This past week, life in my family perfectly mirrored what Jesus told us, through His disciples, a little over 2000 years ago; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
You see on Tuesday, we all said goodbye to a dear family member. While losses like this occur inevitably, Jesus told us on the Sermon on the Mount; “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
To contrast the mournful feeling, we felt on that day, we somewhat shockingly found out there was joy to be celebrated as another family member, unbeknown to most of us, had unexpectedly gotten married less than 24 hours earlier. Galatians 5:22 (NIV) reminds us; “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness”
For most people, the unspeakable topic of this message is “Mortality.” As we see in the two events of this week, life is both sadness and joy. We mourn for the loss of the dear one, and then celebrate for the joy of another. But as happy as I was for Amie and Greg, I was also more overwhelmed than ever before, by the remembrance of our family member Don, and the heartbreaking loss for his closest family and friends.
We have all been to funerals before, and no matter how much we want to make it a TRUE celebration of life, they always take on a very sad and mournful air, because of course a loved one has left our world, which fills us with sorrow and pain. But for me, this funeral hit me hard – I really don’t know why. I truly felt deep and meaningful love and compassion for my sister-in-law and the rest of the immediate family, but something deep inside of me was tearing me apart. I have never feared death, for the reasons I will mention later in this message, but perhaps the finality for specifically this generation of the family, was what was hitting me so hard.
I was more deeply saddened than ever before. Plus, my heart was torn with the contrasting feeling of this service being about the family’s loss, and not about me – but I could not shake the feeling that mortality was creeping in.
Perhaps my feeling was because just a few months earlier, this generation of the family had lost another brother-in-law. Perhaps it was the words of a family member who looked at me with a smile and jokingly said; “Well looks like you’re the last one standing.” Or, perhaps it was another person who was obviously only trying to lighten the painful stress of the situation by jokingly saying; “We’re trying to kill off all the men.” Or last but not least, perhaps it was me being selfish and making this about me and my fear of the inevitable – that I would likely be the next in this generation to leave this earth?
I have given this an incredible amount of thought and I honestly don’t know why this funeral affected me far more so than any funeral before???
So, what about death, or mortality? When God created mankind, He set forth a perfect world for us to live and prosper and there would be no death for mankind. But we did not heed God’s word and allowed Satan, and ultimately death, to enter into life for all mankind.
On numerous occasions, God set forth a path towards good and righteousness, yet we continued to turn our minds away from God and follow Satan. So much so, that God, on at least two notable occasions, tried to give us a second chance. First through Noah and then through Moses, but each time, we walked away from God and gave into Satan. Death still had a hold on mankind due to our sin.
I’m guessing God knew that through all his efforts, we sinful people would never change our ways and totally rebuke Satan. So, God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, finally sent His only Son, Jesus, to Earth, to live amongst us and teach us the law. He sent Jesus to commune with us, share in our joy, travel with us, struggle with us, be tempted like us, mourn with us, to worship with us, and to finally suffer and die like us. For over 30 years, the Son of God walked with us and taught us of a loving caring God who had such incredible love and mercy for us that he would eventually do the unthinkable just to save us.
So, after Jesus had prepared his followers, and told them what was to come, and even though they still did not understand, the Son of God was captured, imprisoned, mocked and ridiculed, beaten and tortured, illegally brought to trial in the middle of the night, and eventually hung on a tree to die. He would be laid to rest, forever they thought, in a tomb which was sealed and closely guarded. The Man they all knew was sent to save them had died, and they truly felt and believed all hope was lost. So, at this moment, they felt death was a certainty.
Praise be to God that we know today, and that Jesus’ followers would soon find out, just three days later, that the story had not ended that way for them, or for us. But that the story was only beginning, again and anew. Jesus was and is alive. Thank to God’s incredible love and grace, death has been defeated once and for all times.
As it is written and promised, and will occur someday, likely very soon; Jesus will come again. We will see him in all his rightful glory and he will bring his power, love, and righteousness, to us all again. But thanks to God, we can truly proclaim that death is NOT a certainty, at least for those who believe, trust, and put their faith in God. As Jesus said on numerous occasions and as John records in John 14:1-7;
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
But one of the Disciples, Thomas commonly known as ‘Doubting Thomas,’ said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
I must admit I had my doubts this past week, just like Thomas the Disciple. I’m not sure why the funeral this past week affected me so, because I know Jesus not only came to save my brother-in-law, but also me…AND Everyone who believes in Him. I rejoice in the wedding of my niece who has married a great young man, and I thank God for all the love that was poured out this week to the family and friends of the departed.
So, the next time you are feeling the fear of mortality, like I did this past week, remember what Jesus told Thomas:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well."
AMEN, AMEN, AMEN !!!