By the time I met Chuck, he had already had his bout with cancer. They had to do surgery on his mouth in order to remove the cancer. They successfully removed the cancer, but Chuck was never able to eat or talk normally after that time. I remember the sadness after I listened as hard as I could and studied every movement of his mouth, but I could not understand him. Marlene had to interpret for him.
Then there was the inability to take anything by mouth. One of the major reasons a pastor makes calls on shut-ins is to give them the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. I asked around and I went on the Internet, but was unable to find a way to give the sacrament to someone who took food through a tube. The situation saddened me.
This situation saddens Jesus as well. We just heard how Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. He loved His friend and He mourned over him. At the same time, He also mourned over the circumstances that produce death, sickness, injury, and all the other frustrations of life.
Jesus is God. As God, He was there at creation, and He saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Since we are God’s creatures, we are part of the creation that is very good. When God created us, He made us perfect. He did not create us to die. He created us to live forever in perfect health.
Our gathering here today shows that we don’t live forever, and our health is far from perfect. Something disastrous has happened to God’s perfect creation … something that causes Jesus to cry.
As God, Jesus saw the perfect creation and it was very good, but He also saw the first sin and it was very bad. He saw the first temptation when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. He saw sin enter the world and sin opened the way for death. The death of Lazarus was the result of sin and Jesus wept in grief for Lazarus and for the burden of sin that this world carries.
That is how I know that chuck’s troubles saddened Jesus. Every bump and bruise … every illness … the bypass operation … the cancer … they may all have a wide variety of medical causes, but the root cause of it all is sin.
Fortunately for Chuck and all of us, Jesus didn’t take on human flesh just so He could weep over sin. He took on human flesh in order to do battle with sin. He took on human flesh to open a way back to the perfect creation that He made in the beginning. That is what Christmas, Easter, and all the time in between are about.
On Christmas, the Son of God is born as a human. As a human, Jesus lived under the law and kept it perfectly for Chuck and all of us. On Good Friday, Jesus allowed a Roman execution squad to nail Him to a cross so that He could hang there, endure God’s punishment in our place, and die. On Easter, He rose from the dead in order to show that there is now a way through death that leads to everlasting life for Chuck and for you and for me.
What does this mean for Chuck? It means that he no longer suffers any of the difficulties of this earth. He is with Jesus waiting for the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. On that day, he will be the perfect union of both body and soul that God created in the beginning. His heart will pump forever without skipping a beat. He will join the heavenly chorus and sing a new song to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10) He will sing with a mouth that no longer suffers from cancer surgery and every word will be clear as a bell. He has an invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb and he will not have to eat that supper through a tube.
What does this mean for you? What comfort can you take away from all this? Well, Jesus did not die on the cross just for Chuck. He died so that you too may have an invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb. He died so that you too may rise from the dead to eternal life. As the Holy Spirit said through the Apostle Paul, “In Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)
Today is not the end for those who believe in Jesus Christ. We shall all see Chuck again. Our grief is not the same as those who have no hope. We grieve as those who will be apart for a long time. We do not grieve as those who will never see each other again. The comfort that Jesus gives today is that all who believe in Him share a joy that all can know for eternity … the joy of the eternal revealed presence of the grace of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can all share in that joy now and forever.
On Sunday evening, we prayed that the Lord would heal Chuck according to His perfect wisdom and holy will and the Lord saw fit to grant Chuck the ultimate healing. The Lord sent His angels to carry Chuck from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. He now waits with the hosts of heaven for that day when all the dead shall rise and those who believe on the Lord shall live with Him in eternal perfection on the new earth.
In the meantime, we who wait will mourn. Chuck’s death will affect us all … some more than others. When we mourn, we can take comfort in the sure and certain hope that all who believe in Jesus will see Chuck again. We shall see him in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and Jesus will never make us say good-bye. Amen
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