Posted on April 8th, 2017
Dear Ruth, John, Linda; dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. (Ps 55.22)
When Don came out of church and shook my hand, he always made me feel like a million bucks. Some people say, “Good sermon, pastor.” Not Don. He would exclaim, “Say, you’ve got a strong handshake!” Then with a big smile he’d squeeze my arm, and make me feel powerful, muscular, manly.
Despite his stroke, which made conversation difficult, Don knew how to be friendly and nice. With a warm welcome he’d greet you at his door, and he always seemed genuinely disappointed that you were leaving.
But in all these years I’ve known him, you could also sense the frustration. He would struggle to find the word he wanted to use. Conversations were exceedingly slow. He sometimes just gave up. The words would not come.
He made me feel strong, but the strength of his own mind was enfeebled by the corruption affecting this death-ridden world. He served his country as an officer when the world was threatened by the Axis powers, and then he rose to the heights of his profession in the Federal Reserve, where he met his lovely bride. He was successful and strong. But the strength of body and mind always fails.
The Epistle to the Hebrews says, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (10:12f). These enemies far surpass the Germans or Japanese, or the economic perils of inflation.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” says the Apostle. On his 90th birthday, Don lost his long battle with that enemy. But today we confess Jesus who won the battle we could not. Today, even in Lent, we confess: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
The moratorium on the Alleluias is broken, for the power of the grave is undone. We are an Easter people. Alleluia! is our song. The resurrection is the heart of our hope. Don’s confirmation verse is Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” That profession of faith is a confession of hope based on what immediately came before: Jesus opened for us “a new and living way … through the curtain [of] his flesh.”
The Old Testament way was an old and dying way. It always involved dead things – lambs, bulls, and goats. The blood of dead animals was shed again and again and again, a constant reminder that our sin leads to death. But the crucified flesh of Jesus is living again; He has emerged from the grave. The shed blood of Christ, flowing from His pierced side, now courses through His risen body, for He has trampled down death by His death.
The way of Jesus is now a living way. On this way Don walked; on this road Don ran; on this course Don persevered. The way of Jesus is now a new and living way, and He promises that this body, washed with pure water and sprinkled clean – this body shall live again. His dentures shall be replaced with teeth that will not decay. His revivified blood vessels will permit no stroke. His memory will be sharp, and words of praise to his Maker will flow forth without hesitation.
Dear friends, the Lord Jesus knows how you feel this day. When He came to the tomb of His friend Lazarus, He wept. He groaned and sighed, His insides churned with agony and lament. This was not the goal of His creation. Death is not just a part of life, or a natural sequence towards liberation from the material world. Death corrupts every good thing that God made, and so God in the flesh, God who Himself would suffer death – He weeps. He enters into your sorrow, and feels it entirely.
He goes and joins our death to His own, and what remains, what we still hope in, is the coming day when Don and all the faithful will be joined to His resurrection unto life. He will come to Don’s tomb and say the same thing He said to Lazarus: “Paul Donald, come forth!” And it shall be so.
So now we wait, having the Lord’s word “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2.10).
In two days—Palm Sunday—we shall gather outside and shout, Hosanna! It’s a prayer; Hosanna! means, “Save us now!” But we no longer say it as a prayer. We shout it with certainty, for Jesus is risen from the dead, and we know He saves all those who sleep in Him.
Jesus is risen from the dead, and death cannot hold this body. Ruth, and all you who hope in Christ, hold fast to this profession:
Truly my soul waiteth upon God:
From him cometh my salvation.
Wait, and you will see the salvation of God. We will be glad in that day, and there shall be no more tears. ✠INJ✠