KEEP LOOKING AHEAD!
(Article for the April 9, 2014issue of The Seward County Independent)
By The Rev. Dr. Daniel K. Schroeder, Pastor of Mighty Fortress Ev.LutheranChurch
We are nearing the end of a season many Christians know as "Lent." What is that, anyway? This season dates back to the earliest days of the Christian Church. This consists of a 40 day period of time (not including Sundays), that extends from Ash Wednesday until Easter Saturday, the day before the celebration of our Lordís Resurrection.
During this time, we focus our attention upon the events leading up to the trial, suffering, and death of Jesus. We remember our great need for a Saviour and the awesome price Jesus paid for our sins. Our salvation is free, but it was not cheap; it cost our God the life of his holy Son.
For many people, this time of the year is depressing, which is understandable. It's tough to feel upbeat and positive when we are thinking about what happened to Jesus. As our Saviour is stripped naked, beaten, flogged, tortured, taunted and jeered, we watch in horror as he has the crown of thorns pressed into his head and is then brutally nailed to the cross. Jesus is put to death in one of the worst ways possible, which is by crucifixion.
If that's where things ended, it would be sad indeed. But we know that this is NOT the end of the story! Easter proves that Jesus has secured the victory over the biggest obstacles of all; he is victorious over death, hell, and Satan. Jesus actually rose physically from the dead, and he did so with a promise: because he lives, we too shall live! What he demonstrates to us gives us not just a promise, but proof of that promise.
In my years in the ministry, I can't count the number of funerals I've conducted. Even though losing a loved one is an emotional situation, there is a bright future ahead for the Christian. The true believer in Christ knows that because Jesus lives, they too shall live. The person who knows Jesus as their Lord and Saviour can then close their eyes for the final time with the complete assurance that their sins have been forgiven, and that they will inhabit the mansion Jesus has prepared for them for all eternity. If none of this were true, then a funeral would be nothing more than a bunch of meaningless platitudes strung together. There would be no hope. There would be no future beyond the grave.
Shortly before Jesus went toJerusalemon his final journey, he received word that his friend Lazarus was ill to the point of death. When he arrived at his home in Bethany, Jesus found out that Lazarus had been dead for four days. There were many people gathered there who were mourning his death.
Jesus ordered that the stone be removed from his tomb. Lazarus had been dead long enough for there to be the strong odor of decomposition. There was no doubt that Lazarus was very dead. But Jesus calls him from his tomb, and he emerges! Lazarus was now alive! And the people gathered were in awe of this miraculous event.
News of this spread quickly. So when Jesus made his final trip toJerusalemon Palm Sunday, many people gathered and gave him a hero's honor. They knew he was true God. So they shouted "Hosanna!" (which means "Lord save us.")
This began a very busy week for Jesus. He celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. He was betrayed and denied. Many cruel things happened. Then he was tried, convicted, and executed. Things seemed to be coming to a dismal end.
When Jesus was comforting the family of Lazarus, he said these words in John 11:25-26: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live; and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die."
That's the very same promise Jesus makes to you and me. When we come to Jesus and accept him through faith alone, we know that our sins are forgiven and we are guaranteed a blessed eternity. As true believers, we can trust the promise that Jesus makes to us. Heaven is our future home, and we shall live forever in paradise.
When a loved one dies, we can get all caught up in the mourning and sadness of the event. We can be blind to what lies beyond the grave, because we don't look ahead. The grief we experience now can be so overwhelming sometimes, that the message of hope God gives us is drowned out by the message of despair we tell ourselves.
Even though we might feel sad during Lent, we keep looking ahead to the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over sin, death, the grave, and Satan. We look beyond the crucified Christ and see the living Christ. When we look ahead, we see hope and a glorious future.
An old southern preacher put it well when he said in a sermon: "It's Friday; but Sunday's a comin'!" So just keep looking ahead. You can be assured that the somber mourning of Good Friday will soon give way to the celebration of Easter, when we all can shout: "He is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!"