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Honouring the Dead

Luke 11:47-49
‘Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.” (NIVUK)

Every culture knows the importance of honouring the dead.  Family funerals help us to remember that we would not be who we are without the influence of those who have preceded us.  Yet grief and loss is often mixed with guilt as we recall occasions in which we did not love as we might, nor care as we could (John 11:21).

National mourning and remembrance celebrations may not be so personally focussed unless our own relatives are included, and we can easily forget the significance of their lives.  It was the same way in Jesus' day, but worse.  The tombs of the prophets had become tourist spots and pilgrimage shrines; even though it was their own countrymen who had hounded some of them to death: as they would also do with Jesus (Luke 19:47).

Of course, none of that was a surprise to God who knew that the wicked would persecute the righteous (2 Timothy 3:12); and Jesus knew He was on the same track as His cross came into view (Mark 12:1-12; Luke 18:31).  Alas, persecutors have seared consciences.  They may think they are doing God's will (John 16:2), although they are really seeking to remove God's truth so that they can continue living out the lies they believe.  Yet, a few generations on, the dead prophet becomes a hero, and everybody forgets the truth he died for or who sent him to his grave.

Human nature usually distorts the lens of history.  We criticise others without seeing ourselves in the same frame; and we exalt those we would not have listened to had we been there.  We do not learn the lessons of history because we refuse to believe it relates to us.  Jesus' words would also prove to be prophetic about that generation because they refused to accept His words.  So, if persecution comes to your door, remember that you stand with a wonderful heritage of faithful men and women whose reward is not written on their tombstones but is reserved in heaven.  In the meantime, it is our responsibility to welcome the truth and prophetically pass it on to others (Acts 11:19-21).

Almighty God. Thank You that truth can never die, even though those who live it and tell it may be crushed. Please forgive me when I forget the sacrifice of so many Godly men and women which enabled the gospel to come to me and my country. May I be keen to stand with their memory and accept my own responsibility to share Your truth to my generation and the next, without fear. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams