But we have a Champion who takes the fight to this bully who is always lurking around the corner and breathing over our shoulder – he stomps on him, wrings his neck, puts him in his place. Death lost a few fights during Jesus’ earthly ministry (the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead in Mark 5; the raising of the widow’s son at Nain in Luke 7; the raising of Lazarus in John 11) but then suffered the fatal blow on Easter morning when Jesus himself rose from the dead, the event which caused Paul to literally shout through his pen in 1 Corinthians 15: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (vv. 54b-57).
And he's not done, you know. He'll do it again. He's promised he would. And he's shown that he can. Describing Judgment Day to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote: "The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Th 4:16). Jesus is coming again, and soon, and when he does, he will say what he said to Jairus’ young daughter, "Get up!" and what he said to Lazarus, “Come out!” All the dead will come out of their graves, and to those who died in him, he'll say, "Come home. Come to the reunion of soul and body, to the reunion of God's people at the feast of forever in heaven."
Remember the last Christian loved one you laid to rest? To that person so precious to you, so loved, and so missed, the Lord Jesus will say, "Get up! Come home! Soul and body." No more delays, no more waiting, no more regrets, no more "If onlys." Only joy and gladness, made possible by the Word made flesh, by Jesus, our Savior, death's destroyer.
May I make a suggestion for all of us for planning our own funerals - whether we're 2 or 92. Let's plan our funerals so that the flow of tears is dried up, rather than increased. And if there must be tears, may they be tears of joy as our loved ones sing Easter hymns and together with Job, confidently shake their fists at this little sleep called death and declare: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27).
No regrets. Dry the tears. Focus on God's promises. Whether devils or demons, the forces of nature, disease or death, everything obeys the voice of Jesus. And we too will hear the command of the Master, the voice of our Good Shepherd, "Get up! Welcome home!" Until then, cling to his words, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (Mark 5:36)
In Christ Jesus,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand