David Bowie just died. I keep catching myself humming or singing his songs this morning.
Celebrity deaths are often occasions for people to mourn the passing of someone they only knew through the lens of media and art. We feel we really connect with this person, though in life they couldn’t have picked us out of a line-up. We feel we truly understand them through the art they made or the words they said. They were a part of our lives in some small way. When they pass, we treat them like heroes, if just for one day.
But celebrities are often enigmas, and the persona we grow to adore is often just that, a mask that one sinful person shows to other sinful people because he or she is thrust into the spotlight, the serious spotlight.
I don’t come to bury Bowie or to praise him. I didn’t know “the real David Bowie” and certainly don’t pretend to. I enjoy his music, and have sung his songs more than a few times at karaoke nights. I don’t have anything good or bad to say about the “true” David. By all accounts, he seemed like a nice person. He had a beautiful voice. And now he’s gone.
Here’s what I know about David Bowie, only because I know it about every person in the world, including you and me: we are born broken, sinners by nature and choice. Because of our sin, we deserve God’s wrath for being a rebel-rebel against His righteous rule. And each of us, because of our rejection of God’s law, has earned death.
However, just as God is just and wrathful against all evil, He is also merciful and gracious. He made a way for sinful humans to be spared from their just judgment by sending a substitute: Jesus the Christ, the eternal son of God, the second member of the Trinity, fully God and fully man, born of a virgin, born under the Law. Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience and righteousness before God–the perfect life we all have failed to live.
Then, by the preordained plan of God, Jesus was executed on trumped-up charges, and his death was the perfect sacrifice that satisfied the sentence of death hanging above all whom God would graciously choose to save. Jesus died in the place of all of us who deserved death, and then rose again in victory, so that we who turn from our sinful rebellion can trust in Jesus as our Savior and sacrificial substitute, and be saved from the condemnation we so woefully deserve.
I don’t know the state of David Bowie’s soul. There’s no point in speculating on the spiritual fruit of his life. But I will say this: unless you repent, you will likewise perish. There comes a day where each of us will meet his end. You and I will one day die as well. On that day, who will rescue us? We cannot look to some vague “starman waiting in the sky”–our only hope is the God who drew near and lived among us, robed in flesh, and made a way for us to be cleansed from our sin.
Here is the lesson we should take from every celebrity death, no matter the circumstances: fame and money and power and influence all go into the wooden box with us when we die. They account for nothing. You may gain the whole world but give up your soul in the process.
On the last day, only what we have done with the question of Jesus will matter.
Friend, I’m pleading with you: turn from your sins, turn to Jesus, and find true life.