Four weddings & A Funeral. - Funeral Sermon #1
When it comes to knowing what comes after death, MURRAY FRASER says we should ask the expert. Here’s the full text of a funeral sermon based on John 11:25
One of five sermons for those great preaching occasions
ASK THE EXPERT
I once read a poem about death. And it described death this way. It said that we are like ships. When we die we disappear over the horizon. The ship gets smaller and smaller, – but on the other side, the ship gets bigger and bigger, until it berths on the other shore. Death is a journey.
Others say that’s wrong. When we are buried, that’s the end. We cease to exist. The curtain falls. The full time siren sounds. The game’s over.
Some will tell you that we come back to earth in another life form. If we’ve behaved ourselves we’ll come back as someone better, if we misbehave, we may come back in another life form, such as a beetle, or a dog.
Others look for answers from those who have died on the operating table and been resuscitated. There has been a lot of research into this. Kerry Packer for example technically died, and he now tells us there’s nothing on the other side.
But he’s rather the exception. Most people report something. Typically they report a sensation of hovering above their bed, and watching the nurses and doctors work on their bodies. They are kind of detached from this life. And they report seeing a bright light. Some report seeing a place that they reckon must be heaven. Sounds great. But an American cardiologist has just written a book about others who report bad experiences.
Well who’s right? It’s one of those questions that nobody can speak about with much authority. Because no-one has ever come back from the dead to tell us about it. Even those who’ve apparently died may not be of much help either. In fact, some argue that these people haven’t actually died, that there’s some physiological explanation for the light they see, something like the body shutting down.
So who’s got the answers? I reckon we need answers from someone who has been dead long enough for there to be no question that he died. Not someone who had a near death experience for a minute or two, but someone who was crucified, dead and buried. Stone cold dead for three days. I’d be interested to hear what he had to say.
Jesus fits the bill. And to show it wasn’t make believe, He appeared to more than 500 witnesses after his resurrection. And he had enough credibility that many of these witnesses died defending their belief that they saw him risen from the dead.
At this point you may feel like turning off, and saying he’s going to ram it down our throats. I’m not going to do that. Its not up to me to prove it to you. I can’t do that. No-one can. But I want to suggest that you owe it to yourself to check out what Jesus said about life and death.
You can test the claims of Jesus for yourself.
All the other theories will only be proved when you die. Only then will you find out whether you’ve been sold a lemon, and then its too late. But you can test what Jesus had to say on this earth, and discover if its true on this earth, before you die. It makes a lot of sense. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Its a big claim. Here’s a bloke who actually says, if you trust in me, you will not die. The body might stop operating, but you will live with me forever in heaven.
What does the word “believe” mean? It means to trust. Trust and believe were the same word when the bible was first written. Friends, Jesus is the expert about death. When it comes to death, he says you can trust me. Because one thing is clear – our only hope of heaven is Jesus. He died so we could be forgiven. He died to open the door to heaven, and close the door to hell.
But it’s no good just knowing these things. Its like a person in trouble on the water. They see a life raft two meters away. It can save them. It’s there. They believe it’s there. But it doesn’t do any good unless the person comes to the life raft and comes on board. Friends, come on board with Jesus. You may believe him. Now trust in him. Trust that his death can save you from the judgment. In other words, respond. Become his follower.
What does that mean? I’ve spoken of coming on board with Jesus, of being His follower. It means that we turn our lives over to God. It means we were heading along this way in life, and we change direction, and start to live life God’s way.
It’s simply being honest. It’s saying that we aren’t perfect. My wife can tell you that about me, and we’re all in the same boat. And therefore we need forgiveness. We need to turn back to God. That’s the choice.
Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Murray Fraser is the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Walcha, NSW