April 12, 1994
On Easter Sunday, before we left for church, my husband turned on the television set. One of the religious programs was just ending with a choral rendition. The song stirred our hearts. It was called “He is Risen,” and vividly described how Jesus conquered death. Right after the music finished, the station went to a commercial break--an advertisement for funeral services!
How ironic that a message about the glorious hope of life after death should be followed by another that was essentially twentieth-century marketing. The main gist of it was that without prepaying on a casket and funeral plot, no one can prepare for dying.
Every culture does make plans for burial, even people who lived the same time as Jesus was on earth. For instance, a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea had a tomb, a new one he must have bought for himself, but he was not the first to use it. When Jesus was crucified, this man asked Pilate for His body and placed it in his own tomb.
However, preparing for death involves more than buying a coffin and a cemetery plot. We all experience birth, life and death, but the Bible says we all face judgment after we die (Hebrews 9:27). It seems to me judgment requires some preparation also.
My husband used to think that if he did his best, God would evaluate the good against the bad and make a fair decision. Bob later realized his concept of what would please God is something like serving an omelet made with three good eggs and three rotten ones. No judge would even smile at that mixture.
Some people think judgment will not be a problem for them because they have tried their best. They have been “basically good people” and no doubt, they are right. They have not committed gross sins, robbed banks, abused their family, or murdered anyone. Instead, they have been good neighbors, had a generous heart, and served their home and community well.
However, imagine good swimmers lined up on the west coast of Canada. Hawaii is heaven and swimming is the only way. Good swimmers would cover at least twenty-five or thirty miles, maybe more, yet in regard to getting to heaven by goodness, Romans 3 says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That means the “good” people may seem closer than others, but in reality, no one can make the distance. The standard is too high.
How then can a person prepare for a judgment he or she is sure to fall short on? There is only one way: by realizing the outcome of this judgment is not based on the relative goodness or badness of our lives but on what we have done with Christ. John 3:36 says: “He that believes on the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
Some say of Jesus, “We don’t want this man to be our king.” Jesus said they will get their wish. Those who spend eternity outside of His kingdom, in outer darkness, away from His presence are those whose preparation for death did not include Christ. By rejecting Him in this life, they cannot be with Him in the next one.
Others gladly receive Jesus. They receive from Him forgiveness of sin and the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12). He said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
The Bible says because Jesus lives, we can also. According to these spiritual realities, the Easter song has more about funeral planning in it than the commercial did!