*Spoiler Alert! Major spoiler for the last Harry Potter novel ahead.
The theme of resurrection is dominant in the last of the seven original Harry Potter books. One of the three great “hallows” is literally called the resurrection stone. Harry himself undergoes a physical resurrection of sorts after sacrificing himself for those he loves. The Christian allegory is not a coincidence, the title of his “resurrection” chapter is called King’s Cross for crying out loud!
But far earlier in the novel, we get another powerful taste of resurrection, yet it is the taste of a life lived without the hope of resurrection. As Harry beholds the tombstones of his parents for the first time, he reads the inscription which states, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” If you’re a Christian reader, that sentence should be familiar, it is a direct quote from I Corinthians 15:26. Yet Harry is unfamiliar with the words, he even briefly panics thinking that it is a statement giving some affirmation to dark magic, “Isn’t that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?”
His faithful companion Hermione rightfully, and gently, advises him that it is not that kind of conquering of death that is pictured, “It means… you know… living beyond death. Living after death.” I believe we could go further with our interpretation, and push the idea that it is Christ’s ultimate destruction of death for his people which will result in us living beyond death, but for someone going to Hogwarts and not Westminster Seminary, she captures enough of the verse’s meaning. Indeed, she captures the hope of the final defeat of death, with the resurrection of the saints which will be wrought with the end of this age.
But of this hope Harry knows nothing. Rowling narrates his thoughts:
But they were not living, thought Harry: They were gone. The empty words could not disguise the fact that his parents moldering remains lay beneath snow and stone, indifferent, unknowing. And tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off or pretending? He let them fall, his lips pressed hard together, looking down at the thick snow hiding from his eyes the place where the last of Lily and James lay, bones now, surely, or dust, not knowing or caring that their living son stood so near, his heart still beating, alive because of their sacrifice and close to wishing, at this moment, that he was sleeping under the snow with them.1
Is this not how the world should view their dead? Their own lives? Is this life not vanity when those we love are left to rot in their tombs? When we believe that we will meet that same unknowing, unfeeling, indifferent end? I personally think celebrations of life are a mask, empty words that offer no compelling disguise. They fail to capture the wretchedness of human death. They are a child’s bandaid placed over an arterial bleed. “If the dead are not raised let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (I Corinthians 15:32), but let us not deceive ourselves that the drink we taste is not bitter to the very root, that the food we gorge ourselves with does not have an everlasting aftertaste of ash and dust. In a world ruled by death, a hopeless funeral with an empty tombstone is the only appropriate reaction (I Timothy 4:13).
But for the Christian this is not so. For we know death, that greatest of enemies, will be defeated. Far from a disembodied state of pie in the sky enteral bliss, we believe in the resurrection of the body. Death will not have the final word, not for our loved ones, nor for ourselves, for it has already met the one whom it could not hold (Acts 2:24). To the dust we may return, but dust will shall not remain. Death has met its match in the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, for this reason, He is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). As He rose, so will we. He is our assurance and our hope. It is through this lens of life, and only this lens, that we can join Albus Dumbledore as he says “death is but the next great adventure.”
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, (New York, NY: Scholastic, 2007), 328-329