“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer...
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life...
He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
Smyrna was city about 40 miles north of Ephesus on the west coast of modern day Turkey bordering the Aegean Sea. The literal Greek word for “Smyrna” is translated “myrrh” in three other verses of the New Testament and always used in reference to the suffering and death of Jesus:
- The wise men from the east brought “gifts of gold and incense and myrrh [lit. smyrna]” to the child Jesus (Matthew 2.11) and unknowingly forecasted the Passion of the Christ.
- Bystanders at Golgotha offered Jesus “wine mixed with myrrh [lit. smyrna]” to help deaden His pain just prior to crucifixion. Jesus refused to drink it (Mark 15.23).
- Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used a 75 pound “mixture of myrrh [lit. smyrna] and aloes” (John 19.39) to embalm the body of Jesus.
Eleven years ago, I said good-bye to my father and watched him slip past death’s door at the hospice center. I miss him and think of him every day. He was a Christian man.
Five years later (six years ago), I had the same experience with my dear mother. I knelt by her bedside at her home in Bothell, Washington, and whispered in her ear, “I love you Mom. Go be with Jesus. Go be with Dad. Oh, Jesus take her into Your loving arms.” A moment later, she took her last breath. I was, at once, both very sad and truly happy, relieved and broken. My aunt and uncle and I huddled and cried next to Mom’s lifeless form. But Mom, like Dad, knew the Lord and she is with Him now.
The family will gather this Sunday for my third son, Robert’s birthday. He will be eighteen years old. He was only sixteen when his mother slipped into eternity. Adonica was the love of my life and I shall never forget the moment surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, a kindly ambulance driver, and helpful nurse from hospice: Sunday, 2:14 p.m., August 30th, 2015. It was very quiet, except for the sound of my weeping.
My loved ones and I may face more suffering. “Smyrna” and “myrrh” are real, but death does not have to frighten us. We may face it bravely and and remain faithful. Today I will take great comfort from the words of the angel at the church in Smyrna:
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.”
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
“He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
The cartoon image "Facing Death" is a woodcut used by permission of the very talented artist Dan Nelson. I love his thoughts about an artist's calling to serve: “When artists focuses on ‘expressing themselves’ they abdicate their calling as servants. Artists are given to the community to re-humanize the world through the creation of art.” You may view and purchase his work at http://dannelsonart.com/.