Jesse, Jesus, And The Death Of Death

January 28, 2013 § 7 Comments

Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of my friend, Jesse Berlin. I will most likely never forget the phone call I received the morning of January 28, 2012 from a mutual friend who was closest to Jesse.  The phone call began with these words: “Jesse’s dead man, he’s dead.”  That statement, combined with my friend’s distraught tone of voice was the most haunting thing I had ever heard.  That moment and those words rang in my ears for weeks, and I can still hear it today.

Jesse’s death was completely unexpected.  Jesse was a 21 year old guy in seemingly excellent physical condition.  He had no bad habits or health abuses leading to his death, and far as I know, his autopsy revealed no clear reason for his death.  He was simply taken.  He spent his last night on this earth rehearsing with his band, going out to dinner with his parents, and playing guitar for them in their living room.  Jesse eventually retired to his room at the end of the night.  Nothing was out of place.

It was the next morning that I received the news.  I had first received a series of texts from mutual friends communicating to me that Jesse was rushed to the hospital and was not breathing.  However, I had no idea as to the severity of the situation.  Upon reading the messages I quickly texted Jesse’s closest friend, Derrick, and resolved to pray for Jesse.  It was only moments later that I received the phone call I will never forget.  Derrick and I both wept and prayed together, which was only the beginning of the mourning that would follow.

I traveled to St. Louis for the viewing and funeral still in shock over the situation.  Growing up, I had never lost any friends or loved ones in such a way as this, and even if I had, I imagine that there is no way I could have prepared myself for those moments.  I could never have prepared for the tears, the sorrow, and the darkness I witnesses in the eyes of many who had gathered to honor and mourn for their son, brother, cousin, and friend.  Everyone was in a state of shock, speaking of how they had just seen Jesse the day or week before, and how he had his whole life ahead of him.  It was all so surreal.

But despite the shock, there was deep sorrow.  There was incredible pain for those of us who knew Jesse.  You see, Jesse was a kind man, and the kind of man you would want as your friend.  He was loyal, trustworthy, and honest.  Anyone who had ever spent five minutes with him knew that he was extremely funny and had a great sense of humor.  He was light-hearted, yet passionate.  I am thankful to have been his friend.  It is difficult to look back on our friendship and remember anything but joy.  To put it simply, Jesse was a joy to all who were able to share his presence.  The joy experienced by those who were around Jesse is reason why his death hurt so much, and continues to hurt as much as it does.

The reason I am writing today is twofold: First, I want to honor my old friend.  I loved Jesse.  We had some incredible times together.  I am thankful to have even known him, and honored to have shared the same stage with him.  Jesse will be missed for a tremendously long time.  Second, experiencing the sorrow of Jesse’s death reminded me of something greater, the Gospel of Jesus.  As I was sitting in the funeral service for Jesse, the Spirit of God led my thoughts beyond what we could immediately see.  What was immediate was the lifeless body of my friend, a reminder that death is a reality to all, young or old, and can come at any time.  But even though death was before my eyes, with all of its sadness, all I could think about was the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  Even in those moments of sorrow and seeming despair, I was reminded, strengthened, and comforted by the hope and glory of Jesus’ death on the cross for sins and his victory over death in being raised from the dead.

As the service unfolded, I was overcome by the truth and hope of the Gospel, which proclaims that through Jesus, death does not win.  Death does not have the final say because it has been overcome.  Yes, death has been overcome by Jesus, who by his dying and being raised defeated death by death.  In the resurrection Jesus won a powerful victory over sin and death, so that its power does not reign supreme, as it has been revealed that those who’s trust and joy are in Jesus will someday share in his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-58).

It is because of this Gospel that I can rejoice in sorrow and have hope that I will someday see my friend Jesse again.  But until then, I will continue to be strengthened by the words of the apostle Paul written to the troubled church in Corinth so many years ago.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. 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 (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

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§ 7 Responses to Jesse, Jesus, And The Death Of Death

  • Bubble Gum says:

    Very touching post.

