I was among a group of family members that had driven out to one of the many keys that extend out from southern Florida. It was a beautiful, sunny day, typical of Florida, but a little windy.
We stopped for lunch at an outdoor restaurant. The restaurant had signs posted that said, “Do not feed the animals,” and we soon found out why. As we were getting seated at our table, a raccoon came wandering by. It was about enough to make us leave the restaurant but we hung in there and had a fairly decent lunch. A waitress came by and shooed the raccoon away.
After lunch we decided to walk out to the nearby lighthouse. To get there we had to walk along the beach for a ways. Because of the way that the wind was blowing a lot of seaweed and other ocean debris had washed up on the beach so one had to walk over several feet of seaweed and debris to get to the water. And, because of the wind, the waves were fairly large. Not too many people were swimming.
But as we walked along the beach I saw an elderly man walk gingerly across the seaweed and out into the water. Then I noticed that he was carrying something that people don’t normally take to the beach. It was a clear plastic bag with what looked like ashes on the inside. The expression on his face was quite serious, not typical of someone enjoying a day at the beach. I turned to those who were with me, pointed out the elderly man, and asked them if they were thinking what I was thinking.
We all stopped and watched the man open the bag and empty the contents into the water. Although the water was stirred up by the wind, the ashes lingered in the water. The man crouched down in the water as the ashes-laden water washed around him. He kept lingering out in the water for a while so we kept walking, not wanting to interfere. At first it looked like he was alone but when he came out of the water back onto the beach I saw him talking to a woman with some children.
It was one of those events that lingers in your mind and makes you wonder. Was this the man’s final farewell to his wife? Had they discussed what to do before she died? Did she want to have her remains put in the water there by that lighthouse? Is this a common occurrence in Florida? And why did we just happen to be walking along the beach right when the man went out into the water?
It also brings to mind the topic of cremation and the final resting place of our bodies when we die.
The Bible teaches that no matter what happens to our bodies when we die, that is not the last of our bodies. Even if our ashes are absorbed into the ocean, our bodies will be reassembled and brought back to life on Judgment Day.
Some may ask, “How can God do that?” Well, where was your body before you were born? If you believe that we are all just a random assembly of parts brought together by a mindless universe then it makes sense to believe that when we die we will just be absorbed back into the cosmos.
But if you believe, as I do, that God brings together all the necessary ingredients to make all our bodies then it is not much of a stretch to believe that, no matter what happens to our bodies when we die, he can re-assemble them on the Last Day.
People in the church in Corinth were questioning the resurrection of the body just a few decades after Jesus’ body had been raised from the dead. The Apostle Paul addresses this in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians.
He points out first that if the dead are not raised then neither was Jesus raised and if Jesus was not raised faith in him is worthless and there is no forgiveness of sins (I Corinthians 15:16-17, ESV). Then he uses an illustration from agriculture to explain that we will be raised but with glorified bodies: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power (I Corinthians 15:42-43, ESV)
In the 10th chapter of Acts the Apostle Peter points out that when we are raised from the dead it will be time for Judgment Day, a day that believers in Jesus need not fear: “And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he [Jesus] is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:42-43, ESV).
When I die, I’ll let my loved ones decide what to do with my body in a way that best helps them deal with their grief. More important to me is that they know that our bodies will be raised up again on the Last Day and that, through faith in Jesus, we can look forward to eternal life in heaven.