And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song …
Getting the last word.
We all know people who have to have the last word in an argument. It doesn’t matter what it costs — they have to be right. And sometimes, it can cost a great deal.
There are also times when we welcome a final word, a word or event that turns the tide. Perhaps our side is losing, things are looking grim, then suddenly a higher power rules in our favor, or overturns an earlier decision, and what looked like a lost cause is suddenly turned on its ear. The good guys win, the couple live happily ever after, and we go home from the movie happy and full of popcorn.
Why did I throw in the movie reference, all of a sudden? Because we all know that “happy ever after” is movie-life, not real-life. Real life has tears, and pain, and ups and downs, and no matter how good or bad or in-between our life is, it will end as all other lives end: death.
Now, there’s a last word for you. In fact, “death” is about as final and last-wordish as it gets. “The finality of the grave” is not just a phrase; it is reality, as anyone who has looked at a loved one in a casket can tell you. As alive as the funeral home has made them look, they are still dead, and that’s that.
And yet … and yet … I hear a still voice, saying quietly “I get the last word.” I sense, just over the hill, just out of sight, the Owner of the house, coming home just when all looks lost, when Death has grabbed the trophy, and saying to Death “No you don’t” and changing the final score.
What is the raising of Lazarus? It is God saying through Jesus, “I get the last word. Pain doesn’t, Loss doesn’t, Suffering doesn’t — I do. I get the last word, and that word is Life. Out of my Love, comes Life, and that Life overcomes all.”
Let’s be clear: pain is real, suffering is real, death is real. But the Love and the Life are more real. And that is the Last Word.