Psalm 68:20 (NIV84)
20 Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
“I’m not really sure what to say.” So many of us struggle to find appropriate words for funerals. Expressing one’s condolences can indeed be a frustrating, helpless kind of experience. There are no magic words to cheer people up—funerals are not for cheer. They’re for mourning and reflection, for closure and hope.
“I wasn’t sure what to tell them.” Speaking to the terminally ill can also be uncomfortable. Do I reuse the cliché I’ve heard before? Or would it be better to just sit with them? Do I try to remind them of the good times or talk about heaven?
We face many enemies in this world, and few have been defeated. The human race continues to struggle against itself. We struggle against ourselves—our own sinful flesh. The dark, supernatural powers of this world work beyond our reach. On top of that, diseases, hurt, and suffering surround us daily.
And then there’s death, an enemy that makes the powerful feel helpless, an enemy that punches vast holes in the fabric of our lives—holes that may never fully heal this side of heaven. Our enemy, death, has fought against us since the fall into sin. And as long as death has haunted man, man has struggled against it. He’s struggled to defend himself from others, struggled to keep himself healthy, struggled to protect loved ones, and struggled against disease. And death has always won. Sure, death can be delayed. Hospitals can restore us; hospices can rend some comfort and dignity to the dying, but death will always take its due.
Except. Except when God steps in. When God steps in, his enemies melt like wax, they are blown away like smoke (Psalm 68:2). When God steps in, he saves. He took the unyielding force of death and made it submit. Almighty God wrestled death and turned it into the steps to heaven. He created hope where there was none.
He did so with his own death. To save sinners from death, he had to find a sacrifice. And, when no other sacrifice would do, Jesus himself went. He went to surrender himself to death at the hands of wicked men. But instead of lying helpless in the grave, he rose again to crush death, to snap off its sting. His death led to a resurrection, and so will ours. And until we taste our new life, he continues to be the God who also bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19).
And now, knowing how death died, we don’t have to stay silent in the face of death. Grief can’t silence our praise and death can’t strangle our hope. Although our celebration is somewhat muted in the season of Lent, treasure the joy and the victory we find in Christ’s sacrifice.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, conqueror of death, you surrendered yourself to death yet rose again to proclaim your victory. Comfort us with the news of your power and resurrection, that we might find peace in this broken world. Amen.