(Click here for blog one in this short series recapping our time in South Asia.)
The day before our flights left Nepal, we went across town to a place called Pashupatinath, a little area of temples, shrines and idol worship along a river that flows into the Ganges.
I had heard David Platt talking about this area before so as we got there it was incredibly somber but I was still taking photos and trying to document the area. It was only a matter of minutes before I could no longer take photos as what was taking place around us sunk into my soul.
Pashupatinath is a cremation site. Within 24 hours of death, the family brings the dead body to the river where there are multiple funeral pyres (a pile of wood upon which a corpse is burned). The Hindus believe this action assists in helping transition the dead to another place as well as benefits the reincarnation process. After the burning is complete, which takes approximately 6-7 hours, the ashes are raked into the river, where the people are then carried to “another place.” Part of those ashes are reserved, however, and the priests roll around in them and then saunter about, covered in ashes of those who once burned.
Additionally, before the burning begins, the families will take the dead and wash their feet in the river (ideally they would die with their feet in the river) and put some of the water in their mouths, all of which serves as preparation for cremation and aids in the process of transitioning to the “other” place.
Death covered the place.
Everywhere you looked there were dead people and I’m not just talking about those being burned on a stack of wood. That was only a physical vision of a spiritual reality. Everywhere you turned was another dead person looking to find peace everywhere except in Christ alone because to them, Jesus, if they’ve heard of Him, is just another god among their thousands.
Hell is real.
I watched people physically burning but their souls had already been consumed with the fire that will never die (Matthew 3:12). All those people burning and all those people watching, all the people with the priests and the holy people and touching the cows and covering all their bases but “having eyes [they] do not see and having ears [they] do not hear” (Mark 8:18). They have staked their life on a total lie and they don’t even know.
Who will go to them and tell them there is another way? Who will tell them that all they long for is found in the only God in history who didn’t send someone to die for Him but who came to die for His rebellious subjects?
This isn’t just marginalized to Kathmandu, Nepal.
We are around dead people everyday. We were the dead people before Jesus pulled us from the flames of death by His grace and now we have been commissioned by that same suffering Savior to extend what we have received to the dead people around us.
We must take seriously this responsibility to go and make disciples of all nations including our neighbors and coworkers and children and friends. We must leverage our lips and our lives for the glory of the King and the joy of everyone around us. We must treat the Great Commission, as my pastor says, as if we were the only church given the command. God made this even more personal for me during this trip—I must treat the Great Commission as if I was the only person given the command.
“The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him;
He also hears their cry and saves them.”
– Psalm 145:17-19
This is the hope we have and this is the reason we go to all the nations, including the one we’ve been born into, to make disciples. The Lord is righteous, kind, and near; He fulfills our desires, He hears and saves. And He has chosen to accomplish that end through us, His body. What a great privilege!
I leave you with this quote from one of the workers in Kathmandu,
“I am not God’s answer to change Nepal. The church is God’s answer for Nepal. Jesus Christ is the head of the church—He is the answer for Nepal.”
And He is the answer for our city and area and nation. And guess who has been called into service for Him, guess who has been given the right and the honor of rescuing other traitors and telling them there is life and hope and peace? Us.
What are we waiting for?
2 comments on “Cremation, Corpses, and the Command to Go”
14How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”… (quoted from Bible Hub)