It may sound a little strange or morbid, but I enjoy preaching at funerals. Of course, I hate seeing friends, family, and church members leave us behind. But some unchurched family members and friends may hear about God’s love and the reasons for the hope that is in us. In these raw moments, mourners tend to consider their own mortality and give serious thought to the claims of Christ.
Jesus expressed a similar sentiment when Lazarus died and his disciples saw the resurrection and the life in action: “Lazarus has died. I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe” (John 11:14–15, CSB). We cannot know the joy of resurrection without experiencing the pangs of death and loss.
Funerals are opportunities to rehearse the drama of our eschatology, to practice the experience of hope before others. When I stand before a coffin or an urn, I proclaim that the resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of our own future resurrection. Jaroslav Pelikan’s aphorism always comes to mind: “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.”
Books on the Resurrection typically emphasize questions about the historical credibility of the Gospel accounts, and with good reason. The apostle Paul staked everything on this one event happening in time and space: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17, CSB). Academic studies usually try convincing readers that Jesus was raised from the dead while having little to say about why we should care.
Regent College theology professor W. Ross Hastings flips this script in his newest release, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Exploring ...1
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