Student Series: How Jesus Turns Mourning Into Dancing

“Let me guess, a wedding?” the man next to me asked as we loaded up our bags to be screened at the airport.

Realizing he’d noticed the suit I was carrying, I responded “Well that’s on Saturday but first I have a funeral to go to.”

“Sounds like quite the weekend,” he replied with a friendly smile.

You have no idea, I thought to myself.

It was Thursday morning and I was headed to Oklahoma City to join my family in mourning. We had just lost of one of the most incredible women I have ever known, my Mimi. Mimi was the matriarch of our family, my great-grandmother, and a constant source of love and support in my twenty-one years of living. On May 19, after one hundred and two years of life, Mimi had left this side of eternity.

As my plane took off from the Atlanta tarmac I knew the weekend ahead of me would be unlike any other I’d ever had before. Following Mimi’s funeral, I would head to the airport once again to join one of my best friends at the altar as he entered into the covenant of marriage. I knew it would be a time of great celebration and joy; but first a time of mourning would have to come.

The following seventy-two hours were a whirlwind. At Mimi’s funeral, many gathered to celebrate her life of faithfulness to her family, her church, and her Lord. As her pastor said while directing her funeral, “Inez was the most consistent picture of Christ of anyone I have ever met.” And this was the foundation of our remembrance of her. We remembered her for her love of reading, her playful spirit, and her wonderful baking, but the string weaving through it all was her consistent love for Christ. Stories were told of her leading a neighbor to Christ through a Sunday School class she taught, writing to her preacher bluntly about what she liked (or didn’t like) about his sermon on any given Sunday, and feeding a home cooked meal to a homeless man who arrived at her doorstep. So when it was my turn to speak along with my family to everyone gathered, I couldn’t help but be moved by these things. All I could do was sit in awe of her life of faithfulness and speak of how she had done it. Mimi had run her race to end, fought the good fight, and received her crown of life (James 1:12). No doubt, Mimi knew who her Savior was and pressed on until the end.

Yet I do not want to overemphasize the hope we felt and neglect the reality of our grief. This was a time of serious mourning. My family was experiencing loss. The woman we all loved so much was gone. We no longer have her in the land of the living. It was a very difficult and emotional time for many of us. My family lost a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother, while everyone lost a dear friend.

So as I once again boarded an airplane soon after the funeral to make my way back to Atlanta for the wedding, I could not help but realize how this weekend was such a real picture of the Gospel. The good news of Jesus bringing life from his resurrection to all who turn from their sins and believe in himis news which speaks to all of life. With the coming of Jesus came the in-breaking of the kingdom of God and the restoration of all things. All of creation hasbeengroaning in bondage for a coming savior (Romans 8:22) and in Jesus, this savior has come, dramatically reversing the effects of the fall and reordering all of life, once again, around him, the creator and sustainer of all things. Yet until the day comes where the fullness of his heavenly kingdom is realized, we are still sojourning in a fallen world tainted by the curse of sin.

But this means that a funeral service is no longer just a time for mourning and a wedding is no longer just a time for joy. Both mean so much more because of Jesus.

At the funeral on Friday we saw the compassion God shows with his people. Just as he heard the cries of his people under slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:7) so he heard the cries of my family as we mourned the loss of a woman we all love. Jesus himself, when confronted with the death of Lazarus and Mary’s sorrow, wept (John 11:35). Our king Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah53:3) and he wept. Divinity entered into the depth of our humanity to take on the fullness of our pain, our suffering, and our mourning so that he might redeem us from them all. Our mourning isn’t meaningless; it is precious to our God and this is good news.

The next day as Meaghan walked down the aisle to enter into a covenant with Luke, so much more was occurring. They were not just getting married, they were proclaiming before everyone gathered in that chapel that Jesus is Lord. By entering into our sorrow, Jesus is leading us to a wedding. Death does not have the final say and neither does our mourning. A great wedding feast is coming, a wedding of divine proportions about a groom who unconditionally and relentlessly loves his bride. A groom who will go to the ends of the earth to find her, save her and carry her home. A groom who laid down his life for her, not because she is beautiful or worthy but because he loves her and has chosen her from before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Who are this groom and his bride? It is none other than Christ and his church, his redeemed people.

This is exactly what that weekend was a tangible picture of. Both the funeral and the wedding were shadows of things to come. Because of the Gospel we are all headed from our funerals to a wedding. One day we who are in Christ will faultless stand before our groom, clothed in his righteousness alone.

JD Tyler is a 2019 graduate of Samford University, where he studied Religion and Communication Studies. He returns to Princeton Theological Seminary for his second year in the fall. JD has served on the college ministry staff at Iron City Church in downtown Birmingham, AL.

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