Today I attended the funeral for a man named Clark Ironside. Most of you reading this won’t have known him, I myself didn’t know him really well, though he was the type of man who if you met him you knew him because he was always very real and genuine. Clark is the father of one of my wife’s oldest and dearest friends who describe themselves as sisters by choice.
At most funerals people speak predominantly about the good deeds and traits of the person who has died. Today, while there were a number of glowing tributes, there were two things that stood out to me that were different from most funerals I’ve seen.
The first was how Clark approached death. In the Bible Paul as a prisoner facing what turned out to be a death sentence wrote of how he longed to depart and be with Christ which, he said, is better by far. From his hospital bed Clark told a friend, “Two days ago the doctor gave me 48 hours to live. Why am I still here? I’m supposed to be in heaven today!” And even though by the end he struggled to breathe or speak the one thing he kept saying to whoever came to see him was “better days are ahead.”
When a person knows Jesus the way the apostle Paul or Clark Ironside did death is not feared but is honestly and eagerly anticipated. But the excitement is not primarily for all the wonderful blessing of heaven; freedom from pain and sickness, no hardships or disappointments, or even all the glorious beauty of perfected creation. It’s about seeing Jesus face to face. And that points to the second thing that stood out to me.
For all the wonderful accolades given about the man that Clark was the focus and honour was all given to Jesus. Clark actually told the pastor who he had asked to lead his funeral, “Don’t talk about me, talk about Jesus.”
The truth is that when a person lives in such an intimate relationship with Jesus the praise that is given to that person is naturally given to Jesus because all that that person is and does has been created and given by Jesus. Paul says it is Christ living his life through me.
What do you want your funeral to look like? If am the primary focus of the praise at my funeral it’s really no benefit to me at all; I’m not there to hear it. But if the attention is on what Jesus has done in me that praise will literally carry on for ever.