Michel De Montaigne once said, “It is not death that alarms me, but dying.”
My uncle Bob talked like that. He didn’t want to be old, sick, helpless or dependent on nursing care. He got his wish. He died at a wedding dance 30 seconds after sitting down because he felt dizzy.
While the process of dying may have been alarming to Montaigne, it does give others some advance warning. Uncle Bob’s family had none. While he died the way he wanted, they had to cope with the sudden shock of him being alive and well one minute and gone the next.
Now, a few weeks after his funeral, I still feel somewhat helpless to really comfort others who grieve. Feeling compassion doesn’t fix broken hearts; nor does wanting to bring peace make peace come. I ask myself . . . What would Jesus do? How would He comfort others?
As far as Scripture tells, Jesus attended only three funerals. The first was the only son of a widow. The coffin was on its way to the graveyard when He came by. He saw the grief on the face of the mother. With deep compassion for her, He said, “Weep not” and touched the side of the coffin. “Young man, I say unto thee, arise.” The young man sat up and spoke. Jesus delivered him to his mother.
The second funeral was that of Lazarus. He had been sick for a time. His sisters, Mary and Martha, hoped for a healing miracle and sent for Jesus. But He did not come right away. When He finally arrived, Lazarus was already buried. Mary and Martha, upset and mourning, asked Him why He did not come sooner. Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
As the despairing sisters struggled with His response, Jesus went to the tomb. He wept too. Death, the great enemy, was holding the people He loved in bondage to its fear.
Jesus cried, “Take away the stone.” As they rolled away the stone, Jesus prayed then shouted, “Lazarus, come forth.”
He who had been dead four days walked out of his tomb.
The third funeral Jesus went to was His own. He did not resist the soldiers who took Him to a hasty, illegal trial carried out in the night. He did not resist the mockery and spitting. He did not resist the nails that fastened Him to the cross. And when the time came, He did not resist death but entrusted His spirit to His Father.
As He was placed in a tomb, it looked as if the mockers were right; He could not save Himself. But on the mourning of the third day, when mourners came to anoint His body with spices, the tomb was empty. Jesus had risen.
Jesus never attended any real funerals. Instead, He demonstrated His overcoming power and robbed every grave of its so-called victim.
Our comfort when physical death comes is just that. Death is not the end. Jesus gave life right out of death and He still gives new life to dead people: those dead in trespasses and sin, those dead to the things of God and the hope of eternity, and those who physically die trusting Him.
We may weep at grave sides because of our loss, yet Paul said that for him, “to die is gain, to go to be with Christ is far better.” That is the Christian hope, not a “pie-in-the-sky” speculation but a certainty based on the powerful testimony of Christ’s own resurrection power.
He comforts the grieving with His message. Faith in Him guarantees life beyond the grave. When those we love go on ahead, we need not fear or even grieve as others who have no hope. Instead we can rejoice that Jesus has won the victory over death.