Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Grandfather's Memorial Service: A Devotional Commentary

John 5:24-30 Amen, amen, I tell you; the one who hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Amen, amen, I tell you; the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will come to life. For as the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself. He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this, because the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing of myself. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous because I do not seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me.”

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

And so it is with Grandpa. You could get all the king's horses and men and surgeons in the world and they wouldn't be able to put Grandpa back together again. But God can. God formed man out of the dust of the ground. God confirmed the teachings of the Old Testament and proved that His testimony was true by dying and rising again. There have been many people with all kinds of religious ideas but none of them have died and risen again. Jesus' resurrected body was seen by many and many of those who saw it were put to death for proclaiming that Jesus was resurrected. If they made the whole thing up, they would have given the story up rather than their lives. We can trust what Jesus says about the resurrection because He is the resurrection. When Jesus returns, all the dead will rise from their tombs. All coffins eventually fail and people are eaten by worms and other animals but God is still more than capable of putting everyone back together again.

Jesus says that those who have done good will go to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. What qualifies as good? From the Scriptures we learn that God requires absolute obedience. Even the smallest sin would disqualify us from being good and we sin every day. Whether it is by not doing what we should do or doing what we shouldn't, we are constantly sinning. We think evil thoughts about others and fail to love our neighbor. A man once asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and referred to Jesus as "good teacher." Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." So how can you or I have any hope at all? Aren't we all categorized among the evil? Aren't we all doomed to the resurrection of judgment? Yes. Absolutely. We are all evil and doomed to the resurrection of judgment and Jesus wants us to know this. Jesus wants to drive us to absolute despair.

Jesus wants to drive us to despair because Jesus is not interested in implementing a moral improvement program or telling us how to be rich and successful. Jesus did not come to give us some encouragement or a little help. Jesus did not come for the living. Jesus came for the dead and only when we recognize our own deadness, our own utter sinfulness, is there any hope at all. As long as we think we are alive, as long as we think we need no resurrection we are dead. If we think that God loves us based on whether or not we do more good deeds than bad deeds then we will have to live in perpetual doubt of God's love. If we are honest with ourselves we will have to conclude that God couldn't possibly love us. We cannot climb a ladder and ascend to God. We are pinned beneath the ladder and the ladder is choking us.

But if we stop looking within ourselves for our own goodness and instead look to Christ, then we will know with certainty that God loves us. We know that God loves us because God hung dead on a cross for us. He may not behave in certain situations the way that we would like Him to or do what we want but we shouldn't expect Him to. His ways are not our ways. God doesn't behave in a way that any reasonable god would. Rejoice in that! If we were god and had to deal with rotten sinners like us we would just destroy them. Instead God suffers humiliation and dies for us. Because God hangs dead on a cross for us we know that God loves us. God washes us in the waters of holy baptism and unites to the holy Trinity and gives us His name. Christ feeds us with His very body and blood in the Lord's Supper. Because God hung dead on a cross for us we can be certain that God will resurrect us on the Last Day. Look away from yourself and all the problems that surround you and and look to the crucified God and see how bad your sins really are and see God's love and mercy and forgiveness. The good One died for you, the evil one.

No comments: