Summary: Being as sure of your salvation as we are of death itself.
The raising of Lazarus John 11: 17-36
I think people have a hard time relating to the fact that Lazarus died and then was raised four days later simply because most people are unfamiliar with the concept of death in our society let alone a resurrection. There was a time not so long ago that when someone died the body was prepared for burial at home, and when the undertaker came to the house he brought a coffin with him and then the wake took place right there, usually in the living room. As a matter of fact, most doors that were installed in houses were measured to accommodate the size of a casket.
And after they had the typical time of mourning then every body followed the processional to the church where the service took place. Today, either for convenience sake or just to lessen the pain of death people opt for the shortest time of visitation and then the service is held at the funeral home rather than the church. People will do anything to lesson the pain of loss and the reality of death.
I remember when my grandmother died in Glace Bay and my family gathered at the funeral home. This particular building had a porch and I went out to get some air when my great uncle Buddy who was my grandmother’s brother came up and he started talking about what a nice job they did when they built this particular funeral home; which I thought was a bit of a dump covered with cheap imitation paneling. The fact was; he was trying to find something other than death to talk about.
A few years ago there was someone who died from the university and the undertaker told me he had never seen anything like the service that took place. He said a few people read poetry but none of it had to do with the person who died or even with death itself. And then one or two others told a couple of jokes and then someone sang some songs and they had nothing to do with death, grieving or comfort. And then he said that no matter who did anything, they all laughed so hard they almost fell on the floor. Why? They were busy ignoring the reality of death.
I went to a funeral for a Jehovah Witness woman who was some relation to of our church members and I was rather surprised by the message and not just because it was heretical. The man who preached actually gave a Bible study on what the Jehovah Witnesses believed and not once from beginning to end did he ever mention the person in the casket behind him. And this lady was a faithful member of their church. He was trying to ignore the reality of death.
And then I read a story in the paper about a wealthy man in the states who stated in his will that he had to be buried in a brand new Cadillac. He specifically said that he was to be sitting at the wheel wearing expensive casual clothes with a martini in his hand. And he had hired a large piece of machinery to lower the car into the grave. He wanted people to see that he went out the way he lived.
Later on, I saw a clip on the news where they said that in order to fulfill this man’s wishes and get the rest of his money, his brother did exactly as he ordered but he only left the car in the grave for a minute or two. And then he brought it all back up, had the body placed in a coffin and then buried him in the hole and then he sold the car and walked away with the rest of the money. Now, as absurd as that was, what was the dead man trying to say? I think he was trying to convey the idea that he was having just as good of a time as he had when he was living. But listen, while his body was in the Cadillac with a martini in his hand his soul was standing in the presence of God. He might have been conveying the idea that he was ignoring the reality of death and the afterlife but it all caught up with him.
The fact is; people fear death. Society pretends that death isn’t as bad as it appears by having classy looking funeral homes, large displays of flowers and fancy caskets but there’s still a dead body to deal with. And as we look at that body, particularly if it’s a non-Christian, we are reminded that everything they lived and worked for is left behind. But that’s not what happens here because Lazarus was a believer and because he was given an extension of his time on earth.