Two disciples walked sadly from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They thought their teacher and best friend was dead. We see how sad they were when a stranger joins them on the road and asked what they were talking about. The two disciples were so grieved that they could not walk and talk at the same time. They stood still, looking sad. The depth of their grief immobilized them.
We who gather on this day in this place share the grief of those two disciples. We too, have lost someone dear to us. God in His infinite knowledge and perfect wisdom has called our dear brother Don from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven. He is now at Jesus’ side waiting for the Last Day … the Day of the Resurrection.
By the time I got to know Don, He was sort of a migrant land owner. He showed up in the spring to make sure that the crops were planted properly. Then he showed up in the autumn to make sure that those same crops were harvested properly. The rest of the time, He and Helen lived in Tennessee. Every spring and fall, there would be that one Sunday when Don and Helen were back in town. I’d see them for a few Sundays and then they would tell me that the work was over for the season. They would soon leave for Tennessee and I wouldn’t see them for a while.
Then a season came and Don and Helen weren’t here. We learned that Don wasn’t well and we missed the two of them. The next season they were back, but, over time, the seasons they spent in Tennessee were more and more and the seasons in Hoopeston were less and less. Now, during this harvest season, Don’s mortal body is back in Hoopeston even while his immortal soul is waiting with the Lord.
The death of someone like Don is very troubling. There is the emptiness and grief that people feel at every funeral. Yet with someone like Don there is more. You see, Don seemed like a gentle soul to me. I remember him with a smile on his face. He always seemed genuinely happy to see me. He was one of the nice guys. Here I can only speak for myself, but when a nice guy like Don dies, it really drives home the point that I too must die someday.
The Bible is fairly clear. The Apostle Paul writes, [1 Corinthians 15:56] “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” When we encounter death, we encounter sin for sin is the sting of death. As wonderful as Don was, the Bible teaches that where there is death, there is sin. If a true gentleman such as Don is a sinner who dies, then what chance do I have? What chance do any of us have?
Our hope is the same as the hope of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, for as they walked, a man joined them. At first, they thought the man was a stranger … a stranger who was fairly ignorant. He seemed to know nothing of the terrible tragedy that caused their sadness… the death of their teacher and friend. Little did they know that this traveling stranger was, in fact, the very center of the events that saddened them. Little did they know that the events that saddened them were not a tragedy, but a great victory.
The stranger conducted a Bible class right there in the road. As they walked, He took them through the Law and the Prophets. He showed them how the promised Messiah must suffer before He entered His glory. He used the Law and the prophets to show them that they should not be mourning a dead martyr, but they should be expecting a risen savior.
As they drew near to Emmaus, they invited this stranger to stay with them. It was common courtesy to offer your home to weary travelers at the end of the day. Only when this stranger entered their home, He took the role of host. He took up the bread. He offered thanks. He tore the bread in order to give it to them. It was then that these two disciples realized that the stranger who had told them of the risen savior was the risen savior. The recognized Him and He disappeared from their sight. But not before they realized that He is risen from the dead. Jesus, their teacher and friend, had died and was alive again. The events they thought were a tragedy, were, in fact, a victory.
This is the comfort that we have on this day. Jesus our savior has taken up the sin of the world and carried it to the cross. There, on that cross, He defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil. His victory was so complete that death could not hold Him and He rose from the dead and walked with His friends on the road to Emmaus.
This means that Don’s sin, your sin, my sin is forgiven. It means that Floral Hills Cemetery is only a temporary resting place for this body. Jesus, the one who rose from the dead, has promised that there will be a day when the dead shall rise to immortality in both body and soul. On that day He will give eternal life to all who believe in Him.
The comfort for us this day is that we are not saying good-bye to Don forever. We shall see him again. We shall see him and all our loved ones who died in Christ.
Jesus has also promised to raise a new heaven and a new earth. In that new place there will be no mourning, crying, or pain. There will be no death. All the old things will be gone and Jesus shall make all things new. In that new place, we shall gather with Don and all those who died in Christ. We shall see God face to face and know Him for eternity.
In the meantime, we wait. We mourn honest tears. We do not mourn as those who have no hope of seeing their loved ones again. Instead, we mourn as those who will only be parted from our loved ones for a while. We shall not see Don again in this world, but we will see him in the world to come even as we gather around our risen savior. We shall join Don at our savior’s side and never leave one another again. Amen
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