Our Savor for Life

Sermon 1770 John 5.25-29 November 14, 2021

In 1989 Aurora Schauck was buried in Riverview Cemetery, in Aurora Illinois. She was 62. This would not have been particularly noteworthy had her burial not included the purchase of 14 contiguous plots and the need to dig a hole over 27 feet deep. You see, Aurora had expressed one wish to her husband for years before her death—that she be buried with her beloved red Cadillac convertible. He respected her wishes. They put the top down, removed the seats and nestled the coffin into the passenger compartment.

Aurora had something so much a part of her, she wanted to take it with her. I am sure people, either at the funeral, or reading the account in the papers, thought, “That’s living!”

I make no judgment on burial customs—Green Bay Packer or Minnesota Vikings coffins are available at many friendly funeral homes in the Upper Midwest--but I do bring it to your attention that you don’t have to be buried in a red Cadillac convertible to want to hold on, even in the face of death, hold on to what you hold dear. And if you hold on to the right thing, everybody should say, “That’s living!”

Our Savior for Life

1. Hold on to Jesus (25-26).

2. He will hold on to us (27-29).

“I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself (25-26).”

“That’s living!” That’s what Jesus’ words are all about. Jesus is our Savior for life. Hold on to Jesus.

Now here is where the first problem comes up for me. We don’t think Jesus is what living is all about. We don’t. What makes people come alive? If you are a student at Greenspun Junior High, does 2:11 on Friday afternoon make you come alive? It’s the weekend! Does Monday Night Football make you guys come alive? Maybe it’s a new dress for the gals or a trip to the salon—goodbye gray (I feel twenty again)! What makes our eyes sparkle when we think about it?

It isn’t Jesus. It never is. Our sinful human nature sees to that. In fact, as soon as the conversation takes a turn towards higher things, eternal life, faith and the deeds of our Savior, people conveniently (and uncomfortably) change the subject.

That’s why Jesus starts out talking about the dead. “The time is coming and has now come,” Jesus says. So don’t think about the Last Day. Don’t think about some time far into the future. It has already come as Jesus is speaking. “The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God.”

The dead are you and me. No matter how much we think we are alive, we are dead, by nature, dead on the inside. Before we believed we were dead to God. We did not love him. We could not obey him. In fact, we actively resisted him. Dead. That’s God’s word for it, not mine.

We want to avoid the dead. We leave the dead to the coroner and the undertaker. Cemeteries are in out of the way places and we visit them once in a great while, but those visits are certainly not part of our daily routine.

Jesus did not avoid the dead. He called to us. He spoke to us. Think of all the words Jesus said which are recorded in the Bible. “God so loved the world.” “Follow me.” “Cheer up, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus looked us up. He dug around us like a gardener digs around a problem fruit tree, trying to give its roots more air, more drainage, more nutrients. He called to us and his call made us come alive. We heard his voice. We believed. That was the response his words brought forth in us. And in that hearing, in that believing, the dead came to life. Jesus brought us to life.

Jesus can do this because he is God. God the Father has life in himself. He is eternal and ever-living. He called forth all life when he created all things out of nothing. Jesus is God. God the Father has granted God the Son to have life in himself. So Jesus is life. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Yes, if you remember last week’s sermon this has everything to do with Jesus’ humble obedience to his Father’s will and nothing at all to do with some imagined inferiority of Jesus. As God the Father has life and can give that life to whom he will, Jesus, God the Son, has life and can give that life to whom he will.

Our faith is the life Jesus has given us. We are spiritually alive when we believe in Jesus. I can prove it to you.

Oh, don’t look in the mirror. On the outside you and I look exactly like unbelievers (who have taken care of themselves). On the inside we have the same blood types and the same digestive, cardiac and respiratory problems unbelievers have. Look in your mind. That’s where the difference is. Oh, and I’m not going to point to all the good deeds as proof that we have a life of faith already now with Jesus. I haven’t been keeping track of them and I doubt whether you have, either. Jesus isn’t in the habit of giving merit badges. I will point to the conflict within us, the struggles of being a Christian. We want to do the right thing, but the wrong thing is right there within our grasp. In fact, the good that we want to do we do not do, but the evil we do not want to do, that we keep on doing! Potty-mouths in front of the kids. Selfishness when we haven’t gotten enough sleep. Always making errors in math in our favor. That’s the proof! If we didn’t have that new life of faith within us, there would be no struggle at all! Our sinful human nature would rule our lives as undisputed champion. But now we have a new nature, a living faith also within us. Now we have conflict.

