It's at times like this that we ask ourselves, as Job did in the midst
of his trials, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14)
And we hear Jesus answer Job across the centuries, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live." (John 5:25)
In our acceptance of what we have been taught, we say, as Martha said when her brother was in the tomb, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24)
And we hear Jesus correct her--and us--by saying, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25)
We try to believe. But our minds search and spin with questions about how and where and when and why his words can be true. We battle with our doubts and our own innermost feelings. Yet he knows our limitations. He understands our problems. Gently, gently, he says to us, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:4)
Like the early disciples, when Mary Magdalene came running to tell them their rabbi had risen from the dead, we find it difficult to take anyone else's word for things we have not seen. (Luke 24:1-12) But Jesus does not condemn us. He respects our need to see for ourselves. He only says to us, as he did to Thomas, "More blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." (John 20:29)
We want to believe death is not the end of human experience, but we are afraid the idea of life after death may be a myth; in other words, that men may have created that idea simply because we need to believe it. How can we ever know the truth?
If we can take Jesus' word for it, on faith, then we can believe. If we can take the word of those who have seen him, we can believe because of their testimony. If we can accept the statements of the saints and seers, poets and prophets, minstrels and ministers who have been telling us the same thing for thousands of years--even before the time of Christ--we can believe. If we ask among our friends, we can hear the same testimony today, based on their personal experience. And there are some of us who can give such testimony.
In all these cases, the message is always: "Know thyself to be immortal."
So whether we go by faith or by testimony or by the evidence of our own experience, we can know that our friend lives. Only the outer garment that made him visible to earthly eyes has been cast off. He is free of it, and of the limitations it imposed on him--the same limitations that keep us from seeing him as he is.
Those who love him will see him again. That is inevitable, because real love is a magnetic force that transcends both time and space. We already know that, or we can prove it to ourselves by remembering those we love who are far away or those we have not seen for awhile. The magnetic force is still there within us. We would go to them if we could--and when we can, we will.
That's how love works.
And that's why Jesus gave us the commandment: "Love." Those who love God are drawn to God. Those who love Jesus are drawn to Jesus, and those who love each other are drawn to each other.
Thus, those who love God and Jesus and each other are inevitably drawn together into the Kingdom of God. That is how Jesus, now that he is lifted up from this earth, is drawing all men to himself. The whole kingdom is drawn together by those same invisible threads of real love.
Knowing this, we can know that we surrender those we love into loving hands. They do not go to harsh judgement; they go to friends who care for them and help them make the transition from this life to the next.
We grieve at the parting, and it is right that we should, because the time of separation seems long to us. But it is not long. Just as it now seems only yesterday that our grown children were infants, so this time of separation will seem short when we look back on it.
And finally, when we are also free from the physical limitations that keep us from following the magnetic pull of our love to those we love, we will know that Jesus spoke the truth when he said: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" ... by those for whom they mourn.