Today as I read several things, I ran across the expression, “The Late Elvis Presley” . . . “The Late John Wayne” . . . and “The Late Johnny Cash.” It caused me to think and, I believe, I stumbled upon a wonderful mental and spiritual truth. Let me explain.
Use of the term “Late” in front of an individual’s name, as is the case with most grammatical customs employed today, originated in England and is commonly used in a sensitive manner that the person being mentioned is now deceased. The use of the term brings the questions of 1) When did this practice begin, and 2) What is the accepted stature of limitations of its use in this manner? Both are good questions.
The answer to the first question is that the practice goes back many years and is said to have been in common use prior to Columbus’ discovery of the new world. The second question relative to the statute of limitations and, although its use is not so clearly defined or established, was generally believed to be properly limited in use to those in one’s own contemporary group. However, in 1971, Bernstein suggested the term ought to have a useful shelf life of a half century; that is according to Wordwizard.com.
As I internalized this information, it seemed to me that its general usage, as I have observed it in my life, has been generally reserved for more noteworthy people, and that made sense to me. It just didn’t seem to be a term that one would use on a fellow who had lived down the street. Then it occurred to me that the term, as used on noteworthy people, has never once been used in connection with Jesus, that gentle carpenter, Bible teacher, compassionate, soft-spoken miracle worker, who calmed the storm and raging sea with a single command . . . not,once in all of history . . . and not even used by the heathen!!
The question begs to be asked . . . and answered . . . Why not? The truth is that both Believers and heathens alike clearly understand and accept . . . and that any honest review of human history screams out across that same human history . . . that Jesus is not deceased – He was for three brief days, but not today! He is alive and well . . . and today . . . just as He has every day since His glorious resurrection . . . He stands-watch and ensures that each and every one of His believers are escorted into His very presence, instantly, when their earthly life is ended, they pass to the other side into this marvelous gift which He, and only He can give . . . and He calls it “everlasting life.”
I have often wondered about people who were alive in the era in which Jesus walked on earth; I have wandered what they might have thought when they got word that Jesus had been crucified and was now dead outside of the city of Jerusalem on that Passover holiday. How was that tragic news received by those who had:
. . . come to Him blind . . . but left seeing?
. . . come to Him lame . . . but left walking?
. . . come to Him sick . . . but left completely well?
. . . come to Him broken . . . but left mended?
. . . come to Him burdened . . . but left free?
. . . come to Him bound . . . but left unshackled?
I would bet my last nickel that that young widowed mother whom Jesus encountered in the funeral procession exiting the small town of Naim that sad morning, recorded in Luke 7, would have been quick to declare, “There is no way that great man is dead! I don’t know what is going on in Jerusalem today, but I will never forget that I saw that man, up close and personal, look death in its ugly face and command it . . . and it submitted to him completely. I know what I know, and I know that He has all power over death!”
I think that is a pretty cool revelation . . . realization . . . for this day! And, this morning, like that young widow, I too, know what I know, and I know that my Redeemer lives. So when the day arrives and you hear it said, “old JM died” . . . just chuckle and reply, “Nope, he passed to that glorious new level in his life . . . and he is out there in the hills of Glory at this very instant shouting, ‘Now, this is exactly what I was talking about!’”