“He will rise from this grave, you know?” That’s what my mom told me a couple of months ago after visiting my grandpa’s grave site. After looking at the plaque that marks his life, she reflected on the truth that one day he will get up out of that grave and rise. Amidst the sadness that he is no longer with us, we have a hope as Christians. When we buried him a year and a half ago we were devastated, but hopeful about a coming resurrection for him and for us. In the same way that our Savior rose from the dead and walked out of the tomb, we also will rise from the dead. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he was showing his followers, and us, what he would do for all believers who die in Christ. Death is not the end for us.
So why did he weep?
Death is ugly and tragic. It causes tremendous grief for the ones left behind. It is painful and sorrowful. And it is unnatural. Jesus wept because the death of Lazarus only happened because the world he created was now sinful and broken. We were never made to die. We were made to live. But that is not the reality for us. When sin entered the world, so did death (Rom. 5:12). Jesus cried over the death of Lazarus, but it was not a helpless cry. As Romans 5 goes on to say, death came through one man and life came through another—one who was perfect and sinless (Rom. 5:17; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). All who are trusting in Christ have this life, even if they face an earthly death.
But if Christ has conquered the grave by his defeat of sin and resurrection from the grave, why do funerals still cause so much pain? I can trust that my grandpa will rise and that my baby will rise, but often my heart still aches to have them here with me. As I’ve watched some of the coverage leading up to the anniversary of September 11, I’ve been reminded of the very real aspect of the loss of life that day. Christian or not, the death of a family member is deep and the pain lasts a lifetime.
I think that is how it is supposed to be. While we can trust that death has been conquered for those who trust in Christ, I think that defeat is a future and final defeat. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but for those of us here left on this earth death still stings. The resurrection of the dead in Christ has not happened yet. It is a future reality that we long for and wait for. Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that death has no sting, but notice that it doesn’t happen until the dead are raised and are given imperishable bodies (vs. 50-57).
So if you are mourning the loss of a loved one today, dear Christian, know this—there is a future hope for you and for them. The grave they now lie in will not be able to hold them, nor will it hold you. We grieve now, just like our Savior did over his friend, Lazarus, knowing that sin has distorted what God created to be perfect. The pain we feel over loss and death is a reminder that this is not how it was supposed to be. Oh, but we have a hope. We will rise. My grandpa will rise. My baby will rise. I will rise. Our faith will be made sight and we will be with our gracious Lord forever. What a glorious day that will be.