My Grandmother died at 101 just the other night. She died in her sleep, as my Dad hoped she would.
She was a sweet woman who loved her family. Her greatest joy in life was her children and her husband. Anyone who spent a few minutes with her would realize this quickly. She spoke about them, she remembered them even at 101.
She was, most importantly, a precious disciple of Christ. Her faith never waivered. She was true to the end. It was evident in the way she spoke that she did not fear death, but understood the Teaching. Jesus Christ has conquered Death. This life is not our home. The Father has prepared a mansion for his children. As with every believer, this is my Grandmother’s truest legacy. My Grandmother’s confession was simple, but most profound – “I want to go home.”
The meaning behind these words is where they find their true weight of glory. My Grandmother did not speak them ignorantly or tritely. She did not speak them in despair. She was not morbid, as if she wanted to die, like someone who is suicidal. She lived long, and her joy and her love for her family can not be denied by any. Neither was she trite, as if she had some vain hope that to die simply “takes us to a better place” – as if she had been raised by Hallmark. No. She was firmly rooted in the Scriptures. She heard, therefore she believed. She believed, therefore she spoke – “I want to go home.”
And what is the Word she heard? What was her confession? Hear the Word of the Apostle:
Since we [Paul and the other Apostles] have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your [The church at Corinth] sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage.
And hear the Word himself:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And one what basis do Paul and Jesus have such confidence in the face of Death? One only – that Jesus Christ has conquered Death. He has stared Death in the face, and Death backed down. He has been given the right to judge Death, to cast it into the lake of fire. As it is written:
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. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
My Grandmother was steadfast, immovable, and always abounding with love – which is the work of the Lord. Her labor, her long 101 years of sweat and tears – her child-rearing, her husband loving, her long patience with this world since she lost her husband back in ’89 – her temptations, her good days and bad days, her fears… in the Lord, none of it was in vain.
Therefore, although there is sadness, there is no grief. Although there is a sense of profound loss by those who knew her dearly, it is fleeting. Although there are tears, there is no bitterness. – For those who believe.
For those who believe, Death is not the end of life, it is the end of a so-called life broiling with sin, pain, and misery. Death of the body is the beginning of true life.
In the hands of our Savior, Death has been twisted to his will, no longer to serve the Devil’s. As the Scriptures say:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Therefore, although there is a fleeting sadness for those who knew my Grandmother, there is an eternal weight of joy, which is not fleeting. We know that although her body is in the grave, her soul is in the presence of Jesus Christ. Her body is dust, but her spirit is, even now, with all of Christ’s people, in heaven, before the great throne and an innumerable host of angels, comforted by the Glory of the Ancient of Days.
Therefore, rejoice with me. I call you, even if you did not know my Grandmother, rejoice with me, if you believe! Do not rejoice my Grandmother is dead, but rejoice in Christ who promises to resurrect her for eternal life!
Our Savior himself comforted his disciples like this:
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
Jesus was speaking about his death. Because Jesus died and lives again, then we can also rejoice that Grandmother has gone away. Although she will not return to us, in Jesus we will return to her.
Rejoice with me, all you who believe. And if you do not believe, then believe, that you may rejoice with us.