1 John 2:24: See that what you heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us, even eternal life!
My beloved Friend, Alexandra, passed away gently and quietly in her home, surrounded by her children. What a very long, difficult, heart-wrenching journey it was the past nine months in the hospital. Some of you are familiar with this kind of battle with cancer, making difficult decisions and enduring one procedure after another. Some would say that Alex lost the battle, but Alex herself would exuberantly shout from her heavenly home, "I won! I am with my King and I won!"
As I make plans to officiate at her Celebration of Life service I am strongly drawn to the story in Matthew 19 in what we commonly call "the story of the Mount of Transfiguration." Yeshua (Jesus) takes with him his three dearest disciples, Peter, James and John, and they ascend a high mountain. Suddenly these three men encounter a gloriously radiant, heavenly event where Jesus is "transfigured" before them. The text says, "His face shone like the sun, his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus." Then they hear a Voice speaking to them from a cloud and they fall prostrate upon the ground, terrified. Verse 7 says, "But Jesus came and touched them. 'Get up,' He said. 'Don't be afraid.' When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."
My friends, I have been to many funerals and memorial services in my life, and have performed many of them myself. Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Messianic Jewish...and quite a few non-denominational services for the precious elderly students of our bible classes in the Retirement Home. Many different "flavors," many different traditions, but in the end, it doesn't make any difference. Moses was there on that Mount of Transfiguration. So was Elijah. Moses represents the Torah, Elijah the Spirit and Prophecy. But after a Voice spoke from the cloud, instructing the disciples, "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!" the disciples opened their eyes and there was NO ONE EXCEPT JESUS. And that is precisely what we find at every service celebrating the life of one who has died. It's not about Moses. It's not about Elijah. It's not where they went to church or synagogue or how they kept the Torah. The one who has passed from death into eternal life opens their eyes and there is NO ONE EXCEPT JESUS. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. He is Messiah, Son of God. He is the Resurrection.
We will sing Alex's favorite worship songs - the ones that graced her life - and we will remember with joy and tears the moments we shared with her. We will lower her casket into the grave and scatter the pink roses. But at the end of that day we will all experience the same thing that Peter, James and John experienced. We will come face-to-face with the knowledge that in the end, there is nothing and no one that matters except the Risen Lord Jesus.
John 11:35: Jesus wept.
It's known as the shortest Scripture. Sometimes I think it's the most powerful. If we truly believe that Yeshua (Jesus) our Messiah is fully God and fully man during His earthly ministry, then we have to grasp the fact that God wept. As Brian Zahnd wrote, "Christ is not God masquerading as a human. The Incarnation is God made fully human - and tears are a part of the human condition. This, in Christ we find not divine impassibility but divine suffering. We find the tears of God."
Last night in the middle of the night, searching desperately for a photograph, I finally broke down and wept over my friend whom I wrote about on this Blog eight months ago. She had been admitted to the hospital with acute leukemia and John and I had this incredible Sabbath celebration with her in her hospital room. You might remember the story. We took bread and wine and little olive wood cups from Israel and she very excitedly "decorated" her hospital tray table with pretty Israeli-blue napkins she had brought from home. We shared this holy meal together and worshiped God in the midst of her suffering. John took two photographs of my dear friend and me on that memorable day and now - eight months later - I was up in the night, desperate to find them.
Her family is bringing her home from the hospital at last - eight months later - and placing her in hospice care. In the night I had that moment where your worst fear becomes reality and suddenly you need to grasp for some tangible evidence of that beautiful memory of someone even after they are gone from your sight. I couldn't find the photos in my phone or even on the Google cloud! I kept searching. I had to have those pictures, that memory etched in my mind, where she had experienced such joy and victory in Messiah and His precious blood. Finally, working my way through stacks of printed photographs, I found them! My eyes drank in her Christ-filled face and the pretty little hospital tray and I remembered what it was like to see her smile. After all these months of watching her gradually fade away from us, it was such a blessing, something to hold onto. And I wept.
Kelly Ferrari Mills