November 18, 2001: You’ll Never Look at Cemeteries the Same Again

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day we recall our dear loved ones who have departed this life for something far better-a mansion in heaven! We recall their faithfulness to You and Your Word of truth. We remember their fine Christian examples. But most of all we focus on the fact that You were always faithful to them, that You never quit on them or ceased loving them. It is Your salvation that has placed them into glory. Today we ask that through faith You shower such salvation upon all of us, too. Amen
TEXT: Luke 20: 27-38

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Last Thursday morning about this time I stood on a small hill in Billerica at Fox Hill Cemetery. I was there, along with many of you, to commit the body of our sister in Christ, Helen Messina, to the grave. It was a peaceful place, as most cemeteries are. And as I stood there I thought about this section of scripture. Particularly, I thought about the last line where Christ states: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

I think most people try to ignore cemeteries because they are places of emotional pain. We hurriedly drive past them, or occasionally go there to recall a loved one and then quickly leave to go home. They are a constant reminder of death to us all. And let’s face it, we don’t like to dwell on death-particularly our own death. However, according to Jesus cemeteries are not really about death for the Christian, they are about life! “For to him all are alive!” They are really giant sleeping chambers housing a whole army of living saints who are patiently waiting the glorious resurrection! They are the bivouac of the living army of God! Now, that’s a fact. And if you hold that truth in your heart, next time you drive by a cemetery perhaps you should salute those saints instead of ignoring them? In any case, if you cling to Christ’s words, after today


Two distinct groups openly opposed Christ at every turn. One group was the ultra-puritanical Pharisees who thought they could earn their way into heaven by their own good deeds. The other was the Sadducees, the liberals of the day, who didn’t believe in heaven, judgement, or resurrection, and who also thumbed their noses at the Old Testament with the exception of the first 5 books written by Moses, the Penteteuch. In our lesson some Sadducees tried to trip Christ up by asking a very silly question. They quoted (actually misquoted) Moses with a concocted story about a lady who was married and lost her husband before any children were born. Moses had written that in such a circumstance a brother-in-law should marry the woman so that a child could be born. This would insure a smooth transition of property rights and would also provide for the social welfare of the mother since there was no such thing as SSI benefits or survivor benefits in those days. Well, the Sadducees added a few twists to this sad situation. They had the woman marrying and burying 7 brothers in a row before any kids could be born. “Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection (which remember they rejected) whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

They thought they had tripped Jesus up. They thought they had constructed a perfect trap to either force Christ to renounce the truthfulness of the physical resurrection, or to force Him to accept polygamy which would violate the 6th commandment. Ah, how silly sinful humans are….


“Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the bush (the burning bush, from Exodus, a portion of the Bible that these Sadducees supposedly accepted), even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

What a brilliant answer! Could we expect anything different from the Son of God? Here on earth we’re bound by physical laws. Here people marry and are given in marriage. But in the next life, in heaven, all of God’s faithful are freed from the constraints of the flesh. In heaven the closeness that you have with your spouse will be the same closeness you will have with all the other saints. In heaven the saints don’t play any emotional games, they don’t play favorites, they don’t keep secrets from one another. No, in heaven we’re married to Jesus Christ. The Church, the believers, are His bride and He is our bridegroom.

And how are we “made worthy” to partake of this jealous-free existence? Through faith. Faith that our Bridegroom has suffered and died for all our petty little sins. Faith that because He lives “we shall live also” in the life to come. Faith that Christ came forth from His tomb to make us into new creations, into living sacrifices to His greater glory.

Then to clinch it, Jesus reminds them that Moses spoke of God as being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Note well that Moses doesn’t say “God was the Lord of these patriarchs. No, Moses says God is their Lord! “Is” means present reality. It means that these dead men are not actually dead at all, but alive! Yes, their bodies are sleeping in the grave. But their souls, the part of them that comprises who they really are, that part is alive with Christ in heaven!

When my father died I remember standing at the funeral home and crying. Looking at his body in a casket seemed foreign and otherworldly to me. As well it should have! For that was just his body there. My dad, the fellow that gave quiet advice, that loved his yard and garden, that cuddled his dog and doted on his wife, my dad was actually in heaven. His soul had left his body to be with the Lord because Christ had made it happen. Yes, his body was dead but he was alive. And to this very day his body still lies in that grave awaiting reunification with his soul.

When you go past a graveyard, what do you see? Cold headstones? Ranks of coffins. Dead people? Well, if that’s all you see, I’m sorry for you. If that’s all you see you need to take to heart Jesus’ blessed words. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” They “are alive.” Not they “might be alive, or they will be alive.” No, they are alive! Each cemetery is really a camp for saints. They invisibly inhabit that space waiting for you to join them in glory where bad weather, bad manners, pain and suffering do not exist. And join them you will if you embrace Jesus in humble faith.

So, next time you drive by a graveyard, wave. Smile. Greet those saints. And thank God that He has made and is making you one with them right this very minute.