By Joel A. Hess –
Welcome. On behalf of the family of the deceased, I would like to thank you for being here.
You have come to a funeral of sorts this Good Friday, haven’t you? Well, that’s what they say, I suppose.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go to your own funeral?
Zhang Deyang was 66 years old when he decided to stage his own funeral. He arranged it himself, wondering how many would turn up given that he had never married and had no children. There was a particular reason for his concern—in Chinese culture, the dead are said to have needs, and their graves are supposed to be visited regularly to ensure those needs are met. Forty invitees turned up at Deyang’s funeral, along with several hundred others. Yet he wasn’t happy: twenty relatives and friends didn’t show up. “I can’t believe so many relatives and friends don’t care about me,” he was quoted as saying.
Would anyone come to your funeral? What would they say? I’m sure some teary-eyed relative might say something good about you, right? Have you ever been to a funeral where people didn’t say anything nice? Of course not! You’ve got to be nice at a funeral, right? Also, everyone cries at a funeral. So what? They are supposed to. So don’t get a big head. Let’s be honest. If everyone were honest at your funeral, would they give you a grand old eulogy?
We don’t do eulogies in our funeral services at church because we don’t let BS in the church service. Telling great stories about your loved ones is fine at home with a couple of beers. In fact, I encourage it! But not here. If people really knew all you have said and done, what would they really say? If they knew all your thoughts, words, and secret desires that fly through your head throughout the day, what would they say? If they knew that you were pretty stingy with your money, or how just the other day you walked by that kid being bullied in the hallway and pretended not to see? If they knew how you talk to your wife at home when no one is watching, or what you do on your computer when no one is watching? What if God were to speak at your funeral service?
They say that everyone should be able to die with dignity. There is a whole movement called “death with dignity.” Of course, they ironically promote suicide. O, we like that, don’t we? Death with dignity. Will you die with dignity?
No one dies with dignity. We die precisely because we have no dignity! Death is punishment for sin. If you die, that is proof you are a sinner!
Only one man has ever died with dignity: Jesus. This is his funeral service, isn’t it? Yet, what kind of death did Jesus get? It certainly wasn’t dignified! At Jesus’ funeral service, they mocked him. They dressed him up as a king and spat on him. They whipped him forty times. They stole his clothes. They nailed him to a tree gleefully. There was no eulogy praising him. Peter denied even knowing him. Judas betrayed him. Others yelled out, “He saved others, let him save himself if he really is the Son of God!” They threw him on a cross. They treated him like a sinner. A thief. An enemy of the state. When He was dead, they stabbed him in the side to make sure. They happily dragged his body off the cross and threw him in a grave.
Jesus is the sinless one. Jesus is the only one ever to have any dignity! He’s the only one who deserves to have a funeral service with dignity.
So, you have come to a funeral service this Good Friday, huh? However, this is not a funeral service for Jesus. This is a funeral service for you! That’s what Good Friday is all about! It’s your funeral. When Jesus died, He took you with him! All of your sins. All of your foolishness. All of your shame. Everything that was done to him should have been done to you! But it wasn’t. He received it all in your place! All your lack of dignity was laid upon Him. So, from now on, you do die with dignity! But it is not your own dignity; it’s Christ’s.
Paul tells us in chapter 6 of his letter to the Romans that all of us who were baptized into Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried with him, Paul says. He also says in that same chapter, “Our old self was crucified with Him!”
This is your funeral service! You already died! So you don’t need to be afraid of your funeral service when it comes. You don’t need to be afraid of death. Jesus doesn’t stay dead and neither will you! You don’t need to be afraid of what people will say. You don’t need to be afraid of what Satan accuses you of. You’re dead! You already died in Christ! Paul says, “One who has died has been set free from sins!”
Welcome to your funeral! You are free!