Readings: Psalm 23, Proverbs 30:5-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, John 21:1-14
Hymns: LSB 461, 685, 490, 878
Dear family and friends of John Luehrs: Grace mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When John confirmed his faith in this congregation back in 1963, he was given this Confirmation Verse: “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” This verse is written in Proverbs 30:5.
This afternoon, we will reflect on this verse, remember John, rejoice in the victory granted to John by Christ, and receive comfort from the Word of God.
Many of you know John by his nickname, Henry. I will use the name John, for that is the way he was named in his Baptism.
It pleased the Lord to call John home to Heaven on Easter Sunday. Easter is a joyful day, but I suspect that Easter Sunday in the years ahead will be one of both joy and sadness for you. You will remember Christ’s triumph over death and the grave, but you will also remember Easter to be the day our loved one died.
One week before Easter was Palm Sunday. On that day, John attended this church and heard of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. John heard that the crowds were surrounding Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem, rejoicing with Him, and proclaiming their hosannas because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was a well-loved brother to Mary and Martha and, by the time Jesus got to Bethany where they lived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). And then Jesus said these comforting words, “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” (John 11:25-26). Then Jesus goes to the cave where Lazarus was buried and shouted, “Lazarus, come out.” Lazarus, who was dead, rose and came out of the cave with his hands and feet bound with linen strips and his face wrapped with a cloth (John 11:43-44).
Jesus had performed many stunning miracles. This one is perhaps the most amazing. And so, the crowds followed Him and listened to His preaching. They sang their hosannas, which means “Save now.”
Salvation was brought to John first when his parents faithfully brought him to the baptismal font on February 5, 1950. In his Baptism, God added John to the Lord’s family and John was united to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his Baptism, John died to sin and rose to newness of life.
We just sang in our hymn, “Let us gladly die with Jesus. Since by death He conquered death.” God prepared John for this. For God kept him in His Word and faith. He last received the Body and Blood of Christ for his forgiveness on Palm Sunday.
We also just sang, “Let us also live with Jesus. He has risen from the dead That to life we may awaken. We are Your own living members; Where You live, there we shall be In Your presence constantly.” You see, God is the author of life. He created us to live. He desires that we live life to the full, redeeming the time by making use of His Word, trusting in His promises, and then receiving eternal salvation. Through Christ, all who believe in Him receive the gracious gift of everlasting life. As Christ lives, so does John.
Some people feel that they must make some sort of payment for their sins. They feel so guilty over their past sins that they think they must make up for them. The reality is that when Jesus died on the cross, He paid for the sins of the entire world. All who repent and believe receive this forgiveness. It’s free.
John did many good things for people. He was happy to help anybody with anything. I’ve heard that he checked on people, especially those who were grieving, when he worked for the water company. After his dad died, he stopped in every day to see his mother. Every single day for these last eight years. Words cannot express our appreciation for the many caring things he did. And as important as they are to us and as good as they were, they did not earn John’s entrance into salvation. Instead, God granted him salvation by grace. Jesus paid for John’s sins. His sins were, after all, drowned in his Baptism.
For, as John’s Confirmation Verse says, “Every word of God proves true.” On Easter Sunday, we prayed for John in this Church. God heard our pleas for mercy and answered them according to His good and gracious will. We also heard the report of the angels who said to the women, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7). The angel announced that Christ is risen! And they will see Him, just as He told them! You see, on several occasions, Jesus told His disciples He will die, and He will rise. In doing so, He earned forgiveness of sins for all people. For “every word of God proves true.” Jesus did just as He said. Satan had no power over Jesus. Death and the grave could not contain Jesus. He rose, as He said.
In our reading from John 21, we heard one of the times the risen Christ appeared before His disciples, providing eyewitness testimony of the Resurrection of our Lord. Some of the disciples who were fishermen before Jesus called them to follow Him had gone back to fishing. That day, they had not caught anything.
I’m sure John never had days like that, did he?
Jesus told these fishermen to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Even though they didn’t recognize Him, they did it anyway. They began to catch so many fish they weren’t able to haul it all in. Then they recognized Jesus as the One performing this miracle. They saw Him now for the third time that He truly was raised from the dead.
And His resurrection wasn’t some sort of spiritual resurrection or ghostly resurrection. Instead, Jesus rose bodily. He even ate fish with them. Since John enjoyed fishing and since this resurrection account demonstrates that the Word of God is sure, I thought this would be a fitting Gospel reading. Take it to heart. Jesus is risen.
What this also means is that all who abide in Christ shall also live. That is, just as Jesus rose from the dead, so shall John. He is with the Lord right now. His soul is in Heaven. And when Jesus returns, John and all the dead will be raised. He will be raised to perfection. His body will be glorious and John will live eternally in body and soul with Christ and all who abide in Christ.
“Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Our Lord graciously shielded John all his days. Even during trials and temptations, God was a shield to him. Even as God was calling John home, He was a shield to him. For Christ Jesus rescued John from the clutches of Satan and from eternal death. John is not suffering, for his soul is in the land of the living. This is the victory granted to John.
As we meet the days ahead, we will weep. The separation caused by death is painful. It doesn’t seem right when a parent outlives a child. God has a plan and purpose in everything.
And know this: Christ is also a shield to you. He loves you. He died for you to take your sin away. He rose for you to give you life. The victory John received is one that you, too, can receive. For Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall He live.
John has been described as a stickler in that he made sure things got done. I suppose Jesus could be described in this same way. Jesus did everything perfectly. He did everything in love. He made sure John could join Him in the gates of Paradise. For that we give thanks, and we joyfully sing our praises to our living Lord. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.