after another, till death be left upon the stage. Death is that damp which puts out all the dim lights of vanity. Yet man is easier to believe that all the world shall die, than to suspect himself.”
But we shall die, and then what? As followers of Jesus Christ, we live not in depression because of impending death, and neither do we ignore the reality of it. We face it head on, knowing that Christ himself suffered our judgment on the cross and conquered death through his resurrection. The apostle Paul instructs: “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).