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I once had a friend who told me the unorthodox story of how he first came to put his trust in Jesus for salvation. His Dad had unexpectedly pulled him and his younger brother out of school one day to take them on an impromptu field trip. He was just a young boy at the time, still in elementary school, and his Dad had not informed them ahead of time that they would be getting out of school early. They drove across town to a funeral home of all places. If I remember the story correctly, the owner of the funeral home was a family friend who welcomed them at the door and showed them around inside. He walked them through the various rooms explaining how bodies were prepared for burial, and the last stop on their tour was a room containing display coffins. The coffins were arranged not unlike a showroom floor at a car dealership. Some were fancy and some were plain, but my friend, who was in his fifties when he recounted this story to me, remembered vividly how his attention had come to rest on a coffin that was smaller than the others. It was a coffin for somebody his size. Like a lot of kids he had not reflected very much on his own mortality up to that point. He had thought of death as something older people needed to worry about, but as he peered into the padded interior of a coffin designed for someone his age all the Sunday school truths that he had been taught about Jesus and the Gospel crystalized into something that was more than just true, they became precious, needed and urgent. That moment stood out in His mind as the decisive, defining moment when he put his trust in Jesus for salvation.

I was reminded of that story this week because in John 8, which we will be studying this Sunday, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Never see death! Wow! That’s quite a statement. These words of Jesus are true of course, and most of us probably already believe them, but isn’t it made even more precious in these weary days of pandemic death counts? Once we have faced squarely the bad news of our own mortality then we are well prepared to receive the good news of the Gospel as precious, needed and urgent. We will never see death! That’s fantastic news, but all of us who have attended funerals for fellow believers might wonder how Jesus could make such a statement. What does that mean exactly? John 8 raises this and other questions that are worth thinking deeply about.

The eight chapter of John is full of of arresting moments like the one my friend experienced on that long-ago day in a funeral home, where Jesus guides us to a startling, new vantage point.