John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
What a joy it is to be able to use this passage in the funeral of a believer! This passage has strengthened and encouraged countless believers down through the centuries, giving them boldness to face both disease and martyrdom. As Southern Gospel singer Jake Hess sang, “Death ain’t no big deal.” In terms of inevitability we speak of “death and taxes,” but mankind has never liked to face that reality. Atheists insist that this passage and others like it are pure fantasy, wishful thinking in the face of the unknown. The thing is, it’s not as unknown as they claim. In recent years there have been studies done of what are called “near death experiences,” where people are clinically dead but resuscitate, with or without medical help. A significant subset of such people have memories of what it was like, and there is remarkable agreement. Most of the reports are from those who went to heaven (or at least the outer courts thereof) but there are some reports of people who went to hell. I’m not as familiar with those, but such people are adamant that no one ever wants to go there, or have anyone they love go there. It seems that Jesus’ story of a different Lazarus than this one is remarkably accurate! (Luke 16:19-31) The funeral of a believer should be markedly different from that of an unbeliever. A Catholic priest once told me that funerals were his most powerful tool for evangelism, because the hope of eternal life that they expressed was in such sharp contrast to Buddhist funerals. That is particularly significant when Japanese Buddhism is focused on death and ancestor worship. Believers in Christ have an advantage available to no one else, because “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
This is particularly close to home for me for many reasons. Not only have I conducted funerals for believers and non-believers, my own wife is one of those who has been to heaven and come back. The process of death might seem a little scary, and nobody likes suffering, but what is on the other side of physical death is attractive beyond description. That is NOT to say that I am suicidal! Actually, I live in the awareness that my eternal life has already begun, and I am to participate fully in this part of it just as I am to participate in what lies beyond. Right now I am ministering to someone who is physically dying. The doctors are frankly not quite sure why he’s still here. However, to my knowledge he hasn’t yet yielded himself to Christ in faith, and I believe God’s giving him every chance. He is not able to respond verbally at this point, but there is every reason to believe he hears and understands what is said to him, and I am to keep speaking the truth to him in love, for his sake and for the sake of his wife, who is distraught. I am to speak this passage to him and give him the chance to lay hold of it, for his eternal salvation.
Father, thank You for this clear word of what I am to do. I ask for clear guidance and anointing as I follow through, for the salvation of that man and hopefully many others, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!