We want to hold on to Jesus our entire life. From baptism to burial we want to hold on to Jesus. Everything else, oh, you can buy and sell that stuff. The house, the car, family heirlooms. See how valuable those memories are when the last of the family is gone. Nobody wants them. But our faith, that spiritual life--we keep that. It renews us on the inside. We can still sing Away in the Manger. That’s why the holidays are so special to us. We’ve never outgrown them because they were centered on our faith in Jesus. Christmas, Easter, those are the big days. I don’t go Trick or Treating any more nor do I drink green beer on St. Paddy’s Day. The Jesus holidays are what we hold on to, because we are determined to hold on to Jesus.

Our Savior for life. Jesus will hold on to us.

“And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (27-29).”

So often in this world we hold on to things and people only as long as they can help us. But when they are no longer advantageous to us, it’s like rats fleeing a sinking ship. “I used to know them.”

Jesus is not like that. He is our Savior for life. Jesus will hold on to us.

On the Last Day he will hold on to us. He will call us from the grave. Yes, he will call everyone from the grave, for he is the judge. God the Father has given him the authority to judge the living and the dead. No one can just take that authority upon themselves. “Who put you in charge?” is the question we often heard when we got a little too bossy as kids. Jesus is in charge. God the Father put him in charge as the judge of the world. In order to be the judge he has to have all in their graves come out for judgment.

The human race is a bundle of contradictions. We don’t like to judge, so we say. Why can’t we let bygones be bygones and just focus on the future? But when someone crosses the line, to our way of thinking, hanging is too good for them! We demand justice!

God wants to see that justice is done, too. And he alone knows how much damage sin does. The nail prints on Jesus’ hands and feet, the scar the spear left in his side, those show the full extent of the damage of sin. Sin caused Jesus to die on the cross. Your sin, my sin, the sin of all the world caused Jesus to suffer the torments of hell while he hung on the cross. But by his death on the cross, justice was served. All sin was punished. Through faith in that death of Jesus, we possess that forgiveness.

But without that faith, without that faith, forgiveness is rejected and thrown away. Without that faith, people stand on their own deeds, their own character, their own merit and worthiness. And that is why without that faith, they are condemned. They are condemned for the very things they proudly delighted in. Those who have done evil will be condemned. Even if by death they escaped earthly punishment or repercussions for the evil they did in their lifetimes, they will now face eternal punishment in hell. They will not be able to sidestep the repercussions of being forever cut off from God and any good thing God can give a person. And while their body was at rest before Judgment Day, when Jesus calls them out of the grave, now even their body will feel the same pain and torment their soul has been experiencing ever since the day it left this earth. Jesus will not forgive their stubborn rejection of him.

Jesus will not forget us, his believers. As we held on to Jesus, so he will hold on to us in the Judgment.

He will call us out of the grave. He will reunite soul and body together again. He will call us before his Judgment Seat, putting us, his believers, on his right, the unbelievers on his left. He will prove that we, by faith, belong in heaven. He will prove we had faith (which still is unseen) by pointing to the things our faith moved us to do. “Those who have done good will rise to live.” We will be in heaven for all eternity. We will have eternal life through Jesus, our Savior for life, just as he gave us spiritual life while we were in the world.

We know Jesus will hold on to us because he is faithful. He keeps his promises. “Whoever believes in him will never be put to shame,” the Bible assures us. The Lord himself tells us he is “abounding in love and faithfulness.” Like something that is so important, it can be overlooked, even though it is everywhere. Take water, for instance. Even in the desert we take it for granted, yet without it, life is not possible. God’s faithfulness is like that. It is everywhere. The rising of the sun, the rainbow in the sky, God’s faithfulness to his promises. The love between husband and wife, the miracle of a new baby, the next generation of human beings, God’s faithfulness to his promises. It is everywhere in our worship, in the smallest of places.

Amen.

The English teachers among us would be hard pressed to trace the root meaning of that word. It’s not from the French, like veal. It is not an Anglo-Saxon word like beer. Not Latin, not Greek in its derivation, like patriarch or democratic. Is it a shout? Is it like “the End” telling us to get up from our movie seats because the film has drawn to a close? Is it a sign of surrender because we’ve been bored to tears? No! It’s Hebrew! Every ending of our prayers has it. So many phrases in our worship service have it. “Faithful!” That’s what it means, in a nutshell. God is faithful. What we’ve just heard or what I just preached is faithful because God is behind those promises and God is faithful. It is everywhere so much that those who have put our recent hymnals together have not even put it at the end of hymns anymore. It is understood. It goes without saying. It undergirds everything we believe and how we express that belief. “Faithful!”

Jesus will hold on to us on Judgment Day because he is faithful. He is the Amen! Great is his faithfulness.

Our Savior for Life

1. Hold on to Jesus (25-26).

2. He will hold on to us (27-29).

“That’s living.” When we shine like the stars of the heaven because of our faithful Jesus, oh, that will be living indeed!

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