Sermon- A Redemptive Outlook on Death
Today we come to celebrate the life of ________________
We come to not only remember his/her life but also the promises the Lord gives which pertains to eternal life… From the biblical perspective, human death is an evil and a tragedy. It came into the world with sin but it will not be part of the world in God’s new creation. We all know that we will die unless the Lord returns first, and we anticipate that those whom we love will die too, some of them before we do. Every death is a reminder of the tragedy of sin, and particularly that we await a time when death shall be no more.
As I prepared for this funeral sermon, I came across this sermon which pertains to our theme…
A Mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" The mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap. The mouse proclaimed the warning. "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The Chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."
The Mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The Pig sympathized, but said, I am very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured for you are in my Prayers." The Mouse turned to the Cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!" The Cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse, I am sorry for you, but it’s no skin off my nose." So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone. That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.
The Farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake was furious and bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a severe fever. Everyone knows that you treat a fever with a fresh chicken soup. So, the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient. But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and relatives came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig. The Farmer’s Wife did not get well and she died. So many people came to the funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them. The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness. And, Said, "It’s too bad that no one took what I said seriously. And because of that, there is no silver lining to this funeral.”
Thankfully, we don’t have a funeral today without a silver lining. God has not allowed death to be the end of the human story.
I. Death Comes by Not Taking God’s Word Seriously
As we see in the illustration, the mouse gave a warning that could have saved the farm animals. God also gave Adam and Eve a warning which was meant to save them from physical and spiritual death.
But we see that although we as humans chose death, God had plans to reverse the curse of Death so that death could have a silver lining.
The Word became flesh, taking our nature upon himself, and thereby subjecting himself to the possibility of physical death. Paul beautifully spells out a stark contrast in Romans 5: the sin of Adam brought death to all who are in him, all those naturally born as his descendants; but death had no claim upon Jesus because of any personal sin on his part, he voluntarily laid down his life, bearing in his own body the consequences of human sin, and bringing eternal life to all who are united to him by faith. All who believe in him are united with God in his death, but also in his resurrection and in his ascension.
II. Death Causes Grief but we grieve with Hope
For believers in Christ, death has a very different significance than it does for those who die un-reconciled with God. Consequently, Paul told the Thessalonians, we do “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Yet we do grieve, even though our grief is eased by our hope of the resurrection of those who die in faith, a resurrection which will complete their transformation into the perfection of God’s image, in body as well as soul. Jesus himself wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35), and he did not rebuke Mary and Martha for their grief at the loss of their brother. He reminded Martha that Lazarus would rise again, and she assured Jesus that she knew and believed this (John 11:24-27), but she had a legitimate sense of loss.
When we come to the funeral of a believer in Christ, I think it is right that we should mourn their death. Death is not natural to human being, though it has become a necessary reality of our fallen condition. Death reminds us of sin, and it reminds us that all who die must then face God as their holy Judge (Hebrews 9:27). Death is the end of our opportunity to be reconciled with God, and so it is a very sobering event. So funerals can have a beneficial role in our sanctification. They challenge all of us who are still alive to ponder our own inevitable death, and to prepare ourselves to meet God’s judgment. When we have reason to believe that the one who died was reconciled to God in Christ, we do not grieve hopelessly. The sting has been taken out of their death by Christ’s resurrection.
III. Funerals can be a Time of Reflective Celebration
And so we need not face our own deaths with fear, but the prospect should keep us spiritually wakeful, trusting in the righteousness of Christ on our behalf, and always striving to move forward in obedience, lest we fall away. As we mourn the death of a loved one in Christ, we have hope for their future life, and we can be hopeful of our own life after death as well, when God’s Spirit prompts us to call God “Father.”
Of course, at the funeral of a believer in Christ, we will have cause to give God thanks for his grace in their lives. I am often inspired and encouraged when I attend the funerals of people whose lives have been a blessing because of God’s life within them. There is much to celebrate in such cases, including the knowledge that death in Christ is actually better than continued life in this body (Philippians 1:20-23). But we need to beware of the death denying spirit of our age. When people have no hope of life after death, the life lived by the deceased is all they have to celebrate, and I think that this informs the approach taken in secular funerals. Consequently, we should be critical of this perspective as we plan Christian funerals. Life is a good gift from God, and we have no right to take it away prematurely. We can and should be thankful for the life that God has given to a person who has died, but we should not shrink from acknowledging the tragedy of death, or grieving the loss of our relationship here and now with the one who has died.
Let’s mourn the loss, but grieve with hope. In the meantime, let’s take the opportunity that a funeral provides to review our own lives in light of the awareness of our own impending death. Let us persevere in the obedience of faith, knowing that it is those who stand firm to the end who will be saved (Matthews 24:13), trusting in God to finish in us the good work that he has begun (Philippians 1:6).