The Christian’s Comfort in Death

John 19:25, …but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

As Jesus hung on the Cross, beaten to a pulp, the Roman soldiers and citizens mocked Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35). And, “If You are King of the Jews, save Yourself!” (Luke 23:37). Of course, from a worldview that does not know who Christ is and why He came, people would demand He save Himself since He apparently saves others. They didn’t realise Jesus was dying for their sins, even their present scoffing. In stark contrast to this, Jesus’ family, extended family, and friends were silent in deep sorrow. Jesus told them He needed to die and then be resurrected, and they were in unbelief after His resurrection not because they were too ignorant to believe, but because they didn’t understand His prophecy (Luke 18:34). So when He appeared to them after His resurrection, suddenly it made sense.

Some of us may know what it’s like to watch a loved one suffer and die. Fortunately, I haven’t had anyone close to me die, but I know I will inevitably experience it. After all, my parents won’t live forever. Even though we recognise death is inevitable, we never expect it, and that doesn’t make it any easier either. Even if a loved one is diagnosed terminally ill with cancer and with an inoperable tumor and know they’re going to die soon, we never expect the emotional toll it takes on us, or even the spiritual toll.

Yet it is these precise situations when Jesus is nearest His people. This is especially true for our loved ones who have died as believers. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). When a loved one dies as a Christian, we have the ultimate comfort from Christ because as soon as they depart from this world, they are now with Christ (see Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:23-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Even if a loved one dies as an unbeliever, Christ can still give us consolation. Not the kind where we know they’re with Him (since they cannot be as an unbeliever), but the kind in which He invites us to come to Him when we are “heavy laden” and need to find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

But as Christians, we have the ultimate comfort in that as Christ’s life took on God’s wrath on our behalf, so we now receive life through Him. When a loved one dies as a believer, we have the comfort that we’ll see them again in Heaven. Even if we ourselves are sick and dying—and we’re all dying—we have the ultimate comfort that we’ll see our Lord as soon as this life is over because of the life that comes from Him.

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