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Graveside Service 5

Luke 16

There are certain texts which are traditionally read at the graveside, but I would like to read a text that is not often used as the body is committed to the ground. It is recorded in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

19 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. 20 "And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 "And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame'" (Luke 16:19-24).

As you know, the story goes on, and the rich man receives no comfort or privileges, but only eternal torment. The point which I wish to make from this text has to do with the dramatic contrast which our Lord makes in this story between appearances and reality. To some, the rich man appeared to be right with God, and assured of a place in heaven. His funeral must have been extravagant, in contrast with that of Lazarus. And yet while this man's body went into the ground, his eternal soul went into torment.

The poor man, Lazarus, did not look like a true saint. His clothing was ragged. He ate scraps from the rich man's garbage. The dogs licked his sores. His death and burial were surely ugly. In fact, he may not have had a funeral at all. His body may have been cast onto the garbage heap. But in spite of all the appearances to the contrary, we are told something which no one saw, but which we are to believe as true. When Lazarus died, "he was carried away to Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22a). Sue's death was probably more like that of Lazarus. It was not a pretty sight. But what we should find comfort in as we place her body in the ground is that her soul has already been escorted into the presence of God by the angels. This body, which we commit to the ground, is going to be raised up, transformed, and joined once again to her spirit.

We who are Christian should look at the burial of this earthly body as Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians chapter 15--as the planting of a seed. Sue's body will be raised, but it will not be a body like the one we leave here today. We should gladly set this body aside, looking forward to that day when our bodies will be transformed, like the body of our Lord. What a comfort! What hope! May this comfort and hope be yours as you trust in Jesus Christ.

Related Topics: Funerals