Turn your eyes upon Jesus

I delivered the following remarks at my maternal grandmother’s funeral three years ago today. I made impromptu additions at the end of this text; I don’t have an exact record of those remarks but have inserted what I recall at the bottom of this post.

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?
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: 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.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 6.1-11, KJV)

This afternoon, we mark time. We mark the departure of our loved one–her departure from the life of finite struggle. She was by no means a perfect creature. But, she served the perfect Creator. And, so, her departure from us means but an arrival in the presence of One more real than this world. This life is uncertain and unsure. But, Grandmother’s hope was not in this life; her hope was not in herself or other people, even us. Her hope sprang eternal in her soul; the water she drank was living water running from the streams of heaven. Her soul was in safety despite her earthly struggles. Now, her soul is in a safety more real; her body is in peace; and her spirit is comforted.

Over the past several months, we’ve watched our beloved sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother as she suffered in pain of body and as she struggled in her soul. We question ourselves and we question God. Why was this necessary? We can find no answer that undoes the pain she bore. But, we can find satisfaction in knowing that the One who holds her soul in his hand even now, was present with her all along.

In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote

The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. ‘Thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’ We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased.’

Those who knew Grandmother, knew that her life was not about herself. Instead, her life was about someone she considered far greater than herself. Her life was about her Savior, Jesus Christ. Throughout her suffering, she wanted nothing more than to enjoy her precious Savior. In God’s loving her, her love was turned to him. Her life bespoke the great mystery of godliness. In her, God’s love is well pleased.

She lived a life that was defined by her Savior, not by herself. George MacDonald wrote that “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” Indeed, her sufferings were like his. And, today, she has the joy of his eternal presence in a way more real than she could enjoy in this world.

One of the things I remember about Grandmother is that she would sometimes remark that one of her children or grandchildren hadn’t been to see her in a while. For years, I have considered this complaint to be nothing but an expression of selfishness and self-pity on her part. But, today, when I look back on her glorious life, I can say that no more. Grandmother loved all her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved her sister and brother. She loved all of her family and friends. When I reflect on her life, today, I realize that her complaint was not an expression of selfishness; instead, it was an expression of love. Grandmother wanted her family members to come close to her so she could pour her love on them.

She always looked with joy on the faces of her beloved. She was always ready with a hug and a kind greeting. And, no matter how much she disliked something done to her, she was always forgiving and her love overcame all. She was like her Savior in that way. He who loved her, forgave her. She, in turn, shared her love and forgiveness with us–her family and friends. No doubt, we all will remember some unkind thing we said to her or, perhaps, some word of rebuke she spoke to us. But, we who knew her cannot help but remember her words of kindness, the sparkles of joy in her eyes when she looked on our faces, the words of truth she spoke.

Today, we part company with Grandmother for the final time. We shall see her no more on this earth. But, her words speak to us from beyond the grave. How? Well, her most constant words to us were the words of her King Jesus. As I read from Paul’s letter to the Church at Rome, Grandmother was crucified with Christ. She was baptized into his death that she might be resurrected into his life. The life she lived was not of herself; it was the eternal life of her Savior. And that is what she beckoned all of us to do–to follow Christ, to follow him wherever he leads.

Will we ignore her words of salvation? Do the last thirty years of her life’s devotion represent to us only the peculiarities of her personality? Or, do they resound within our hearts the call of Grandmother to come and meet her Savior? She passed from this life calling on the name of Jesus; she passed from this life reaching for her blessed Savior. We must decide today whether we will only love this great woman or whether we will also find her devotion to God to be important. When we consider her life, her love for us is evident. When we consider her life, her love for Christ is evident. Her love for us was important. Is her love for her Savior also important for us?

Her voice calls to us from beyond the grave, recalling the words of the saint: “Choose you, this day, whom you will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

[Lying in bed at the moment of her death, Grandmother turned her head heavenward, threw her blankets off, stretched out her arm, and said “Jesus” as a single tear rolled down her cheek; I made reference to this event with connection to the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”]

As she left this earth, Grandmother turned her eyes upon Jesus, looked full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.