Mark Rosendahl, R.I.P.

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In the book of Ecclesiastes, we are told that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting (Eccl. 7:2). And why? It is because that is the destination that every last one of us is headed for, and the living should take it to heart. When we go into the house of feasting, it is possible to get distracted there, and to use that time as a way of suppressing our dread of the inevitable time of reckoning. But if the wise go to the house of mourning in true wisdom, and they lay more wisdom to heart, then it will be possible for them to go to the house of feasting without forsaking wisdom. As it says later in Ecclesiastes . . .

“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.”

Ecclesiastes 9:7–8 (KJV)

This is a Christian funeral, and as a Christian funeral, grounded on the Word of God, it should accomplish at least three things. It should honor the deceased, it should present the gospel, and it should make sure to affirm the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Mark Rosendahl was a man who deeply honored the Word of God as the Word of God, and so it is my intention to make sure that all three of these things are set forth plainly at his funeral, and set forth in high relief, such that there can be no mistake.  

Mark was a father and grandfather in his family, and he was a dear brother in Christ. All the family members who have gathered here are doing so in glad submission to the fifth commandment, the command to honor father and mother. All the rest of us, extended relatives and friends, are gathered to support the family in how they render that honor, and to extend our own respects to a beloved brother in Christ. Doing this is submitting to a promise because we remember that the fifth commandment was the first command with a promise, as Paul instructed us.

When you see a farmer standing by the side of the road, with his hat off, watching a funeral procession go by, you are seeing a small but really significant expression of cultural honor. Death is no trifle, and so the closer we get to the center of remembrance the more focused on the importance of such honor we should be. Funerals are solemn events, and our knowledge that Mark is right this minute rejoicing in the presence of his God does not keep it from being a solemn event for us. At a funeral, the honor we all feel should not be bottled up inside. We are engaged in a ceremony, and it is a ceremony that is designed to honor God, the giver of life, in the first instance, and to honor Mark, the recipient of that gift, in the second instance. And so this is what we do. In obedience to the Scriptures, we honor a man who loved his God, love his Bible, and who loved his people. May God be pleased to keep him in happy remembrance.

The raw fact of death confronts us with the need for gospel. If it were not for sin, we would not die. If it were not for sin, we would not deserve to die. Death reminds us that if there were no gospel available, we would all of us be entirely without hope. Our father Adam was told that the day he ate from the tree in the middle of the garden, he would surely die. As we understand death to be a separation, and not a cessation, he did die, that very day. He was separated from his fellowship with God, which is why he hid when the Lord came down. When we die physically, our souls do not cease to be, but they are in fact separated from our bodies. Death is therefore separation.

In the case of our first parents, it was the separation of estrangement, brought about by their rebellious disobedience. Because of that, they and all their descendants were plunged into a condition of death, a lifestyle of death. As Ephesians puts it, we were dead in our transgressions and sins in which we used to walk. But the gospel is like algebra—the negatives cancel. The living Christ was born in our midst, and lived a perfect and sinless life. Because of this, the curse of death had no claim on him, which means that when He died, He did so willingly. He surrendered His life as a gift to us, doing this in order to take death itself down to the grave with Him. And when He came back, He came back without that death. The deaths canceled. And this is why, in the book of Revelation, both death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire.

This means that every last one of here has a standing invitation set before us. Here it is. Look to Christ. Look to Christ in the cradle, Christ in the carpenter shop, Christ on the mountain, Christ in the boat, Christ on the cross, Christ in the grave, Christ in the garden, and Christ on the throne. Look to Christ. When you look to Christ with the kind of evangelical faith that only God can give, this means that you are picked up and incorporated into all of Christ. You die in Christ, you are buried in Christ, and you rise again in Christ, so that you might walk in newness of life. This is good news. This is gospel. This is something that really should be stated plainly at every funeral. It is the only possible hope at any funeral. Apart from Christ, funerals are places of bleak despair, without God and without hope in the world. In Christ, we grieve in a temporal loss and we rejoice in the eternal gain.

And so the last thing that needs to be pointed out is the hope of the resurrection. In Scripture, death is a declared enemy of God. And if there is one truth that we know about all of God’s enemies, it is this. They all go down, every last one of them. God is defeated by nothing. Death will be the very last one to go down, but go down it will. A day is coming when a trumpet blast like nothing ever heard on earth before will sound, and when that happens, the graves will open—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation, as Jesus taught (John 5:29). But all will be raised. Those who are raised looking to Christ will see Him as He is, and will become like Him, reflecting Him. Those who are raised facing away from Him are facing the Void, of necessity, and will integrated into that.

This is why our time in the house of mourning should be a time of serious reflection. This is why it is healthy for us to be here.

We know that all of this will happen because God gave us a preview of this final event in the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection assigned to the end of history began, by the grace of God, in the middle of history. Let us all remember where we are, and make sure that we are looking to Him. And so here we are. We remember Mark in honor. We look to Christ in faith. And we anticipate everlasting life in hope.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.