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After the funeral

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days…  Martha [a sister of Lazarus] said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”…. Now when Mary [another sister of Lazarus] came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her also crying, he was strongly determined in his spirit and greatly troubled in himself. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “This one who opened the eyes of the blind - was he not able to provide so that this man also would not have died?” Then Jesus, strongly determined again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” John 11: 17-44
 

The funeral is over. The coffin is sealed. The mourners are gathered in the cemetery. What do I say to those who remain alive – and who are crying? What words do I use when speaking to the bereaved?

Earlier I’ve noticed – yet again – the ageing process in others……. I try not to think that they’ve looked at me with identical thoughts. Decay all around.
 
 
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‘Death is a great fact that all acknowledge but very few seem to realise.’ (J C Ryle, writer and preacher, 1816-1900)

In front of me are the two sisters whose brother has died. I know them well – very well. I wait to shake hands with them both. The first sister says to the man several steps in front of me, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  The second sister says the same, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Other friends standing nearby join in and, looking towards that man in front of me, say, This one who opened the eyes of the blind - was he not able to provide so that this man also would not have died?”    

Why are they all putting such pressure on this man? Was he the deceased’s doctor? How could they be sure his doctor would have saved him from death? Aren’t they putting too much upon this man, whoever he is?

Now they’re all crying -this man as well - although his crying is different, quieter, as though he really feels the deep pain of death…. Maybe he does. In fact, he’s greatly troubled in his whole being. All eyes are on him now because, despite his quiet tears, he’s taking command. He’s purposeful and determined. Who on earth is he?

“Open the coffin”, he says. One of the sisters protests and says what we’re all thinking. If that coffin is opened vile smells of corruption will escape. Surely they won’t do it….

The man says to her in a voice we can all hear, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they open the coffin.

At all other funerals I’ve been to it’s the minister who prays at the grave-side. This man, in sorrow and tears but strongly determined, decides to lead us all in prayer, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

I, for one, can’t believe this is happening to me.

The man commands the deceased by name with a loud voice, “Come out here.” My dear friend, who had died, comes out, his hands and feet bound with linen shroud, and his face wrapped with a cloth. The man says to the nearby undertakers, “Set him free, and let him go.” Can it be that this man, by dying himself one day, has living power over death itself?

 
 
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'The only real answer to death is life.’ (Derek Prime, writer and preacher, 1931-)

That changes everything for me. This man can unlock the grave. He was so right when I heard him say to one of the sisters, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Some at the funeral decide that this man must die. They're right. I see them go away from him.

 
Richard Syvret

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