Today is the memorial service for my Uncle Tim.
Every time I attend a memorial service or a funeral, and every time I officiate at one, I am faced with the fact that there is an elephant in the room, a fact that nobody wants to talk about. Here it is: Unless Jesus returns first, every one of us in attendance at the service will someday arrive at the day when the memorial service is for me. Or you. One day, it will be your or me in the casket; or it will be my ashes or your ashes in the urn. People will be talking about our lives, remembering the good and bad.
It’s unavoidable, it’s uncomfortable to talk about, and yet it’s absolutely vital that we face that fact.
Ignoring the fact that every one of us is terminal won’t change it at all.
Some people do try to ignore it, though. Some people do everything they can to avoid the subject, to keep from thinking about it. Some people throw themselves into every possible thing that they can to improve their health and to try to stave off the advance of age and the inevitable deterioration of their bodies.
Some people invest in wild schemes to try to conquer death – cryogenics, looking for ways to transfer their consciousness, and other things that sound more like the stuff of science fiction than of reality.
Some people fall prey to deep fear and end up consumed by the reality of their own mortality. These people let fear keep them from truly living and enjoying life.
There’s a better way.
Every time I’m confronted with death, I’m also reminded of Jesus standing outside of his friend Lazarus’ grave and declaring, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” (John 11:25-26, NLT)
This is the good news – for those of us who follow Jesus, death is not an end. It’s a doorway leading from one part of our journey to the next part of our journey.
When Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead, He didn’t just purchase our salvation. He didn’t just provide a way for us to escape hell or enter heaven. He defeated death. Destroyed it, actually.
Death’s days are numbered. Death is living on borrowed time, so to speak!
One day soon – we don’t know when, but we know that every day that passes, we are one day closer to that day – Jesus will return. On that day, those who have died trusting in Him will rise from their graves and be given new, glorified bodies. Those of us who are still alive at the time will experience our bodies being transformed.
Death’s reign will be ended. The greatest unknown, the greatest fear? Reduced to nothing.
Here is how the Apostle Paul explained it:
“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, NLT)
So while I’m at the memorial service, I will be remembering, and I will be honoring my Uncle. I will be sobered by the thought that one day, someone will be having a service for me.
But I will also be rejoicing. Because I know that even though it looks like death has won, it hasn’t. Death is already defeated – and one day soon, Jesus will return and enforce His victory.
No more elephant in the room!
And what a day that will be!
[Don Hunter is a son, husband of Jewel, father of Bethany, and pastor of Awakening Alliance Church in Ridgway PA. Most importantly, he’s a follower of Jesus. You can read more of his blogposts at Donwhunter]