Facing Death with Bergman

by | Oct 22, 2020 | Devotional

Halloween must be approaching because my neighbour has a giant inflatable jack-o’-lantern on his roof. And while our family doesn’t make a big deal out of the holiday, I’ve seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. Halloween is the closest many in this world ever come to celebrating anything dealing with death. Death also happens to be the subject of the preaching at church this coming Sunday. And as I thought of how to best introduce this sermon, I took it upon myself to do some research by watching my first Ingmar Bergman film in what is the iconic, the classic, the inimitable: The Seventh Seal. Set in the Middle Ages during the height of the Black Death, the main character—a knight—meets death personified. Throughout the movie, the knight and Death compete in a game of chess. If the knight wins, he lives. If the knight loses, he dies. This movie offers incredible insight into the uncertainties of those who do not know the Lord.

The Seventh Seal depicts a literal journey, but more significantly, a figurative journey. In all its profundity, it’s a journey in search of answers to all the staples of an existential crisis. Is there a God? Why does God seem absent? Why is He silent? What comes after death? When the knight first meets Death, he is not prepared to die. He prolongs his existence with the chess game until he can accomplish one meaningful deed. He wants satisfaction. He wants a fulfilled life. 

Christians know the answers to the knight’s questions. There is a God. God is present. He has spoken in natural and supernatural revelation. Eternity follows life. But what about meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment in this life? What is to be gained by living? Ecclesiastes tells us one advantage the living have over the dead: “For the living know that they will die…” (Ecc 9:5a). The hope of the living is that they are not dead yet. They are conscious of this fact. We know we are going to die. Death could occur at any moment, but until it does, we can prepare and find fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy in our lives. And how we perform these deeds determines how we will view death. If your life is about knowing Christ and you find satisfaction in life knowing Christ you can see why death is nothing to fear as the world fears death (Phil 1:21). 

You do not need to fear the Grim Reaper. Know and enjoy knowing Christ now and here for as long as the Lord gives you earthly life. And long to know and enjoy Him much better in eternity for all of your eternal life. 

Image Credit: AB Svensk Filmindustri

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Chief Editor at Positive Action for Christ in Whitakers, North Carolina. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.


Brent Niedergall