Hope in a cemetery

Because Jesus has risen from the dead, death no longer is a dead end.

Steven L. Lange

Margaret. Will. Evelyn. Clarence. These are just some of the names of the people whose graves I have stood over during the 17 years I have been blessed to serve as a pastor.

TEAR-FILLED JOURNEYS

I still can remember every journey to the cemetery. I remember how it was pouring down rain when I accompanied Sharon’s family to the cemetery. I remember what a beautiful spring day it was when I stood with Helen’s family at the cemetery.

I remember the tears. I remember the tears shed over a godly woman who had faithfully served her Savior for decades. I remember the tears shed over a baptized child of God whom God took to himself after only one month of service here on earth. It’s impossible to make these journeys to the cemetery without tears. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus.

Yet, what I remember most about these many journeys to the cemetery is not the weather or the tears. What I remember most is that even as we traveled to this place filled with death, we had hope.

JOURNEYS FILLED WITH HOPE

This hope comes, ironically enough, from a tomb. It comes from Jesus’ tomb. As the women made their way to Jesus’ tomb early on that first Easter morning, they did not understand it yet. After all, they were not traveling to Jesus’ tomb to greet their risen Lord. They were going to finish anointing his dead body so that he could remain buried there in peace.

But when they arrived at Jesus’ tomb, they found not his lifeless body but an angel who told them that Jesus was alive. Then, as they ran back to Jerusalem, Jesus himself met them. They saw with their own eyes their risen Savior. They felt with their own hands his resurrected body. The angel at Jesus’ tomb had told them the truth. Jesus truly was alive!

During the next 40 days, as they listened to the risen Jesus explain the Scriptures to them, the women and Jesus’ other disciples began to understand what Jesus’ resurrection meant for them. One of the things it meant was that they had hope. Because Jesus had risen from the dead, death no longer was a dead end for them. No, Jesus’ promise to them was true: “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). And when they stood by the graves of their loved ones, they had no need to despair. No, Jesus meant what he said when he told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).

This is the hope of all God’s people whenever they must journey to the cemetery. Even in this place of death, we have hope, because Jesus is alive. One day, I will again see Margaret, Will, Evelyn, Clarence, and every other child of God whose graves I have stood next to over the years. And together we will rejoice with all God’s children in that great reunion that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees for us.

This hope does not remove all our tears as we bid farewell to our loved ones. But it does soften the sorrow with expectant joy. For we know that in Christ, our loved ones live even now. For all who live and believe in Jesus never die.

Steven Lange is pastor at Hope, Louisville, Kentucky.

 

 

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Author: Steven L. Lange
Volume 103, Number 4
Issue: April 2016

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