Grace, mercy, and peace to you, especially in this time of grief, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
We heard a few moments ago the account of our Lord’s death and resurrection.
We also heard at the beginning of our Funeral Service the words of Saint Paul, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
Therefore, it is appropriate that we hear about the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ at this Funeral Service of our brother George. He was baptized into the death of Christ, and because this is so, George will also be united with Christ in a resurrection like His.
Although this is appropriate, to talk about the death of Christ may still feel uncomfortable. We may cringe a little when we hear of the darkness and pain of the Cross.
Yet the death of Christ is necessary, indeed, His death is life for George and for us. The pain of Christ was the pain that we deserved. The punishment that fell upon Him was what sinful mankind had earned by our continual transgressions.
So Christ was suffering in the place of George, and in the place of you and me. This is good news, because it means that George has not gone ahead to a place of torment, or a place of darkness, or a place where he must work off his sins. No, all has been worked off by Christ. No torment remains for George, and every tear is wiped away for all time. He shall dwell only in the perfect light of the face of God, which he gazes upon even now. Christ the Savior earned all this for George on the Cross of Calvary.
The darkness that covered the land at Calvary showed us the greater torment of Christ that shall never fall upon George or any believer. Christ had to suffer terrible pain as the Father turned His back on His own Son. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This forsaking was necessary on the Cross to save sinners. But it will never happen to George. It never happened to him in this life, either. God never turned His back on George. The Lord always looked upon George with favor and love, because in Baptism George was declared a true son of God.
When he saw the death of Christ on the Cross, the centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” These were the words of a mere man, marveling at the earthquake and the rocks splitting and the graves opened, and many saints coming alive. These amazing wonders forced even the heathen centurion to confess the truth about Christ.
But God, who is a far better witness of the truth, has transferred the title, “Son of God” to George and to all believers. The Father has declared that George is a son equal to Christ in holiness and righteousness. This was not true in George’s lifetime, since he was a sinner as we all are. But George was clothed in Christ, covered by His Blood that covered all his sins.
This reality was hidden in George’s lifetime. No one looked at him and marveled at the amazing sight that here was a son of God. That reality cannot be seen by human eyes. Yet a time is coming when earthquakes will again shake the world, and rocks will split, and all tombs will open for all the dead to come forth. On that day, George will be seen for what he is – not merely a man, but a glorious saint, and a son of God. Then we will see what has been hidden.
That is the day of resurrection, glimpsed in the resurrection of Christ on Easter Day. The preview of the future reality is in the announcement of the brightly shining angel who rolled away the stone from the tomb: “He is risen, as He said.” The Lord made the promise, and He kept His word. He did not remain in the tomb forever, but He came to life again.
Now Christ has also said that we shall all be raised, and that believers in Christ will receive life everlasting. Christ the Lord will also keep this word for us and for George. The body that is raised will not be like the old body, subject to pain and death and hunger and thirst. When George is raised, his body will be full of health and vitality. His mind will be perfectly clear, more clear than any of us have been in this life. He will be strong, so strong that death will never be able to touch him again.
In this way, Christ was raised. In this way, all we who trust in Christ’s death and resurrection will be raised as well.
So how do we celebrate the life of George? We can, indeed, recount his earthly deeds. We can recall his love and hard work for others. But the greater reality is that the life of George was in Christ the Lord, and Him crucified. The greater reality is that the life of George is the resurrection of Christ, who lives, never to die again. To see and celebrate George’s life most clearly, look to what Christ has done. Recognize that the immortality and power of the Lord are in His servant George, who is also declared to be a son of the Most High God.
In the Name of this true God, and to His glory alone. Amen.
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