November 2, 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS
INI + AMEN.
((4. Oof!: Tragedy snatches everything from us.))
We have so many questions about what’s happened. So many questions about the tragic and sudden death of Bill and Kayne. They’re hard questions. They’re difficult to think about. They’re impossible to answer. Some of them are even hard to ask! Some are questions from the depths of hell, coming from the devil himself, the father of lies. They seem like common questions, but that’s how the devil works. He’s subtle in his destruction and lies. Their purpose is to lead us away from Jesus to ourselves.
“What did I do?” “What if I had done…?” “What could I have done?” These questions put the blame on you, and get you to answer them in all sorts of ways. That you did something, and God’s punishing you. That you could’ve done something different, and this wouldn’t have happened. These are both patently false. God doesn’t hold a grudge like that. This world’s broken by sin, and bad things happen to sinners, even redeemed-by-Jesus, holy-by-the-Spirit, and eternally-loved-by-the-Father ones like Bill and Kayne, like you and me. But the truth of the matter is that the what ifs and the whys are endless. The would’ves, could’ves, and should’ves go on and on and on.
But here’s the thing: would answers to these questions really help? It’s almost second nature for us to ask them, but, when we enter the downward spiral of question after question, what if, in the midst of that darkness, the Lord Jesus would appear and give an answer? Would you be satisfied? Let’s be honest! I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be. Because the fact of the matter is this: no answer to our questions, no matter how good, won’t undo Friday. It won’t bring back Bill and Kayne. No amounts of answers can lessen that burden. We know it’s true, don’t we? We ask the questions, naturally I suppose, but we ask knowing that no answer is good enough. While we shall all go to them and be with Jesus with them, they can’t come back to us.
((3. Aha!: JESUS ALWAYS HAS HIS SHEEP IN HIS ALMIGHTY HANDS.))
That’s where we find ourselves, today. Maybe there or somewhere close or in between is where you find yourself. In this whirlwind of grief and sadness, let me tell you something, Jennifer, Rich and Ruth, Amy and Todd, Kevin and Susan, all the Schottes, the Bucks, Eddy, all of us here. JESUS ALWAYS HAS HIS SHEEP IN HIS ALMIGHTY HANDS. JESUS ALWAYS HAS HIS SHEEP IN HIS ALMIGHTY HANDS. No. Matter. What. No matter how old you are. No matter how young you are. No matter what happens. JESUS ALWAYS HAS HIS SHEEP IN HIS ALMIGHTY HANDS. And you know who Jesus’ sheep are? Those with faith in Him. So, Bill is. Kayne is. He baptized them. They are His sheep. He had them in His almighty hands on Friday. He certainly has them in His hands now. Nothing can change that. Jesus fulfills and has fulfilled His baptismal promise to them. They’re with Him.
You too! JESUS HAS YOU IN HIS ALMIGHTY HANDS, His nail-scarred hands. Your resurrected and ever-living Good Shepherd, Jesus, isn’t unacquainted with grief. He knows your sadness. He also grieved in His life. He lost His beloved, Lazarus, and so He wept. Your heavenly Father also knows the pain of losing His Son. But let me tell you something else: Jesus raised Lazarus. The Father raised His Son. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father and Jesus will raise Bill and Kayne’s bodies on the Last Day: glorified, perfected, and they will live forever—body and soul.
Job knew this about His Lord and Redeemer: “After my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Even as Bill and Kayne see Jesus face to face, so on the Last Day they will then be in His presence with these very bodies forever and ever. This goes for all who have faith and trust in Jesus. You too! That’s Jesus’ promise to you. Believe it! Jesus even has you in His almighty hands.
((2. Whee!: Nothing can snatch you from Jesus or the Father.))
Now, what does it mean that JESUS HAS HIS SHEEP IN HIS ALMIGHTY HANDS? That He has you? Well, as Jesus said, it means nothing can snatch you from His hand or from the Father’s hand. That’s the sort of God Jesus is. He’s almighty. He said He’d rise from the dead, and then He did it! Jesus’ tomb was empty on the third day. He appeared to His disciples. Fact. Jesus is alive now. As He said to the Apostle John, “I was dead, and look, I’m alive forever and ever.” That’s the Jesus who has you, who has Kayne and Bill, right now.
Nothing really separates you from Jesus or the Father. Not even tragedies. Not even death. That’s what Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus’ love for you, the Father’s love for you is permanent. It’s an eternal love they have for you. The cross of Jesus shines forth with the Father’s love for you, for each of you. His love for you isn’t in the shape of heart. His love for you is in the shape of a cross. The cross happened. The empty tomb happened. Now nothing can change the Father’s love for you.
Jesus knows how you feel. While He was enduring the cross, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” But even still He knew His Father’s love for Him. He still trusted His Father: “Into your hands I commit My spirit.” How could Jesus not know His Father’s love? Jesus is God, along with the Father. He knew His Father’s heart toward Him. So also you, let me tell you of the Father’s love for you. He gave His dearest Treasure for you, for Kayne, for Bill. All to save you that you might be with Him forever. In the midst of pain and turmoil the Father is tender-hearted toward you. His Son lives for you. To hold you in His arms. Nothing can really snatch you from Him. Ever.
((1. Yeah!: Jesus gives eternal life.))
There’s eternal and lasting significance to Jesus having you in His almighty hands. It means He gives eternal life. What that means for the sheep is that they “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” They will dwell with Jesus forever. He takes their souls to be with Him. He doesn’t forsake them in their time of need. They’re His. He bought them with His own blood. He washed them and made them holy with His Baptism. He saved them there. He always keeps His promises of eternal life with them. That’s the sort of God Jesus is.
He prepares His sheep for that eternal life. We must always be ready for when our dear Shepherd, Jesus, will take us to be with Him in His Father’s Kingdom forever. Bill and Kayne were ready. Jesus made sure of that. He baptized them, wrapping them up safe and secure in His righteousness. He strengthened the faith He gave them with the Word: the Scriptures read; God’s Word proclaimed. Sheep are kept sheep by being around their Shepherd. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, is at work in His Word and in His Gifts, and so He keeps and protects His sheep. They’re His forever. You’re His forever. His Word and Gifts are the only things that make sure of that.
But it’s not just spiritual life that Jesus gives to His sheep. It’s not just spiritual life that Jesus promises you either. It’s an eternal life that actually conquers death. Yes, Bill and Kayne are with Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit right now. In God’s presence right now. We will be too when we die. But on the Last Day, this will be undone. Jesus won’t stand for this! So on the Last Day these will burst open. All the graves will be opened. These bodies will be raised up. Glorified. Perfect. Holy. Forever. No more sickness, disease, or death. No more crying or pain. Eternal life body and soul. With our own eyes we will see Jesus, as Job prophesied!
Yes, we’re passing through the Valley of the Shadow of death right now. It’s hard. The hardest thing ever. But you have an almighty Jesus. A resurrected and living Jesus. He’s patient that we might hear His Word, believe, and be saved. But the day is coming, mark my words, the day is coming when Christ won’t stand for this. This will all be undone. And all the faithful, including us who believe in Christ, including Bill and Kayne, will be before Jesus’ throne body and soul forever.
INI + AMEN.