CEMETERIES DON'T TELL ALL THE TRUTH
You’ve driven by a cemetery! You’ve probably visited one. You might have heard them speaking. You haven’t? You would if you listened really hard. You say, “Don’t be silly. Graveyards can’t talk!” Oh, come on, use your imagination! Don’t be in a hurry…listen.
All those graves are speaking.
How about their tones? Happy tones? I’ve heard a few that sounded that way but mostly they have a mournful sound. The younger ones as well, of course, but listen to the really old ones—graves that have been there for hundreds of years. [There’s one down the street from where I used to live in Northern Ireland. If I recall correctly, the man was buried something like fifty years after the KJV was first published in 1611.]
The old graves, the ones with the stones barely able to stand up, weed surrounded and with dates difficult to make out—there the ones with the deepest and most mournful tones. But I’ve noticed that they’re the ones that speak with conviction.
What do the cemeteries and graves say when you pass by or walk around them? I’ve heard them say a lot of things. “You’ll be here too before you know it.” Things like that. Sometimes they all speak at the same time and say the same words and they say, “Dead people stay dead!” I may be wrong here but I think that happens most often when the rain is falling and it’s beginning to drip down the neck of your shirt and a cold breeze ceaselessly whispers.
It’s easy enough for Christians to sing happy songs in a church building and read great stories like the one in John 11. You know the one I’m talking about! Lazarus is bad sick, Jesus is sent for, he finally turns up and says to the girl whose hope for her now dead brother lies in the doctrine of the day of resurrection—“You’re looking at the resurrection!” Jesus in his Father’s name calls Lazarus out of the stench of death and sets him free.
It’s a great story! One of the best!
But Christians need to acknowledge the dirge sung in gloomy tones by graveyards all over the planet where the dead of the ages outnumber the living who are on their way to death.
It’s right to smile and maybe even to laugh as some fine preacher tells the story well. We’re supposed to rejoice in light of the story but we’re not to pretend that Death doesn’t stalk the world [even though we know Someone who is the Lord of Death].
Our teachers need to help us grasp the depths of the Lazarus story. We must be helped to rejoice in the truth of it but we must be helped to reflect on and examine the story from many perspectives. When they are done unpacking the story we’re supposed to be startled, assured, inspired, challenged, strengthened—we need more than information; we need transformation.
We’re not to strut! We’re not to be dismissive of the agony of the human family. Profound suffering, loss and bereavement are sacred places we should enter with reverence. The truth that graveyards tell is truth—though graveyards don’t know as much as they think they know! But death is real and graves, known and unknown, visited and unvisited, speak reality to us! Christians need to realize the power of Death over those without the Story.
In John 12:1-11 we’re told that Lazarus is now sitting at a meal, restored to happy sisters and smiling friends and people believed on Jesus. Then we’re told that some senseless leaders still thought that killing Jesus and Lazarus was the cure for their fears. Jesus delivers Lazarus from the corruption of Death and people without the Story still think that Death is lord. Such is Death’s power.
Tomorrow, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the eighth day and the first, the day of a new beginning, the Resurrection day hosts of people will gather and announce the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ—the many meanings of the death of Jesus Christ. One of those truths is this: Cemeteries don’t tell the whole truth and sometimes they lie!
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.