1 Corinthians 15:20 (ESV)
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
It’s difficult to put into words how it feels for the owners of an apple orchard when a bumper crop of apples is just beginning to ripen. You could ask the owners, of course. But even they would find it difficult to come up with what to say. What they feel in their veins is a strange brew of adrenalin, purpose, anticipation, and joy. And that indescribable sensation begins every time they spot those first few ripened apples on those first few trees. The core of such a thrill is in knowing that this beautiful, ripened fruit is only the first of many and many more to come.
Keep that in mind the next time you are in a funeral procession. Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself accompanying the remains of a Christian to the cemetery.
As you stand at the gravesite, look at the casket or the urn. Then look at the row upon row of tombstones around you. Think of all the Christians whose bodies quietly rest beneath the green lawn on which you stand. Even though, in that moment, you are looking at that place through the eyes of grief, remember how your God sees it. For those who die in the Lord, a cemetery is not a final resting place. Not at all.
Rather, a cemetery for the Christian is more like an orchard. Not only is it like an orchard, it is like an orchard poised and pulsating with anticipation and joy. For the reality is that Jesus Christ, has already risen from the grave, His body glorious and perfect.
Because He has already conquered sin and death through His own death on the cross, we know that His resurrection is only the first of many and many more to come.
And so, do we grieve when death comes? Of course. But never forget that underneath even our grief there is that wonderful pulse of anticipation and joy.
It is there because Jesus lives!
Dear Lord, the next time the death of a dear Christian brings us grief, remind us that underneath our grief there lies the vibrant joy of what soon will come. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.