Sadly over the last few months I have been to more than my share of funerals. Over that time I have been struck yet again by the difference the Gospel makes.
All funerals or memorial services are terribly hard occasions, because they are a time for grief. That is entirely appropriate as there is nothing more appropriate than to cry and mourn the loss of a loved one.
However, the mourning and the grieving at a Christian funeral is different. Yes, we grieve our loss, but we grieve knowing the certain hope that we will see our brother or sister in Christ again.
No passage of Scripture captures that more wonderfully than 1 Thessalonians 4. The Apostle Paul was writing to Christians who had lost loved ones, and this was his word of comfort to them:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
For people without Christ, death is the great mystery. It is the end and it is something to be feared as there is no hope beyond the grave. However, for the Christian, our grief is tempered by our certain hope for the future, a hope that comes from believing in Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul goes on to say:
We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Jesus’ death and resurrection gives those who believe in him a certain hope for life after death. That is why we grieve differently to other people. It is at a funeral more than at any other time that I praise God for my Lord and Saviour, because no other philosophy or belief system has anything to say at the graveside.
That is the hope of the Gospel. What a comfort and joy it is to know that hope!