Vice President Mike Pence, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, Pastor Louie Giglio, and others paid their respects to notable Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias at a memorial service Friday.
“He was the C.S. Lewis of our day. Crisscrossed the globe to every Mars Hill he could find to answer skeptics, move obstacles of unbelief, armed with intellect, girded with truth and love," Pence said at the service, which was held at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Pence called Zacharias “a friend” and “a man for all seasons,” a term first used to describe 16th century Christian intellectual and writer Sir Thomas More.
"God put him at my side at just the right time. The word of wisdom and kindness and encouragement that I’ll never forget," he said, noting that his death is a "personal loss."
“In the late Reverend Billy Graham, it’s been observed that God gave us the greatest Evangelist of the 20th century. In Ravi Zacharias, God gave us the greatest Christian apologist of this century.”
Zacharias passed away on May 19 following a battle with a rare form of bone cancer called sarcoma. He was 74.
At the memorial, Tebow called Zacharias a “hero,” discussing the ways in which the apologist had inspired him as a young man to proclaim the Gospel.
"I don’t say that lightly besides talking about my dad I don’t know that I’ve really said that about anybody, that Ravi was a hero to me."
Tebow talked about Zacharias’ sense of humor, noting that when he once told the apologist about listening to his speeches during an entire 15-hour flight, the apologist replied, “Brother Timmy, I’m so sorry.”
"That was just always Ravi. When you try to honor him with something special, his sense of humor and his humility always goes to the forefront."
Tebow listened to Zacharias' talks often, saying, "As a young person, I was … so eager to want to tell the world about Jesus, but I didn’t want to do it in every cookie cutter way. I wanted to do it different. I got to listen to this guy that said, 'You know what? You don’t have to be like everybody else.
"I would listen to Ravi … so I could be prepared to give a reason for why I believe in Jesus."
Family members and friends also spoke at the service, giving emotional testimony about how he was as a person and how he treated them with compassion and kindness.
Naomi Zacharias, one of his daughters, talked about what it was like as her father was nearing death, including his continual prayer habits and complimenting family members present with him.
“My father was ready to meet his Lord, but he fought as he did,” she remarked, holding back tears, “only because he didn’t want to leave us.”
Passion City Church Pastor Louie Giglio said that the memorial service was a “celebration of life” not of death, adding that “we are here to celebrate that death is dead and that Ravi is alive.”
He called Zacharias a “gentle giant” and a “rare treasure,” saying that “if intellect and prose had a son, his name would be Ravi Zacharias.”
“He never sought to win an argument, he always sought to win a person,” said Giglio regarding the apologetics efforts of Zacharias.
Zacharias was already laid to rest at a small private ceremony held in Georgia on May 21, which was officiated by Pastor Sam Allberry, a writer and speaker with RZIM.
His casket was built by a group of prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly called Angola Prison, in keeping with his final wishes.
“These prisoners know that this world is not their home,” wrote Zacharias, “and that no coffin could ever be their final destination. Jesus assured us of that. Such is the Gospel story.”
“The story of the Gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in God’s presence. I will never be ‘no more.’ I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me.”
Born in India in 1946 and raised in a Christian home, Zacharias became a believer as a teenager while recovering at a hospital following a suicide attempt.
He was ordained by the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1980 and founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in 1984, launching an apologetics school in 2017.
Zacharias was a prolific author and radio personality, whose weekly “Let My People Think” program was carried by an estimated 2,000 outlets in over 30 countries.
He often gave apologetics speeches at various gatherings across the United States and abroad, including in Eastern Europe soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In March, Zacharias was diagnosed with sarcoma, detected a few weeks after he had undergone back surgery. By May, his daughter, Sarah Davis, announced that treatments were not working.
“His oncologist informed us that this cancer is very rare in its aggression and that no options for further treatment remain. Medically speaking, they have done all they are able,” explained Davis in a May 8 statement.
“While we are full of so many emotions, we are also at peace, resting in the truth that God knows all and sees all and is sovereign and good."