Funeral of Wilmer Bargmann (Jn 10, 11–15, 27–30)

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jesus’ sheep hear Jesus’ voice. That’s what they do. That’s what makes them sheep. They hear. They listen to His voice. His voice alone, His Word alone perks their ears up. It’s a sure sign they’re His sheep. His voice, His Word gives them peace and joy.

His sheep hear His voice. They also echo it. Jesus’ sheep bleat His Word back to Him. He knows their bleating, and that doesn’t just mean He recognizes each and every one of His sheep. He does! “I’ve called you by name. You are mine,” Jesus promises through Isaiah—a promise realized in Holy Baptism. No, Jesus knows bleating because He’s the Shepherd-Lamb, Lamb of God.

The Lord speaks His Word. His sheep hear His voice. They receive it. They believe it. They confess it—bleat it back to Him. Just like Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:12, which was Wilmer’s confirmation verse, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

Yet, more important than all that is Jesus’ next statement. The very Words His sheep believe—the very thing that gives them joyful bleating. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” But even that falls a bit short today. After all, why won’t they perish? Because

NOTHING CAN EVER SNATCH YOU FROM JESUS’ HANDS.

((I. His cross and His empty tomb prove it.))

Jesus isn’t messing around here. He’s not blowing smoke. This is serious business caring for His sheep. He takes it seriously. Life and death seriously. His sheep need Him to. Wilmer needed Him to. You and I need Him to, too. And, Jesus does.

He’s no hired hand, no shepherd for hire who runs away at the first sight of danger. No, Jesus runs toward the danger! He takes head-on what’s coming for His sheep. That’s what it means that He’s the Good Shepherd. That’s what tells us that NOTHING CAN EVER SNATCH YOU FROM JESUS’ HANDS. That’s what His cross is all about!

Jesus runs toward danger all the way to Calvary. He lays down His life for His sheep, for His Wilmer, for His—you! He lays down His life for all our sins. He pays for our sins, and since “the wages of sin is death,” He dies. He gets what His sheep deserve. “God be merciful to me a sinner.” So He is.

But the Lord didn’t stop there. He came back to life. 3rd Day—Easter. Really the point of His birth that we’re gearing up for. But Jesus comes back to life. He takes it back. “No one takes it from Me. I lay it down that I may take it back again,” Jesus says. He takes it back for all of His sheep, each of His sheep. For Wilmer, for you, for us sheep who hear His voice.

Jesus’ empty grave is also proof positive that NOTHING CAN EVER SNATCH YOU FROM JESUS’ HANDS. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” And so if we were to picture it, Jesus would be holding His sheep in nail-scarred hands bringing them all the way into eternal life to live with Him forever.

((Transition.))

Now, all this would be good news enough on a day like today. But there’s even more good news to go. Calvary and Easter show us that Jesus does everything to make sure NOTHING CAN SNATCH YOU FROM HIS HANDS. But to look at this a slightly different way: After Calvary and Easter, what’s left that can snatch you? NOTHING!

((II. There’s NOTHING left to snatch you after Calvary and Easter.))

There’s NOTHING left to snatch you after Calvary and Easter. Can’t be your sins. All those are paid for. “Jesus is the sacrificial payment not only for our sins but the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn 2) Sure there’s still the lingering temporal punishment for our flesh. “The wages of sin is death,” but Jesus paid those wages, and so now for Jesus’ sheep death is “the gate of life immortal.”

And that’s the second thing that can’t snatch us—death! Jesus died the death of His sheep, so that by His death He would destroy him who the power of death, the devil. (The wolf who comes to get the sheep.) But Jesus also destroyed death itself. In one sense death is a nap for His sheep. That’s a gift of Holy Baptism.

In Holy Baptism each and all of Jesus’ sheep died and rose with Him. There we “become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” So it was for Wilmer December 20, 1931. There Wilmer first heard the voice of His shepherd, and again and again. Absolution. His Word. The Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. Throughout the years the promise and gift of eternal life given and given and given. “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me, and the shall never perish.”

And now we get to the best news of the day, I think. If sin can’t snatch a sheep, if the devil can’t snatch a sheep, if death can’t snatch a sheep, then all of the junk that leads up to death can’t snatch a sheep either. It doesn’t matter if you die at home, at a hospital, or in Cambridge Court! Not even that place or the reason for being there will snatch a sheep from Jesus. How could it? His cross, His tomb, His font say otherwise for Wilmer and for you. And if those reasons weren’t enough, here’s one more:

“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

((Conclusion.))

Jesus’ sheep hear His voice. That’s what they do. That’s what makes them His sheep. Sure way to tell which sheep are His. They hear His voice, His Word, they believe it, they may even from time to time bleat it back to Him.

But even more importantly for them, and for all of us today, and especially for those closest to Wilmer, Nate, Matt, and Naomi, Harold, and even more so for Wilmer himself is this good news:

NOTHING CAN EVER SNATCH YOU FROM JESUS’ HANDS.

His cross and empty tomb prove what Jesus is willing to do to make sure that nothing can snatch you. Suffering. Cross. Death. Grave. Coming back to life on the third day! Not a thing in the universe can snatch you from Him when you’re His.

When His sheep bleat for help, He hears them and answers them. He makes you His, keeps you His with His Word! Always with His Word! His Baptism. His Absolution. (A word given many times last week.) His Word.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

᛭ INI ᛭

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