By: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.
Like all eulogies, they are designed to tell in reasonably short way the deceased person’s life story. Most eulogies basically summarize both the facts and the features of a person’s life, how they interacted with their family members, and the community they involved themselves within. Well, today I have the terrible responsibility of attempting to distinctly and accurately describing the life of someone who quite literally changed the human condition in his own time….for the last 2,100 years…and for that matter….the rest of eternity.
I want all of us for a moment to let our imaginations wonder back to the time Jesus was hanging on the cross and was just about to die. Jesus has just cried out,
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” “And when he had cried with the loud voice, he yielded up his spirit.”
Directly after this final breath of words the Bible tells us a few remarkable things transpired.
The Bible reads….
“And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’
The very first thing to note about the life of Jesus is that from the time he was born until the time he physically died he profoundly interacted with people. He intentionally connected himself with their lives, their current struggles and their future hopes of life’s divine possibilities.
The second thing to remember is how he continually challenged what was considered to be normal and culturally comfortable. As the Bible tells us, His burial was certainly no different.
You would have expected that some of the family of Jesus would have come forward to bury him. Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that His mother, Mary, would have been there to bury her son? However, the Bible is painfully clear she was not there. How about his closest followers; Peter, James and John? Shouldn’t they have been there? The truth is, they were not there either. In fact, it’s part of the tragedy of His death that the only two people who came forward to bury Jesus were two secret disciples.
If that wasn’t enough of a tragic response to His death, it is specifically stated in Jewish tradition that any person judged to be a blasphemer, which Jesus was assumed to be, should have been buried in an obscure and secret manner. He was to be given no honor….no respect…no distinction of any kind.
Jesus, however, was not buried in some sort of secretive and hidden way.
If you will remember, I mentioned earlier that only two SECRET SERVANTS OF CHRIST took care of him and honored him after Jesus’ death. A rich man, the first secret servant, named Joseph of Arimathaea, came forward, a member of the Grand Council of the Sanhedrin, together with the second secret servant, a famous and revered teacher in Israel, Nicodemus, the man who had previously came to Jesus in the dead of the night searching for great answers of life and God, and these two gave our Lord Jesus Christ not just any old funeral service….NO….they provided a royal burial.
Why did they risk so much for Jesus? Because he touched their lives in personal….profound….life altering ways.
Here are two men apparently who had the same difficulty, the same weakness. Neither one of them could make a definitive personal confession of faith toward Jesus during his earthly life. And yet, they were so moved by their experiences with him they were not only able but willing to provide an honor befitting a great leader of God’s wisdom and grace.
The fact is, because of their open honoring of Jesus they risked much! It probably cost them a great deal more than many of the others who did make a forthright testimony for him while he still walked on this earth.
Jesus had a way of treating people that lasted long after they were in His actual presence. He treated people with kindness. He treated people with dignity. He treated people with grace and humility. He treated people with an understanding and acceptance that reached well beyond current day norms. Jesus made a difference in people’s lives…even when he was no longer there. And he is doing the same thing to this very day!
The Apostle Paul says in Romans, chapter 6, that when we believe in the Lord Jesus, we have been buried with Him, to have died with him, and to have been raised together with him. In other words, it is part of the humiliation of Jesus that all BELIEVERS ARE TO SHARE….It connects us….it prompts us….it compels us to humility before the God and finally it demands our boldness in His service.
When anyone is eulogized, the person giving the eulogy hopes to bring to light the reality of their life and to maybe….just maybe…help others to be inspired by their life. The best most of us can hope for is that beyond our earthly life, we become a figure or a symbol of something greater than the mere body that may lie in the coffin about to be lowered into a 6 foot hole in the ground. Jesus certainly accomplished his mission of living beyond His earthly life. He stands alone at the pinnacle of history like no other person.
He is the majestic Son of God. This very moment we remember the great Messianic King. There has never been a spiritual leader and there has never been a spiritual rebel who has stood out more and who has changed so many lives as Jesus. There is no doubt about this.
As I conclude this eulogy, I wonder if there are really like people like Joseph in an audience like this. Are there people like Nicodemus? If you’re a Christian in this audience please measure your life by the gift of the Son of God and the greatness of that gift for you and may God, the Holy Spirit, touch your heart and may you come to such a place that you say within your heart, “Lord, by the help of God the Holy Spirit, I’m going to make a bold proclamation of my faith in the Lord Jesus.”
Let us bow our heads in prayer….
Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for this wonderful word. We thank Thee for the testimony of Joseph and the testimony of Nicodemus. And, Father, we pray that Thou will touch our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So transform us that Jesus Christ may have first place in our lives. For those, Lord, who do know him, O God; give them no rest nor peace until Jesus Christ is truly preeminent.
And now may the grace, mercy, and peace of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, abide with all who know him in sincerity. For Jesus’ sake.