Many who die because of Covid-19 have been lamented, “What a pity, dying alone like that, with no one to bury and pay a proper last respect.” What does the Bible say? In Luke 16:19-31 the Lord tells us the story of two people who died different kind of deaths.
First we meet Lazarus, a man of remarkable poverty, a true embodiment of a “nobody” in this world. The Lord tells us, “the poor man died,” and with these words we reach the end of his life on this earth. Not a single word on who paid him a last respect (probably none), whether he got a proper burial (who’d pay?). It would be no surprise at all should his body end up in an unmarked grave, and the only reason the body got buried was due to a norm that required even strangers must be buried (cf. Matthew 27:7).
Second, the Lord introduces us to a nameless rich man, whose daily wear is no less than haute couture, whose daily consumption no less than the finest meals and drinks money could buy. When he died, the Lord remarked, “and [he] was buried.” People paid him a last respect due to his social standing, he was honorably mourned for, and then buried. The politicians and socialites of his day wouldn’t think of not attending his funeral.
The scene then moved to Hades. What does the Lord show us here?
Lazarus “was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side.” Let’s think of this question: how many angels were required to carry this one Lazarus to Abraham’s side? Was one angel not enough? I believe we have the answer in the following scenes we must be familiar with:
In all these scenes, it was not because two of these soldiers were not strong enough to carry the coffin. It is neither for want of strength nor speed that Queen Elizabeth II needs six horses to pull her carriage. Rather, it was for pomp and ceremony that eight solders were tasked to carry the President’s coffin and it is also for pomp and ceremony that six horses pull the Queen’s carriage. I believe it’s for the same reason that God sent multiple angels, not just one, to carry Lazarus away from his life of grieves and cries and pains (cf. Revelation 21:4) to Abraham’s side.
What about the rich man, then? Just as Lazarus died in obscurity, so did the rich man arrive in Hades in obscurity. After his proper burial, we simply found him “in Hades.” How did he end up there? We don’t know. Who brought him there? No idea. How long has he been there? The Lord doesn’t tell us. This person is barely known: even his name is not known.
Who must be pitied? Lazarus, or this rich man?
“If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.” 1 Corinthians 15:19.
We pay our last respect, nor for the sake of the dead. The second someone dies, his eternal destiny has been sealed. Those who die in the Lord, they would already be blissfully blessed at Abraham’s side. Those who outside the Lord, they would already start to be tormented in Hades. We pay our last respect, that’s for the sake of the grieving loved ones. In the era of movement restriction orders and lockdowns, what we need to ask is, “How can I grief with and ease the burden of the griefing loved ones?”