"Famous Last Words"
June 23, 2013
For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:8-9
History has a habit of remembering people for a single thing -- sometimes the last thing they said.
Let me give you an example. Elisa Bonaparte was the sister of Napoleon. She, no doubt, saw many things, accomplished many things, did many things in the course of her life. But she is remembered for only one. As she lay dying, somebody in the room commented that, in life, nothing was as certain as death. She raised herself up and said, "Except taxes." Her words have become among the most widely quoted in history: "Nothing is as sure in life as death and taxes."
What a way to be remembered.
Here's another: Germany's poet Goethe is one of the most famous in all of history's writers.
If I asked you to quote one of his immortal lines, you would be hard pressed to do so. That's because, after all his writing, the most famous thing he ever said was spoken when he died. As life was fading from him, Goethe whispered, "Mehr licht." More light. He was told that the draperies on the windows were open, but still he repeated: "Mehr licht, mehr licht, mehr licht."
The author O. Henry did much the same. Can you remember more than one of his writings? Most people can't, even though he remains a famous author. What some people might remember are his dying words. He said, "Turn up the lights! I don't want to go home in the dark."
And how about the great Reformer, Martin Luther? What did he say as he was leaving this world?
Luther's friend, Justin Jonas had been called to minister. When death came, Jonas asked, "Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?"
The last word Luther spoke was a clear profession of faith. "Ya!" he said. Soon after, he passed away.
As I look at the above dying words from history, there is little doubt as to which one I would like to have on my tongue when I leave this world. You would probably agree.
Thankfully, unlike Elisa Bonaparte, we know more certain than death and taxes is the salvation which is ours through the life, death and resurrection of the Savior. And, unlike Goethe, we who have been moved from darkness to the light of life because of Jesus' sacrifice have no need of any other illumination.
This is why those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb may, when their end comes, confidently declare, "I am saved by grace alone, which has been given to me by the victory won by Jesus.
May God grant it be so.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks that in life and in death Jesus has given me all I need. May I always be found faithful to Him. In His Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries