Shocked By Death

By Joel Hess

robin williams

The death of Robin Williams certainly deserves the adjectives of sad and sorrowful.  However the oft repeated claim of shock might be sadder still. Whether you profess faith in Christ or are a militant atheist (or anywhere in between), death is the last thing that should shock you! After all, it is the most expected outcome of everything; right?

Perhaps we live in a pampered world, an anesthetized society, where death and the dying are placed in a leper colony in our minds and even our villages.   I submit there was a time in the western world, not so long ago, when the weight of death provided the gravitational center of all philosophy and worldview.  Death’s inevitability pulled and pushed a person to think, to act or not act, regardless of one’s religion or culture.  Everyone was confronted with the question – what do I do with death?  Therefore, death did not surprise.

Death should not shock or surprise us, right?  The fact that Robin Williams lived as long as he did, abusing his body and mind, should really surprise us!  What should truly surprise us is that more people don’t end it all by their own hand due to the increasing sense of meaningless and randomness promoted by our schools, government and cultural icons.


Yet, I would be lying if I did not admit my own constant shock at death, even that of Williams whose tired long run dry comedic routine fit better in an Albert Camus novel than a romcom.

 A couple of months ago I buried a 94 year old woman.  Most would agree she was quite fortunate to have lived that long.  If there was a funeral that did not see a tear, it would be that one.  Yet, her daughter mourned as if it was a 10 year old child who died.  She asked, why now?  She was shocked.

And she should be.  And we should be.  Death should shock us.  Death should rub against a deep, even hidden, knowledge that it doesn’t belong in our world.  Because we all barely remember a day, if it was just a day, when there was no death; when our first parents walked naked among the lilacs and sycamore trees. We recall a happy moment that was not overshadowed by the lingering foreknowledge of its end. The thought buried beneath our tainted rationalizing mind screams, “This ain’t right!”

Because it’s not!  Death has no part in life.  It is not natural. Like sin, it is in Aristotelian terms, accidental.

Death is the result of sin; your conscious and unconscious trespass against your fellow man and even the Creator. The environmentalists are right; the actions of man have become an alien toxin to beauty.


It is ok to cry before death.  It is ok to cry at even a Christian funeral; because it ain’t right!

Yet Paul says, “let us not grieve like others who have no hope!”

Far more shocking than our expected death is God’s completely unexpected death in His son, Jesus.   We get what we deserve.  The cross upon which Christ died was built by the monster that lies beneath our seemingly civilized hearts. (Paraphrasing Morton T. Kelsey) Yet the Son of God allowed his arms to be bent back and his feet pierced by our foreign evil hands.


He met death and sin head on.  He swallowed it whole.

Unlike Buddha who stares at us in perfect meditation, or Allah who we dare not look at at all, we adore God naked, limp and broken on the cross: punished for the state, for the world, for you and me.

If that is not shocking enough, He forgave his persecutors.  He forgives you.

And when Mary went to the tomb, she was (for the first time in human history) shocked not by death, but by life as the risen Christ greeted her.  And when He greeted her He welcomed her into a new reality where dead men rise, where enemies kiss, and suffering is overshadowed by hope.

May death shock you and sober you.  May the Risen Christ shock you all the more.