The Princess Bride

I have a hard time picking my favorite character from the movie The Princess Bride. Billy Crystal is one favorite. “Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, a former servant of the king, he was fired by Prince Humperdinck, against whom he still harbors a grudge, often referring to the Prince as “the King’s stinking son”; he resurrects Westley after explaining that he is only mostly dead, and that if he were fully dead, the only thing they could do is go through his clothes and look for loose change.” – From The Princess Bride

Some lines are frequently repeated in the movie. One is what Westley says to Buttercup: “As you wish.” Another is just the word, “inconceivable,” repeatedly spoken by Vizzini when what happens seems irrational to him. Miracle Max said something funny that applies to today’s post. Westley, the hero, has died. His friend Inigo is convinced there is little or no hope and says that Westley has died. (Buttercup is Westley’s true love.) It is inconceivable that Westley could be alive.

What makes me laugh is what Miracle Max says to Inigo Montoya in the movie: “Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

Dead is Dead Unless

Death is final. Most people do everything they can to delay it. Some of the efforts do extend life, but the reality is that death is inevitable. Freezing a corpse with the hope of future cures is pure folly. Placing a mummy in a pyramid is amazing, but there is no life. But the finality of death is that it can be overcome. Sometimes it looks like all hope is lost and there is no potential for future life.

Tiger Eyes Sumac was mostly dead

Tiger Eye Sumac with the root

We have a beautiful shrub near our deck. The foliage is a bright light green. Its tendency is to spread its roots underground and little sumacs poke up from these main roots. One plant did spring up a few feet from the bush we planted. I dug it out only to discover that it had no root of its own. It was just a sprout from the main root. The main root was about as thick as my ring finger. Nevertheless, I put the digging into a large flowerpot and kept it watered. It died. Or so it seemed. All the leaves withered and fell off. I paid it no attention, but did keep the soil most. Then the impossible happened. New leaves appeared. The sumac was only “mostly dead.” There was still life in the root, and the root resulted in a plant.

The shriveled Tiger Eye Sumac with new life from the root.

Completely Dead is Sleeping

In John chapter 11, Jesus tells his disciples that his friend Lazarus is sleeping. “After saying these things, he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (John 11:11-15 ESV) Notice that there is an end result desired from the death of Lazarus: belief. Jesus wanted his disciples to believe something about death, about life and about his claims.

Martha, one of the sisters of Lazarus, was convinced that Jesus could restore even the terribly ill to full health. “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” (John 11:21-23 ESV) Martha had great faith by saying “even now I know that Jesus could ask God for something and receive it. What Jesus says next is marvelous and unbelievable. He asks for a response. “Do you believe, Martha?” He asks for nothing else.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:25-27 ESV) Martha said several important things. She believed the what the scriptures said about the Messiah. She believed Jesus was the Messiah. She believed in the deity of Jesus.  She believed he was destined to come. This was personal. It wasn’t that her family believed or that Lazarus believed or that the other disciples believed. She said, “I believe.” What Jesus was about to do is to help her see that her personal trust, confidence and belief was not in vain.

The Rest of the Story

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ (John 11:38-44 ESV)

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

As John brings his gospel to a close, we find some interesting words. John tells us that he had one clear purpose in the stories he told. They are an echo of the things Martha said to Jesus.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31 ESV)


The tiger eye sumac was sleeping. It appeared to be dead from a human perspective. Dead is certainly dead except when Jesus (who is the Root) calls the dead back to life. That day is coming. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says this: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Some Fun Videos

Miracle Max Mostly Dead

A Princess Bride reunion on Good Morning America from 2011

About Tiger Eyes

TIGER EYES is a dwarf, golden-leaved, staghorn sumac cultivar that typically matures to only 6′ tall and as wide. It was discovered in a cultivated nursery setting in July of 1985 as a whole plant mutation of R. typhina ‘Laciniata’. Species plants may spread aggressively by root suckers.