John 11:25-27 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?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
I think I have used this passage at every believer’s funeral I have ever conducted. It is an enormously important passage, and one that has sustained believers for almost 2000 years. When we can agree with Martha in her declaration of faith, death indeed “loses its sting.” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Instead of a terminus, it becomes a transit point that I like to call a “graduation.” We are on this earth to learn many things, and our goal should to be to leave it “magna cum laude,” great with honor, or even “summa cum laude,” complete with honor. We have the ultimate Teacher, (John 13:13) so our attitude should be to absorb everything He tells us, making it part of us to live it out. Most people live most of their lives in fear of death, and it can really rob them of the joy of living. It is only when we let go of our claim on physical life that we can lay hold of eternal life in Christ in all its fullness. Whether our time on this earth is long or short is largely irrelevant, just as our length of time in an academic school doesn’t have a lot to say about our quality of life after that. What matters is that we learn that we are sinners in need of salvation, and that God has provided that salvation through faith in His Son, who died in our place to take the penalty for our sin, and then rose on the third day as a demonstration that it is all real and true. When we have that worked into our heart, mind, and life, then graduation is something to be eagerly anticipated!
I honestly don’t remember ever fearing my own death, which made it all too easy to attempt suicide when I was in college. God graciously intervened in that, because He didn’t want my transcript to be stamped, Incomplete. I have always loved the story of Lazarus’ resurrection, but I am very aware that he died again, physically speaking. As Jesus said to His disciples before going to Bethany, it was good that all of this happened, so that their faith – and the faith of millions after them – could be strengthened. (John 11:14-15) I don’t think Lazarus objected to being used as an object lesson. I have sometimes wondered if he resented being brought back to the physical world, but I think his faith was strong enough to handle it. My wife, Cathy, is one of those in the Lazarus camp, having died and been sent back herself, though in her case it was just a matter of minutes, rather than days. She certainly has no fear of death at this point! I’ll confess that I’m far more afraid of her death than I am of my own, but I know that God’s grace is sufficient for us, whatever He has planned. I am at times concerned that I come across as uncaring after the death of a believer, because my confidence in eternal life is so strong. However, I know that grief and bereavement are very real, and I must honor those going through that and come alongside them, not to speak so much as simply to be there. Faith in Christ is all about life, on this earth and eternally, and I am to be a demonstration and herald of that truth.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. At this point I have many older friends, and at times they seem to be “dropping like flies.” Help me respond to each situation as Your agent, speaking truth and life to all who receive it, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!