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NOT ALLOWED TO DIE


Back in March of 2008, the mayor of a city in SW France had a problem. It seems his village was running out of space. Not in housing, nor in the retail district, nor even at City Hall. It seems they were running out of space... in the cemetery. There was no room for any more graves. It was full. And apparently (wait for it) people were just dying to get in.


Now the mayor tried to purchase land that was next to the cemetery, but an administrative court ruled that his village couldn't do that. And so the mayor - having no space in the cemetery, and unable to purchase more land to bury people - did what any politician would have done... he passed a law. And he had this law posted in the city building informing the 260 residents of the town that they are no longer allowed to die.


The ordinance read, in part, "[A]ll persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sapourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish.... Offenders will be severely punished"


APPLY: Of course, everybody knew that was a silly law.

You can't stop people from dying. All you can do is to determine what to do with them when they do die.


In ancient Israel, the bodies of the dead were washed and wrapped in winding cloths. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that corpses were usually perfumed with various spices. The perfume was partly to honor the dead, but mostly it was used to disguise the smell of decay that set in after a few days. They had none of the advance embalming techniques that we have to stop the body from decaying, so bodies were generally buried a day or so.


Now, Poor families would take the deceased out into a field and drop it into a hole dug in the ground. But richer families could afford to use tombs... caves that had been hollowed out and blocked by a stone rolled in front of the entrance.


John 11:38 basically informs us that Lazarus and his family were relatively wealthy people. "Jesus... came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance."

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