Arabic speakers may describe the deaths caused by the explosion in Beirut last week as ‘cheap’ – for me, that captures the feeling of senselessness as human life is suddenly destroyed; of those precious human beings having been somehow devalued and dishonoured; of the sudden emptiness of what had previously been a rich and wonderful world; and it implies the outraged justice question of who might ever be made to pay for this.
And the sudden deaths have been coming at me over recent months – a COVID-related stroke, a suicide, a death following a fight . . . Each one freezes something inside, triggers memories, drains energy, and makes it more difficult to find motivation for today’s work. Is it all ‘cheap’ – worthless, and moving only towards a senseless end?
Every new hit adds to the disorientation. My regular ‘survival’ mechanism kicks in, and I compartmentalise the shocks and get on with life. But I also get less able to function in the present. So . . . let’s open the ‘sudden death’ compartment, and see whether there is any sense there.
The ‘sense’ today is slowly dawning as I ask whether any death is really ‘cheap’. I think of Jesus’ outrage and grief over Lazarus’ tomb, and of the bloods of Cain crying out. Not a single sparrow is so cheap that the heavenly Father does not care about its death.
In the paper I am supposed to be writing, one of the questions I am asking myself is what would happen if we stopped our reading of the synoptic Gospels when the disciples/Peter tell Jesus that He should not die. That is, after all, the view of most Muslims: that Jesus should not have died, and that, indeed, God rescued Him so that He did not die. God would not permit such a ‘cheap’ death for such a great prophet.
But the Gospel is that Jesus’ death was not ‘cheap’. The Cross of Jesus the Messiah is the most expensive death ever, and the blood that was shed is the most valuable thing ever. I know that we are not redeemed with such cheap things as silver and gold, but with that unbelievably costly blood.
I don’t always see just how that makes sense of sudden deaths and disasters, but at least it tells me that no human death is ever really cheap. And there will be justice – someone has paid for it, and someone will pay for it.