My Graveside Religion
I became a believer in 1980. The Lord has changed my life and the lives of those around me. Amazingly, he used the focal point of my former religious life to catch my attention and make me start looking for him.
Many Jewish believers clearly recall their celebrations of the traditional Jewish holidays at home. Some went through Hebrew school, and many remember their family memberships and activities in the synagogue.
I didn’t have those things. Synagogue membership was too expensive for us, as was the tuition at the Hebrew school in my hometown of Santa Fe, Argentina. I received most of my education in public schools. My father was too concerned with the struggle of paying for the family’s sustenance to think about those high fees for religious education.
The surprising thing about my family (and many of the Jewish families in Santa Fe) was that the focal point of our religious life was the cemetery. From going to the cemetery I found out that the world was divided in two: us” (the Jews) and “them” (the Gentiles). In my little town there were only two cemeteries. One was the municipal cemetery, and the other was the Jewish cemetery. The Jewish cemetery was only two blocks away from the other one, on the same street. Every other weekend my mother and I (sometimes my father, too) would get up early and head for the bus stop. My family did not own a car, so we always had to take the bus to go to the cemetery.
It is impossible to forget that bus ride. It was a very inefficient line, and we always had to wait at least half an hour for the bus. The blue Number Nine was always late. We got on at the beginning of the route, when the bus was empty. It took 45 minutes to get to our destination. As the bus got closer to the two cemeteries, it would fill up. The first stop was the municipal cemetery where most people got off. Then the bus would be almost empty again, leaving only my family and some other Jewish people my mother or father would recognize.
Once I asked my mother why we didn’t go to that first one. It seemed to be so popular! My mother told me that we were Jews. We were different, and that was why we did not go to the other cemetery.
The Jewish cemetery was a great place to meet other Jews from the city. Since we were not involved in any of the other activities of the community, that was the only place to meet them. We would spend hours there, not only putting flowers on the graves, but also chatting with people and relatives.
As I grew up, I started wondering about what happens when someone dies. I asked my parents, and I clearly remember my mother saying that when people died they just went to sleep forever. There was nothing else. For a while I was satisfied with that answer, but when my grandmother and one of my aunts died in a very short span of time, I started wondering again. I could not imagine an eternal nothingness.
My questions led me to start looking for an answer, and I found that the only one who had the answer was Yeshua. He was the only one who gave assurance to those who believed in him that they would have eternal life.
I still have a “graveside” religion. But now the most important aspect of my faith is Yeshua’s empty tomb and what it means. I know that only the claims of Jesus can answer one of the most poignant questions that man has ever asked himself. What happens when someone dies?
Jesus said: “…Fear not…I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore… and have the keys of hades and of death” (Revelation 1:17, 18). He has the authority to give assurance about eternal life because he has conquered death. And because of his conquest, we can all defeat it if we trust in him.