by Tad Lindley
It varies from place to place. We’ve got good soil here, so we typically dig graves six feet down. Oftentimes we are blessed by AVEC’s drill rig and only have to finish the hole. On the coast graves may consist of peeling back the tundra sod about a foot deep and covering the casket there with plywood and putting the sod on top of the plywood. In Jesus’ time they used caves, or carved graves out of the rock to make an artificial cave into which they put the body. Then a stone was rolled over the entrance and the body was allowed to decay away, leaving only the bones, which were then taken out and placed in a box called an ossuary so that the grave could be reused. Unless you come from a very different culture your experience is that when someone dies, we bury them.
In almost all cases there is a ceremony of sorts around the burial of the dead person. Even in the current Covid-19 situation, we are still having funerals in modified form, often only at the cemetery. Last night I was listening on my phone to the conference call service of the Toksook Bay church. My good friend Pastor Chris Liu was preaching and he made this incredible connection between death, funerals, and the Bible, “When someone dies, we don’t leave them lying around, we bury them!”
We don’t leave a dead person laying around
Now except in a few rare cases we would never leave a dead body laying around. The odd exception to this is a number of dead leaders from China, North Korea, and Russia have or have had their embalmed bodies on display in glass cases filled with pure nitrogen. That’s not normal to us. We wash the body, put a nice set of clean clothes on them and then we bury them.
But are you dead yet?
Look how the book of Romans describes salvation: What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2) When we repent of our sins, we become dead to sin. We are putting aside our old life and choosing to follow Jesus. Are you dead yet?
How about the funeral?
When someone dies, we have a funeral. I’ve covered that. When someone dies to sin, we are supposed to have a funeral too. What is that funeral? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death… (Romans 6:3-4) That funeral looks like what the Bible calls baptism. Baptism means to be covered in a fluid, in this case, water. Just like we don’t sprinkle dirt on a dead body and call it good, neither did the church in the Bible sprinkle water on a repentant person and call it baptism.
Are you resurrected yet?
Jesus was resurrected from the dead shortly after Passover. The Bible also foretells two large scale resurrections in our future. But Romans also likens Jesus’ resurrection to the victorious life of the dead and buried Christian, that is the dead to sin and buried in baptism Christian. Let me replay Romans 6:4, but this time in its entirety: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. When we repent (die to sin) and are baptized in Jesus’ name (buried with him in baptism), we are promised the gift of the Holy Ghost. Get your Bible and check out Acts 2:38-39: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Experience the death, burial, and resurrection
If you have not repented of your sin, the time is now. Nearly every one of us knows people who have woken up in the morning never suspecting that this would be their last day. Even more so in this time of Covid-19. Jesus died on the cross. He who knew no sin died for those of us who do know sin, so that we might die with him in repentance, be buried with him in Jesus’ name, and experience the resurrection power in the Holy Ghost and have a new life in him.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.