  • Brandy Gustafson says:

    Thanks for this post about Jesse. I too remember that day, it vivdly resonates in my mind. I woke up and went to work like any other day, not realizing that I’d get a phone call from my husband to spread news of that nature and that we’d be heading to Missouri in a couple of days, moreover that 22 years before, when he was born I would attend his funeral in 22 short years.

    We are taught life isn’t eternal and earth isn’t our eternal home, but you don’t think about that and prepare yourself for one day maybe burying your child, a nephew or a niece, but one thing I can say with certainty is that life is short and it should be cherished like there will be no tomorrow.

    It was 23 years ago that I shared in the joy of Jesse’s birth before watching him grow into a fine young man until he passed. Jesse has had a profound affect on my life from his birth to his passing. I know there is a reason, purpose and a plan, and for these reason’s I put my trust in our savior. Though I understand this, the question of why is still a wonder. Jesse was a young man who had his entire life ahead of him, a young man with verve and zest.

    I haven’t told this story to anyone, but I will share it today, as the time is fitting and right. Some 20 years ago when I was 21 I received news just like that of Jesse’s. It was sudden, piercing and came with much surprise when my father had passed away. Much like that of Jesses it sudden, he was taken in his sleep or instantly with no warning. At the ripe age of 21 I planned a funeral for my father who was 47 when he passed. I share this because I went into dark place of anger and bitterness as a result of my dad’s passing. I had walled myself off, shut down and got to a place where later I’d shut those closest to me, out and so would be my life until Jesse’s passing.

    At Jesse’s visitation I felt something unlike I had felt before, when I wept uncontrollably. Jesse helped break those chains that had me bound, from his passing I was freed. As I sit here today I am truly a changed person and can’t wait until I can say thank you, thank you my dear nephew!

  • Stacie says:

    Thank you for writing this. I stumbled across your page, and was just speaking to a friend of mine earlier today about the loss of her father. He passed a little over two years ago, and often we find ourselves laughing about all the wonderful memories we shared, and moments later we are in tears because of the loss we feel. We must have faith in God that one day we will see all those we love again. And often, they show us they are listening in the most simple ways.

  • Kim Gilbert says:

    May I please ask what faith you have? this was beautifully written:)

    • lydia says:

      I would say Christian its what born again Christians like Myself Believe

    • Kim, thank you very much. The post about Jesse is a reflection that comes from my Christian faith. Here is the faith that influenced my post:

      Christianity is the truth about God and the good news that Jesus died for the sins of those who believe in him. The truth of Christianity comes from the Bible, which is God written communication to us.

      The Bible teaches that God created the universe, especially man and women to honor and worship him in the context of a relationship with him. However, the very first man and woman (Adam and Eve) sinned, which severed man’s relationship with God and brought sin into the world. God, who is infinitely just, rightly handed down judgement to Adam and Eve: death. Ever since their sin, death has taken its toll on all creation, which is the outcome and just punishment for our sin. Death is not just physical, it is also spiritual death in hell, apart from the goodness of God for all of eternity.

      Thankfully this is not the end of the story. God had planned to uphold his righteous character and provide forgiveness for sins by sending Jesus to die in the place of those who believe in him. Jesus, who is fully God and fully man (a profound truth our finite minds cannot fully grasp!), took God’s punishment for us as he was betrayed, killed, and buried. However, death did not win out over Jesus, because God raised him from the dead.

      The Christian faith teaches that anyone who confesses their sin to God, and believes in the accomplishment of Jesus to take our punishment and wipe away our sins, will be raised from the dead like Christ. However, Christian belief is not mere mental assent to these teachings, it is a whole-hearted belief which delights and finds its greatest joy in Jesus Christ.

      In the end, only God knows Jesse’s heart. But I believe that Jesse placed his trust in Christ for his sins, and therefore I do not live in sorrow by his death since I believe that he is with God in heaven now and will remain with God for all eternity.

      I myself do not despair death because I know that death will take me to heaven with Jesus, where I will experience the infinite joy of his presence forever.

      I apologize for this long reply, but the only reason I write posts like I did about Jesse is to tell others about Jesus, so that they can experience the joy of a personal relationship with him.

      I hope this helps you understand the faith behind the post.
      Thank you for reading and thank you for your kind words.

  • Pam4 says:

    Amen Brother

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