Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | June 27, 2012

Meditation on Colossians 2:13 (Christian Funeral of Ray Evans)

The Gospels record Jesus encountering death in a hands-on way four times.  Once, Jesus entered a town called Nain.  A funeral procession met Him.  The funeral was for a woman’s only son.  Luke says, When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’  Then He raised the boy back to life.

Another time, a father named Jairus came to Jesus and pleaded for the health of His sick daughter.  On the way to help her, the girl died.  When told to not bother coming and confronted by a crowd of mourners, Jesus said, The child is not dead but asleep.  He entered the house and raised her back to life.

Near the end of His ministry, Jesus heard that His friend, Lazarus had fallen ill.  After a brief delay, Jesus says, Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.  Arriving at another funeral Jesus does what He promised.  At the tomb of Lazarus He cries out:  Lazarus, come out! and raised Lazarus back to life.

Finally, Jesus faced His own death.  He spoke of it during His ministry.  Early on He said to the crowd who questioned His right to cleanse the temple of the money changers, “You can, and you will, destroy this temple,” meaning His body.  He told the disciples, “We’re going to Jerusalem and there I’ll die.”  One time He said, “I will give my life as a ransom for many.”  In Gethsemane, as He sweat blood and talked with His Father about His impending death, He said, “Your will be done.”    Yet, along the way He consistently said, “I will rise from the dead.”

In other words, Jesus approached, handled, and talked about death differently than we often do.  And He wasn’t just talking about death in some singular fashion that only He can do because He’s God.  He radically redefined death for us.

Death began, you’ll remember, as a punishment for sin.  God told Adam that if Adam ate the forbidden fruit, then Adam would die.  Paul reaffirmed that when He said that sin entered the world through Adam and with sin came death.  So death is bad, terrible, horrible, irreversible, and inevitable.  Along with taxes, it’s the only thing you can count on.

But then Jesus comes and calls death a sleep.  Jesus comes and starts waking people up from the dead.  Jesus comes, dies Himself, and when He dies tombs break open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  Jesus comes, dies, and three days later rises again from the dead.  In other words, there’s something different about death because of Jesus.

What did Jesus change?  He didn’t change the fact that people get hurt, sick, and eventually, for one reason or another, die.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.  He didn’t suddenly eliminate the thing that caused death to enter the world, that is, sin.  We still wrestle with sin in our life.  He didn’t abolish hell.  We all wait for death and fear hell.

What did Jesus change?  By taking on our flesh, by living perfectly under God’s law, by dying as our sin, by being buried as the chief of sinners, though He had committed no sin, Jesus brought life to those who believe in Him.  And we know that Ray was among those who believed in Christ:  baptized as an infant, confirmed as a teen, a hearer of the Word, a receiver of the Lord’s Supper, God worked His miracle in Ray’s heart.

Ray was a faithful reader of his Meditations.  On the last day that I saw him, this was the Meditations text assigned, from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins.  Here’s that radical redefinition of death.  We think mostly of the death of our bodies.  God thinks mostly of the death of our souls in sin.  Because of sin we were walking dead men.  Because of Christ and through faith in Christ, God made us, God made Ray, alive with Christ, forgiven.

A week before He died, Ray confessed that faith to me as He pleaded with the Lord to have mercy on him, a sinner, for the sake of Christ.  I placed on Ray’s lips one last time the body of Christ given for Him and the blood of Christ shed for Him, for His forgiveness.  And once more, God forgave Ray his sins.  Once more God radically redefined death in Ray’s life.  And then a week later, Ray fell asleep in the Lord.  But as soon as Ray’s eyes closed in the sleep of death, the eyes of his soul opened before the throne of God and Ray saw, and sees, the Lamb at the center of the throne, Jesus, Jesus who washed Ray clean in His blood.  That’s death radically redefined.  For Ray, and by the grace of God, for you who were also dead in your sins.  In and with Christ, and only in and with Christ, you are alive, like Ray, now and forever.  Amen.

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