Sleeping At A Funeral
Attending a funeral is a sad occasion. A loved one has died, families are filled with grief and hearts break for the loss of companionship. The act of dying is the act of living. Birth brings life yet in the moment of life, death looms over the horizon. Most people live as if there is no death but all men die. The paradox is found in the reality. Customs vary from culture to culture in the manner of grieving and burial but the single kernel of truth to every civilization is the reality a loved one has died. For the child of God the truth has always been that death becomes sleep. Belief in life after death has been in the mind of righteous people because of the hope of an eternity with God. Death does not have the pain of sorrow as deeply when we realize our loved one sleeps to awaken to life eternal.
News came to Jesus His friend Lazarus was sick. He delayed two days before beginning his journey to Bethany. When the time came to leave, He told His disciples that Lazarus was sleeping and Jesus would go and wake him. The disciples knew Lazarus was very sick and assumed the Lord was saying Lazarus was just sleeping and would get better soon. Jesus plainly told them Lazarus had died. Arriving at the tomb, He called forth Lazarus from the dead and the man came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes. A powerful miracle was done of raising a man from the dead after four days. There was an unseen miracle the disciples had missed earlier.
Death is sleep. After a long days labor, the body is tired and worn. In creation, God has formed the body in such a fashion that sleep is necessary. Everyone must sleep at some time. There is no choice. The body has also been created to die. In the Garden of Eden, the second tree in the midst of the garden was the tree of Life. Death comes because we are separated from the tree of Life. Sin brought about the penalty of death and Jesus took that sting away when He rose from the dead. Man begins in life, dies and then lives again. Resurrection to life is the joy of God’s promises. If there is eternal life after death then dying is nothing more than going to sleep and awakening in the morning of joy. Like the physical body, life brings weariness, toil and sorrow. Death for the child of God is going to sleep and awakening in glory. There is no fear in sleep because it brings rest. Death is not feared because it means rest is coming.
The view of death as sleep helps to bring comfort to a family. It also gives hope to the child of God knowing that death is closing the eyes awakening to see the Father. There are many who will never experience death. At the coming of the Son of God death will be taken away. Those who remain on the earth at the coming of the Lord will immediately be swept into glory and eternal rest. Until that time, we shall all sleep. Lord come quickly.
Why dost thou look to have rest here since this is not thy resting place? Thy full rest must be in heavenly things. (Thomas A Kempis, Imitation of Christ, 1441)