I never had the opportunity to meet Betty, but I have met and made friends with more than a few of her descendants. There are many special things that parents hand down to their children. In the case of Betty, one of those things is visible in this group today. Many of you are wearing uniforms.
These uniforms indicate that there are people among us who respond to disasters just a little bit differently than others. You see, most people run away from disasters. People in uniform run toward disasters. They run toward disasters in order to help in some way. It seems to me that this family has more than the average number of people who run toward disaster in order help those who are in trouble. As I have talked with some of you about Betty, many of you have described her as the sort of person who ran to help people in trouble … even if it was a mayday from Amelia Earhart. Although I never met her, it seems to me that this is one of the qualities that Betty passed on to her descendants.
A couple of weeks ago Betty faced the ultimate disaster. She came face-to-face with death. She needed a rescuer. She needed someone who would run toward that disaster in order to help her. That someone needed to be able to remain with her through death and bring her out in safety on the other side. Now, as wonderful as people in uniform can be … as often as those people save others from death, there is no mere human being who can pass through the experience of death with you. The one who runs toward death in order to bring you safely through death must be more than just human. There is only one man who is more than a man … one man who can who can safely escort you through death to new life. That man also happens to be the Son of God.
Death came into the world along with the sin of Adam. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and said, [Romans 5:12] “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” He also wrote to the church in Corinth and said, [1 Corinthians 15:56] “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” As the Son of God runs toward death in order to help us through death, He must also deal with sin. Thus He must defeat both sin and death.
When Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats, He spoke to those who were to spend eternity with Him. He said, [Matthew 25:34] “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” These words teach us that Jesus already had plans of salvation in place when the world was created through Him. That means that He already knew at the time of creation that He would run toward death in order to rescue us from death.
The Son of God did this by taking our human flesh into Himself. That is what Christmas is all about. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He not only took our humanity into Himself, but He also placed Himself under the law. He did all this so that He could take our place and keep the law perfectly for us. He endured every trial that we endure without sinning. As the writer to the Hebrews said, [Hebrews 4:15] “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
In His perfection, He ran toward the disaster as the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, [Philippians 2:5–8] “Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” With His death on the cross, He conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil. He blazed a new trail through physical death that does not lead to eternal death, but leads instead to life everlasting.
Jesus certified that His death conquered death by rising from the dead. He ascended into heaven and He now pours out forgiveness, life, and salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As I have talked with people who knew Betty, they have told me that Betty expressed faith in this Jesus Christ … the Jesus Christ who ran toward the disaster of death on a cross in order to overcome death and create a new path to everlasting life. This means that when Betty faced death, she did not face it alone. Her savior was at her side and His angels carried her from this life to the next on the path that leads to eternal life. Now she is with Jesus in paradise and she waits for the last day when Jesus will rejoin her body and soul in perfect immortality.
This resurrection of the body is very important to you who gather here this day. It means that the good-bye you say today is not forever. For the same Jesus Christ who ran toward the disaster of death on a cross in order to win eternal life for Betty has done the same thing for you. The salvation He earned for Betty is also for you. All who believe in Jesus will pass through death with Jesus at their side as the angels carry them from this life into paradise. There you will meet with all the loved ones who died in the Lord, including Betty.
So the grief of those who trust Jesus is fundamentally different from the grief of the rest of the world. While it is good, right, and healthy to grieve, we do not grieve as though we will never see Betty again. Instead, our grief is the grief of a long separation and not the grief of total loss. We miss Betty and we shed tears, but the day is coming when we will see her again. We shall join her at the throne of God and we will dwell with her in the house of the Lord forever. In that place, we shall live in the sure knowledge that we shall never be parted again. Amen
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