The Word on the Week

The Empty Chair

Where has Granny gone Daddy? The answer to the child’s question has engaged thinkers down through the centuries. The empty chair is a stark reminder that its occupant is no longer with us.

One young man age 5, after the funeral, explained that they had been putting Granny up to heaven!

In a discussion with colleagues there seemed to be a consensus that we could not know for sure. My suggestion that we take the word of the only person in recorded history who had come back from the dead was thought to be too familiar and the familiarity bred contempt!

But the fact is that my sceptical colleagues could have experienced the reality of it for themselves had they lived in Jerusalem at the time of the resurrection. On one occasion there were 500 present to vouch for Christ’s appearing. Now some two millennia on we have the words of the Apostle John who understood that there was never a time when Jesus, whom he calls “the Word of Life” did not exist.

He opens his first letter with the words “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (Chapter 1 verses 1-4).

St John paints a graphic word picture of seeing and touching the incarnate Christ. He refers to him as the eternal life – death is not a terminus. In fact scripture sees it more as the culmination of the separation caused by sin. As Isaiah put it; “your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Chapter 59 verse 2).

Jesus removed the consequences of sin from his followers. Speaking about the results of the new life to Martha Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”

Then he asked her “Do you believe this?” (St John Chapter 11 verse 25-26).

Funerals mark the departure point from this life but for the believer they represent the completion of the work that started at conversion where the new life in Christ took root.

The empty chair also reminds us that our turn will come; the time to prepare is now! Trust your life to the One who died in the sinners place and rose to ensure his eternal security.