Kings, Queens and Princes, the great and the small, the young and old—all meet death and face the Judge of the Earth. As the writer to the Hebrews explains, “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Death is the great divider: it tears people away from their loved ones; it separates the living from the dead, and the soul from the body.

Death is the great divider: it tears people away from their loved ones; it separates the living from the dead, and the soul from the body.

Shakespeare’s Calpurnia was wrong when she assumed before Caesar, “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” Ecclesiastes is more truthful: “For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!” (2:16)

Susan and I stayed up to watch the funeral service for HRH Prince Philip. It was midnight here in Melbourne, but one should not overlook momentous occasions such as this. The ceremony was orchestrated with solemnity, with military procession and precision, marching in step to Beethoven’s funeral march. It was also obviously deeply personal—an expression of Prince Philip’s life and the devotion of his grieving wife.

Grief Magnified

The constraints of a global pandemic were evident, with only 30 guests permitted to attend the service inside St George’s Chapel, with compulsory mask wearing for Princes and Princesses. Much of the Chapel was deserted as a choir of 4 sang in an empty space. But the simplicity and scarcity of the event did not detract from its dignity. If anything, the sight of Her Majesty sitting alone during the service, together with the stunningly beautiful music, magnified the awful reality of grief.

The television presenters, meanwhile, spoke of Prince Philip’s ‘faith’. For a moment, one commemorator referred to the Duke of Edinburgh’s ‘Christian faith’, before quickly correcting his social faux pas by returning to the vague universal.

The world lost a remarkable man. A woman lost her husband, and children their father.

We are divided by death and united in death.

We are divided by death and united in death: Duke, accountant, teacher and boilermaker alike. But in the midst of the restrained grandeur of this funeral, there was a wonderful word of hope—no doubt overlooked by many—offered to those mourning in St George’s Chapel and to the 100s of millions like Susan and I who were watching from our homes.

The word spoke of a deliverance from the grave and the undoing of death. I have no idea whether Prince Philip personally believed this good news and entrusted his life to the Sovereign care of his Redeemer, but the message resounded throughout the service for all to hear: One who is greater than all Queens and Princes has conquered death and he gives certain hope of resurrection to all who receive him. Here it was in the portion of Scripture that was read,

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:21-27)

A Desperate Need

Death is not our only leveller, we also share a desperate need for a God who forgives sinners and who can gift eternal life. Status or reputation make no difference: even Princes need a saviour.

Christians don’t hope merely for an afterlife, Jesus teaches us to expect resurrection.

Christians don’t hope merely for an afterlife, Jesus teaches us to expect an event of far greater consequence and reality: resurrection. Our physical remains will rest with the maggots for a time, only to be resurrected on the last day—to participate in a new creation where there will be no disruption, and no end to joy and happiness and life. Jesus declares himself to be the one through whom this gift is made possible: He is the resurrection and the life.

As Jesus asked Martha we may ask ourselves, ‘Do we believe this?’


We will all walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Our bodies will grow weak and sick and tired. They will be worn out by transgressions and by life in a corrupted world. Death will come both for those we love and those we despise, and it will also swallow us.

But this great enemy has itself been defeated.  The Messiah has come, and last night that great news rang true—as it has at for every funeral I have conducted over the years: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Jesus’ words are no hollow gesture. Following his conversation with Martha, Jesus approached the tomb where his friend Lazarus lay. In what is the shortest verse in all the Bible we read, “Jesus wept”. Our God is not unmoved by the awfulness of death. Even more, to prove the worth of his word this same Jesus who was crucified, rose from the dead on the third day. He was physically and really alive, and never to die again. It is this resurrection that is the guarantee of our resurrection. As the Apostle Paul explains:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:17-20)

Whether it is a royal funeral or the deaths of 3 million people lost to COVID-19, or our own eventual dying, we need a hope that holds fast beyond grief and surpasses our own strength. Thank God for his Son and for the hope of resurrection that is ours in him.

First published at murraycampbell.net