There’s more because Jesus lives

I’ve never done a funeral or a memorial service where the ones who are mourning their deceased loved one have said, “That’s all over. We’ll never see them again.” Some have maybe thought that, but what they say, at least what I’ve heard, are expressions of hope that their loved one’s soul is alive, in a better place and one day there will be reunions.

We don’t want to believe life ends at the grave. We cling to the hope that relationships don’t end when the heart stops beating.

There was an old beer commercial where some guys were sitting on a boat, drinking beer and, supposedly having a good time. One of them said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” What a sad thing if that was true. How tragic it would be if some brief and quickly-over good times were the best we ever experienced.

Even if we have gotten to enjoy some great experiences in this life, we still hope there is something more. We hope the grave is not the end.

The resurrection of Jesus gives hope that we need and hope that is real. We don’t hope in what we do, but in what Jesus has done. We know there is more to this life because Jesus conquered the grave. He took on death when He gave His life on the cross for our sins. On Resurrection morning He won the victory when He was raised to life again. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (I Corinthians 15:20).

We are like people standing at the door of a dark cave. We know we have to enter but we are scared because we don’t know what it is like. But then Jesus comes and says He has gone in the cave and made it out the other side. He offers to take our hand and never let go and lead us all the way. We don’t fear the dark unknown when we are holding on by faith to the all-knowing Lord.

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32). It really happened. Jesus was definitely dead, but on Easter He was raised to life. He was the most alive person on the planet, and He remains alive today.

John Lennon wrote, “Imagine there’s no heaven.” Even though the song is popular, I don’t think many people really want to imagine that. It is far better to follow the encouragement of another songwriter: “I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by Your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when Your face is before me.”

When I got the call that Ruth Tollefson had died, I was listening to that song, “I Can Only Imagine.” I was thankful that because of Ruth’s faith in Jesus, I knew it wasn’t over. Because Jesus lives, I got to imagine the joyful, peaceful life Ruth was getting to experience right then. Our hope is beyond our imagination, but it’s not a figment of our imagination, because Jesus has risen from the dead.

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Thankful Jesus got thirsty

I prefer to be a caregiver, rather than needing someone to take care of me. That might sound kind of noble, but really part of the reason is pride. It’s humbling to be needy and have to ask for help.

Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Kings. He doesn’t need a thing. But as He hung on the cross, He willingly became someone in need. He was thirsty. Extreme, painful thirst was one of the things that happened to those who were being crucified. There was Jesus on the cross, true God and also true man, humbly admitting His need and asking for someone to give Him something to drink. “Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’” (John 19:28).

It was humbling what He received when He made His request, and it sounds a little disgusting. A sponge soaked in a jar of wine vinegar and stuck on a stick. Who knows what all was in that jar? Who knows where that sponge and stick had been and what it had been used for? The Creator of water, the pure Son of God gets what was probably a stinky sponge on a dirty stick stuck in His face.

In a way that nasty sponge represents what little the world can offer to try to quench the thirst of people’s souls.

Earlier in the Gospel of John we read of another time Jesus was thirsty. He was sitting beside a well and asked a woman, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7). She was considered part of the wrong ethnic group and was surprised to get the request. Jesus’ thirst was physical. Her thirst was much deeper. She was thirsty for hope and forgiveness and love. Jesus told her He had living water. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:13-14).

Jesus humbled Himself and became thirsty, so that the thirst of your soul could be quenched. All the world offers is a fancier looking version of that sponge. It only satisfies our thirst for a little while. Because Jesus became thirsty and suffered and died on the cross for our sins, our thirst for forgiveness can be quenched. Our thirst for love can be satisfied in the love Jesus demonstrated by what He endured on the cross for us.

Let’s have pancakes

At Billy Graham’s funeral one of his daughters shared about a time when her father showed her what God’s love is like. She had gotten into a marriage her parents had warned her against. It turned out to be a disaster. She was ashamed and embarrassed as she drove to her parents’ home. As she got to the house her dad was standing out front. He came to her as she got out of the car and gave her a hug and said, “Welcome home.” There wasn’t condemnation or a judgmental “We told you so.” There was grace, love and forgiveness.

Her story reminded me of a time I received a welcome home. When I was an elementary-school-age kid, a friend and I were playing in the woods and lost track of time. As soon as we got in the door at his house his mom started yelling at us that we were late and she told me I better get home right away. I ran home, scared and feeling guilty. As soon as I got in the door I told my mom how sorry I was. I can still picture the smile on her face as she cut my apology short. She told me it was no problem. I was only a couple minutes late. Those things happen. “Let’s have pancakes.” I was thankful to live in a home where, instead of being yelled at, I was greeted with an invitation to have pancakes.

Jesus told the story of the prodigal son who squandered his father’s inheritance, made a mess of his life, and then finally came to his senses and headed home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). It’s the only time in the Bible God is described as running. He doesn’t run from things. He doesn’t run because He is late and in a hurry. He runs to greet His children and lovingly welcome them home.