Funerals in a time of pandemic: Three reasons to serve others as Jesus served us

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Funerals in a time of pandemic: Three reasons to serve others as Jesus served us

March 26, 2020 -

In an article I wrote earlier today, I discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on weddings in the US and around the world. Now, let’s think about the other end of the spectrum: its impact on funerals.

States and cities across the country have limited the number of participants at funerals, many to ten or less. As a result, some families are turning to technology such as live-streaming or Web platforms. Others are holding private funerals with plans to hold public memorial services weeks or months in the future.

Across four decades of pastoral experience, I can tell you this: the number of people who attend a funeral service has no bearing on the eternal significance of the life being celebrated. I have officiated at very large services for people who were only tangentially committed to their faith. I have also officiated at very small services for humble servants whose days were spent loving Jesus and loving others.

Their service emulated the Suffering Servant whose love has changed our lives.

Three reasons to serve others as Jesus served us

John 13 tells us that on Maundy Thursday, our Lord performed a shocking task: “He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (vv. 4–5).

This work was so menial that no Jew could be made to do it, not even a Jewish slave. What would prompt the King of kings to stoop to such depths?

Verse 3 explains verses 4 and 5: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.”

Our Lord knew three facts about himself.

First, Jesus knew his present: “the Father had given all things into his hands.”

He restated this fact after his resurrection when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus knew that he would lose nothing about himself by serving these men in such a menial way.

In the same way, we need to be reminded that we are the children of God (1 John 3:1). This is an unchanging fact about the present, no matter how much the present changes.

Second, Jesus knew his past: “that he had come from God.”

He knew his divinity (John 1:1–2). In the same way, we can remember that we were made by the God of the universe (Genesis 1:27). He chose to make us. We are here on purpose for a purpose.

Nothing about serving others makes us less valuable in the eyes of the One who made us.

Third, Jesus knew his future: “and was going back to God.”

He knew that nothing about his present service would hinder his future with his Father. In fact, present faithfulness leads to eternal significance.

The same is true with us. No matter how the world treats us, if we are faithful to our Lord, no matter the size of our funeral on earth, our reward in heaven is great.

Whose feet will you wash today?

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