by Dennis Dalman
James read the obituary, Peter delivered the eulogy and Mary Magdalene sang a song at the funeral for Jesus Christ on Good Friday at the Waters Church in Sartell.
At the beginning of the ceremony, casket bearers carried an oak coffin topped with a bouquet of flowers to the front of the church as more than 400 members of the congregation stood to show their respect. Jesus had been placed in the coffin after being crucified the night before by Romans at Golgotha, the Place of Skulls.
James, Peter, Mary and other speakers at the Waters Church funeral were, of course, roles played by members of the congregation. Their purpose was to celebrate Jesus in a new way, as if he had just died, to be buried only days before his resurrection.
In his homily, John spoke of how he was just a humble fisherman ready to launch his boat from the marina when Jesus walked up to him and said to him, “Follow me.”
John said he was stunned because he’d heard how this Jesus was a fantastic leader and maybe even the messiah, so why would he take interest in a simple fisherman? But John followed him, as did others, and some of them, John noted, were “journalers” who wrote down everything they saw and experienced pertaining to Jesus.
“That was three years ago,” John said. “Jesus was a great man, and he will be missed. Just the other night we all had dinner together, and Christ got up and washed our feet. He told us he would be betrayed, and yet he put Judas right by him in a place of honor at the dinner. It was a crazy night.”
Then John told how Jesus seemed to be so stressed, so tired, during the night in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then the authorities came to arrest him.
“They didn’t take his life,” John said. “He gave it.”
Kidding James, Peter and Thomas, John said, “I was pretty much Jesus’s favorite. Sorry, guys.”
Mary Magdalene said she was unworthy of Jesus, yet he taught her the true meaning of love, of spiritual love. Faltering for words, she began to sing a mournful song entitled Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord?
During the funeral service, a giant video of scenes from the life of Christ was shown on the screen at the front of the church. The video portrayed Christ washing feet, doing miracles, helping the sick and the poor and then, finally, as the victim of a blood-drenched scourging and gruesome crucifixion. The congregation appeared stunned by the violence of the nailing of Jesus to the cross.
Another special memory was given by Thomas, always the doubter, who told how astonished he was when Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fish to feed a large, hungry crowd that had gathered to hear him speak.
“Talk about amazing!” Thomas told the audience.
In the eulogy, Peter remembered how just a week before Jesus, he and other followers all walked into Jerusalem. He told how Jesus had protected a woman accused of adultery from being stoned to death and how he had raised Lazarus from the dead, among other miracles. Jesus had sought out the scorned, wept with Martha and Mary, played with children and healed the sick.
“Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God,” Peter said. “I’ve never been so sure of it as now. There’s only one word to describe him: love. A compassionate, singular form of love. It was his very purpose. He always saw the heart of the matter, not the look of it. He leveled the playing field.”
Peter said Jesus promised before his death he would rise from death on the third day.
“I don’t know about you,” he said, “but I’m banking on that.”
After more music and the close of the ceremony, the casket bearers carried Jesus’s coffin out of the church to a waiting hearse, ready to go to the burial site at a cemetery.
Members of the congregation stood and watched as the casket bearers did their task. Their names were Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Nathaniel, Peter, Philip, Thomas and – yes – even Judas was there.