Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:17-27 ESV
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. I Corinthians 15:20-26 ESV
Many years ago among the Viking people before they became Christians, they had some interesting burial practices. When a Viking man died, he would be buried, or sometimes burned and then buried, in the ground. He would be buried with his clothes and also some of his personal belongings, and sometimes some horses would be buried with him. A Viking would be buried in a boat or in a wagon. Some people believe that the horses and wagon, or the boat, would be the way the dead man would get to the afterlife, and that people believed his possessions would also go with him. Stones would be placed in a circle or a triangle around his grave, and in Denmark these stones were often laid out in the shape of a ship.
People from all around the world have different practices for burying people who have died, and many of these customs show that they believe in some kind of life after death. But how can anyone be sure of what happens after people die? When Lazarus died, his sisters Mary and Martha were terribly sad. When Jesus came, Martha poured out her sadness to him. She said that if Jesus had been there, their brother wouldn’t have died. Jesus talked to Martha and told her that her brother would live again. Martha believed that there would be a resurrection of God’s people at the end of the world, but Jesus said that he himself was the resurrection and the life. Everyone who believes in him will live again, and in fact will never really die.
Jesus defeated death when he died on the cross and then rose again from the dead. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die. We know that we will be with Jesus in heaven when we die, and then something even more wonderful will happen when the world comes to an end. Jesus will bring our dead bodies out of their grave and make them brand new, and we will live in his heavenly kingdom forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for defeating death for us so that we can have life forever with you. Amen.