We’ve gathered this afternoon to celebrate the life of Kim Meyer.
As we celebrate, however, there is a sense of sorrow and sadness hovering over everything we say and do. As you all know, we’re not here remembering someone who is sitting in the other room watching us. Kim passed away. She is not here. And that makes us sad, very sad.
But is that all there is? We’re here one minute and gone the next? Never to be heard from again? The Bible gives us hope—a sure and certain hope. This hope is hope in the resurrection from the dead. But it is not empty hope, pie in the sky. It is based on a real historical fact. Let me take a few minutes to explain it. Here are a few passages that describe Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” (Mt. 20:17-19)
Right after he said this, they entered Jerusalem to crowds of people praising him and shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! ’Hosanna in the highest! (Mt. 21:9)
A week later, when he was on the cross, dying, “those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross that we may see and believe.”
Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him. (Mk. 15:29-3).
Then, after they took his dead body off the cross, those who orchestrated his crucifixion, “…gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard (Mt. 27:62-66).
After three days the Bible says, “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you” (Mt 28:1-7).
Then, years later, Paul has this to say about whether there was any historical validation for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Cor. 15:1-8).
To recap, then, what we have is that just before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus said he was going to be crucified, die and rise from the dead. He was crucified, on trumped up charges, died, and rose from the dead three days later. Over 500 people saw him alive after being dead. Many of these also saw him dead. In fact, enough people saw him dead that no one, at the time, doubted whether he had died. And at the time, no one who knew, denied that he had risen, at least in a factual way (they didn’t produce his body, though they had put a stone and a guard on the tomb for that very reason).
Whatever else we believe, we believe that a man in the first century suffered capital punishment, for crimes he didn’t actually commit, was laid in a tomb with guards and a huge stone over the exit, and rose from the dead anyway.
About now, if I’ve not lost you already, you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with Kim. I’m getting there, hold on a minute.
There was a phrase in the passage I read from 1 Corinthians I would like to talk about for a minute. “Christ died for our sins.” What in the world does that mean?
Suppose your friend was mugged and had his car stolen, and in the process, his wife was killed. Suppose, he caught the fellow who had done this heinous crime and was about to bludgeon him about the head and shoulders with great glee. Now suppose the perpetrator begged your friend to allow him to do nice things for him so that his good things could overcome the evil that he had previously done. Would there be anything good that he could do that would be equal to killing your friend’s wife? What could possibly be good enough to restore what he took? Nothing. The idea that good and evil are on some kind of scale, where our good deeds outweigh our evil is an impossible scenario—especially when the person we are doing evil toward is God himself. The Bible says we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death. There is nothing we can do to do enough good things to counter the evil we have done against God. No amount of good can get rid of the evil you have done toward God
Now suppose you offered to be punished in his place. That would be nice of you. But if your friend were to kill you, instead of the one who actually did the crime, would his anger toward the criminal be assuaged? Or would justice be served? I don’t think so. Killing you would not be just. Killing you would have nothing to do with the other person’s crime. Instead, your friend would feel guilty for killing you, and he would still be angry with the criminal.
But what if you were related to the criminal? Suppose you are his leader, his head and representative? Now suppose, just before your friend began beating up your relation, you offered to take the criminal’s place as his representative. This would solve all the problems. And in fact, this is what the bible says happened when Jesus died, “for our sins.”
Jesus is our High Priest. A priest is one who represents God to men and men to God. In Christ, God became a man, and represented God to us. On the cross, Jesus represented us to God. In representing men to God, Jesus died in our place, took the punishment we deserved, and turned God’s wrath away from us. Then he rose from the dead to prove it all was true.
The death we owed, because of our rebellion against God, Jesus experienced as our representative. The Father raised him from the dead to proclaim to all the world that he accepted Jesus sacrifice. In addition, Jesus’ resurrection was the first resurrection, as everyone who believes in him will also one day be raised from the dead. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).
What do we need to do to be a part of all this? Simply believe in him. How do we know if we believe? We follow after Jesus. The Bible calls this becoming a disciple. To become a disciple we lay down our lives, take up our own cross (die to our desires and self-centered lives), and imitate Jesus.
What does all this have to do with Kim Meyer? A few months before she passed away, Kim believed what I’ve just explained to you, and gave her life to Jesus—lock stock and barrel. Her body is in that urn in the ground, but she is dancing with the angels. She did not die, to stay dead. She died to rise and live eternally with Jesus. So, we are not here celebrating only her life on this earth, we are also celebrating her graduation from this life to a life free from tears, from fears, from pain and suffering. He will wipe away all our tears. Joy abounds. She is face to face with her savior.
Death does not permanently separate those who believe in Jesus Christ. If you want to be with Kim again—come to Jesus! If you want your sin and rebellion against God to be forgiven and wiped out—come to Jesus! If you want joy and peace in his life—come to Jesus! Come to Jesus Christ and live!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!