You Will Exit the Box
In my years as a pastor, I’ve conducted countless funeral services. I remember one in particular, though, for the lesson that it taught me.
When I arrived at the funeral home, I was asked to wait in a side room. Being an inquisitive soul, I looked around and realized that I was sitting beside miniature coffins—models with their ends sawn off so that you could see what the inside of each coffin looked like.
As I was sitting there, I began to think of what it would be like not just to look inside but to be inside. I became greatly disturbed. I said to myself, “I am a Christian. I believe in the resurrection of the body. I believe that I will die and go to heaven.” And yet, I still looked at the coffin and thought to myself, “I don’t want to go in one of these things!”
Then the thought came to me: “What comes to the unbeliever’s mind when he or she thinks of death and dying?”
In the late 1960s, the United Kingdom introduced grids painted on the roads at particularly busy intersections, called box junctions, accompanied by signs that read, “Do not enter the box unless your exit is clear.” The purpose of these grids and signs was to help aid traffic flow. But that day in the funeral home, what entered my mind was how apt that sign’s warning is when we consider that we will all be dead and lie in a coffin. Though my body will one day be in a box, my soul will have departed—and my exit must then be clear.
Everybody knows that death is coming. The statistics are clear: one out of one dies. The affairs of life lead inescapably toward the end. Yet God the Son, who existed “before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) has come into time in order that we may know a Savior, a Friend, and a Lord and so that we might be prepared for—and even long for!—all that eternity will bring.
You may be one of many who are prepared for just about everything that might possibly happen—except for your exit from the box. But that exit is the one thing for which you must be prepared. You will stand before God. You will give an account for your life. But the message of the gospel is that you do not need to fear that day, provided that you are trusting in Christ to bring you through. And if you are, then you can look at a coffin and speak to your fears, for though your earthly flesh may end up in one, your soul will not; and you will enjoy a resurrection body that never sees the inside of a wooden box. “Do not enter the box unless your exit is clear”—but, gloriously, your route through is signposted with the blood of Christ and your heavenly destination awaits. Have no fear.
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
17Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles3 off, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.4 Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved5 in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus
38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
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