This passage from John is excerpted from the middle of a longer discourse (5:19-47) of Jesus. We don’t need to do an in-depth Bible study on twenty-nine verses to get to the gist of these six. It can be sufficient to know that this longer piece treats Jesus and his Word that gives life. And after all, life is what we are encountering when we are in mourning over the death of a loved one. Let’s read:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.”
Those familiar with the Old Testament might detect an echo from Daniel 12:1-3, another possible funeral reading. Like that Daniel passage, I don’t think John 5 is chosen much. Maybe we get squeamish about the direct consequences of not adhering to Christ, and of perpetrating “wicked deeds.” Like it or not, our religious tradition does attach a penalty to those who have rejected the Word by their actions.
On the other hand, we have Jesus’s confidence in the Father’s plan of salvation. If we have no doubt about being close to Christ, then this passage is a reassurance. We are urged not to be amazed (Raymond Brown suggests “surprised” is a better translation). Jesus has the power. Believe it. And if we believe it, then the time of a loved one’s funeral will be one of our confidence in hearing the Word, and acting accordingly in virtue.
Thoughts? Would you choose this reading or counsel someone to do so?