Funeral Homily

The following is my first funeral homily, to be given tomorrow for a certain man named Robert.  It will follow a eulogy given by another area minister who served as Robert’s hospice chaplain.  Thus it focuses almost exclusively on the idea of general resurrection, and is relatively short.  Feel free to offer feedback.


John 14:1-6

“You know the way to the place I am going,” Jesus tells his disciples; and a little later, “I am the way.”  Put these together—“You know the way” and “I am the way”—and Jesus is really saying here, “You know me.”

This is a remarkable statement.

Jesus lived and breathed and walked the earth as a human being.  So in this sense we know a lot about him.  He had to eat and drink.  He worked by the sweat of his brow—as we all must since Eden.  He also slept.  As a child he grew in wisdom and stature: he made the same mistakes in third grade math class that his friends made; older kids could run faster than he; other carpenters could produce a better product.  From things written about him, we know that he was an excellent teacher, that he had little tolerance for religious hypocrisy, and that he mentored an intimate group of friends who later began a religion in his name.  He was born, lived a full human life, and died—as we all will.  We know Jesus.  But, we must admit, our knowledge is limited.

To some extent the same could be said for any person, really.  What does it mean to know a neighbor? a friend? a relative—Mom, Dad, a sibling? or a spouse?  In each case we can say that we know so-and-so to a degree, maybe even to a great degree.  But in the end our knowledge of a person is limited, finite.

To go a step farther, does anyone know even himself fully?  How common it is for us to do something and later forget or regret it!  Then we catch ourselves saying words all too familiar: “I don’t know what I was thinking!” or “I can’t believe I did that!” or something to that effect.  Indeed, our knowledge even of ourselves is limited.

But in the case of Jesus, of God incarnate, our knowledge of him must be limited to almost nothing.  We know Jesus as he existed within our world of time and space, and we therefore understand a few time- and space-related characteristics about him.  He loved.  He wept.  He taught.  And so on.  Yet Jesus as God is not bound to our world at all.  He exists eternally and infinitely beyond all that we are able to comprehend.  We are therefore limited in our understanding of him.  Extremely limited!  How then can we even begin to know Jesus?  The most knowledgeable theologian in the church’s history, or the most holy of all saints, hasn’t so much as scratched the surface!

Yet to his disciples, to us who call ourselves Christians, Jesus says right here that we know him.  Our knowledge doesn’t even scratch the surface; mathematically speaking it amounts to zero.  But it is enough.

It is enough that we know Christ.  It is enough that Robert knew Christ.  It is enough because it is about relationship.  We are his and he is ours.  He was the first to be raised from the dead and he will lead all of us in that same way, to his Father’s house, where there are many dwelling places.

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