It was 30 years ago today (Dec. 8th, in Oz) that David Chapman killed John Lennon, shooting him four times in the back, as he was standing with Yoko Ono outside their apartment in New York City. Why did the then-deranged youth with an evangelical heritage commit such an unchristian act? Chapman answered this himself at his trial:
"I would listen to [the] music and I would get angry at him, for saying that he didn't believe in God . . . and that he didn't believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least 10 years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, 'Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?' Saying that he doesn't believe in Jesus and things like that. At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage.”
Chapman had no right to wound or take the life of another, but the murderous act may be partly explained as having been brought on by John Lennon’s own words. Jesus said: "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” KJV Mat. 12:37. Said John Lennon, “I have more years behind me than before and I hate the idea of growing old.” Yet another time he alluded to Paul McCartney’s, “Yesterday”, saying: “I don’t believe in ‘yesterday’ ... Life begins at 40, so they promise and I believe it. What's going to come?”
Paul McCartney was right to believe in yesterday, for, even if the broken romance he wrote about was painful, there may still have been some aspects of it which were worth remembering, into old age. Sanity is said to rest in the continuity of our memories.
The writer to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (AD 64) who were suffering for their belief in Jesus as their Messiah, were told to take courage by believing in the God of Yesterday: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Heb 13:8). Because John Lennon had no faith in the historical past - and the accuracy of the Bible in recording that past - he therefore deprived himself of any faith in the future either. Confidence in the future depends on trusting God’s Word, when it claims to explain the past.
We remember at Christmas time the event which fulfilled the prophecies of old time. Micah wrote his prophecy in BC 720, to teach that the promised Messiah would come:
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2).
The prophet Micah predicted that the deliverer yet to come (it took another seven hundred years to be fulfilled!) was actually God Incarnate, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” How wonderfully different would John Lennon’s life have been, if he had believed that! He would have used his immense talents in the service of the eternal God, and he would probably have never lacked an audience, even to the end of time. He would have done well to live into old age.