The Death of Death in the Resurrection
A Memorial Service Homily
Friends, in the beginning of time, God sang the world into existence. When there was chaos, darkness, and void, the Spirit of God hovered over creation, the Word came forth as light, and creation began to breathe for the first time. Creation’s first breath was a breath of praise to Yahweh her Creator. Yahweh looked at everything He had created and He said with great delight: “It is Very Good!”
When God created mankind, He knew that His image-bearers were made for glory and honor, and beauty for they would be His holy representatives on earth. They would articulate and express praise, the very thing they were designed to do. Man was created in God’s image not for self-exaltation, but to declare the praises of His Creator. But that loud song of praise in the garden began to fade in Genesis 3. Man became mute. Creation began to revert to its incomplete beginning. But God said: “This will not be!” And He promised that the Great Seed of the woman would become the Great Crusher of evil. He promised that the Word would become flesh and that He would dwell among mankind. To this end the Creator becomes a part of creation; the upholder of the entire universe takes on the grief of humanity. He now weeps and mourns over death, even the death of a friend named Lazarus. Like Jesus, we do not celebrate death, we mourn in death. We grieve over death, as Jesus grieved. Death is the sting that leaves an indelible mark in the human soul. We grieve today because death overcame a righteous saint who was united to Christ.
And yet…even in the midst of death, Jesus declares: “I am the resurrection and the life!” Death is not the center piece of the furniture of creation. Death lies as a visible piece, but not the central piece. Death, the last enemy exists by God’s command, but it is there in the great house of creation, that death is overcome by the brightness of the King of Life. All things are under His sovereign control. He commands the first breath and the last breath. He directs and guides the steps of a righteous man, so in the end the Psalmist declares, “Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of his saints.” It was Yahweh who brought life and it is Yahweh who concludes life. But for the saint of God, in Christ, death is not a portal to more death. In Christ, death is a portal to more life.
The promise of redemption, victory, restoration and life is fulfilled when the Son of God stepped on death and crushed it. Helplessly, death looked up only to see the mighty and powerful Son of God come crashing down upon it, and to hear Him declaring with a victory chant, “Where is now your sting; and where is now your victory?” The good news of the Gospel is that this promise of the victorious Christ and His resurrection is our promise if we believe in the eternal Son of God.
For the saint, death is not pointless or fruitless. The life of the saint is a witness and evidence that living is only true living in Christ and dying is only true dying in Christ. The death of the saint is the sure proclamation of the gospel to those who do not believe, because dying in Christ is salvation, but apart from trusting in the risen Lord, death is condemnation. The death of a saint becomes a sure sign that death is dead in the resurrection because Christ has conquered death by overcoming the grave; but it is also a sure sign that at the end of human history, the world will know that death has sung its last refrain, and life will sing a new song forever. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him; may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead. Amen.