So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him. . . .
In my ministry work, I’ve met a number of people who dislike funerals. They say that mourning the dead is a negative and distasteful experience. It reminds us that everyone is mortal; no one’s life will go on indefinitely.
A funeral, however, can also express the significance of a person’s life before God and others. Despite their father’s flaws, Jacob’s sons appear to have loved him. They honored him with all the pomp and ceremony of their adopted home in Egypt. But Jacob’s burial in his homeland is also an act of faith: it recalls his trust in God’s promise to give Israel’s descendants a place where they could live securely before God (see Genesis 48:21).
Grief at a funeral appropriately affirms that a person’s life meant something to us and to God. But we do not grieve as people who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Believers who die in the grip of God’s grace die with the hope of living securely before God, and those who mourn have the same hope in Christ.
The good news of the Christian faith is that “death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death points to our helplessness to maintain life as we desire it, but it also recalls the resurrection of Jesus through which sin is forgiven and eternal life is given. May our funerals embrace this greatest of all hopes.
Father, you have said that death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26), and we feel that. May we find hope in Christ and his resurrection always—especially in our grief. Amen.
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