Christ Goes Before Us
Funeral message – Fred Luthje
August 10, 2009
Let’s open in prayer: O God, from whom all blessings flow, we come in great need of Your blessing. You and You alone know our broken hearts; You know the grief we experience. Out of our emptiness we come to You. Our reservoir of strength has been depleted; our souls are bare; our feelings are numb. Lord, we need You and Your comfort.
The seas of Fred’s life have been turbulent with sickness, pain, and confusion. There have been times when he must have cried out, “Why me?” We are filled with questions. We do not have the answers, so we come to You Lord. Teach us to trust You, steady our faith so that in this darkness we may see Your light.
O God, grant that in all our grief we may turn to You. Grant us the peace of Your consolation and the joy of Your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
I want to read a passage of Scripture full of hope. It’s found in the 14th chapter of John. I’m starting at verse one: "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." How could one find verses anywhere in the Bible more appropriate and meaningful for this time? So very difficult is the task of saying good-bye to someone special in our lives, but the invasion of death into our ranks forces us to do so. One psychologist has said that two of the earliest words a child learns are hello and good-bye. We spend most of our days moving back and forth between these two words. As intense as the pain of loss can be under the best of circumstance, our grief would be unbearable if death were a great dark chasm into which our loved ones fell and disappeared. But it is not.
The comforting words of Jesus form a stark contrast to our worst fears of death. His first six words in the passage set the stage for what He is trying to accomplish: “Let not your heart be troubled.” Jesus is calming the minds of His followers.
Jesus’ word of advice and comfort to the disciples is that they should exercise faith — faith in God and faith in Him. “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” Our Lord also directs His words to those of us gathered here today, “Let not your heart be troubled.” We need to hear those soothing words just as much as those anxious disciples long ago. As Jesus observed His disciples, He saw them growing tired and weary. He is just as aware of your present circumstances. Grief contains weariness as we struggle to come to terms with our great loss.
There are some of you who have paid the price of exhaustion in the past few days. Just as surely as to those disciples He says to you, “Let not your heart be troubled.” These are not hollow words. They are a promise to each one of us.
Those early disciples had plenty to trouble them. Jesus was constantly talking about His mysterious departure. He was going away. But where? In their hearts they must have known that death was involved somewhere along the way. There was so much to cause great concern.
Yet Christ told them — faced by all of these facts — not to worry. Fortunately for their sakes and ours, He explained to them why they had no cause for great alarm. We need to hear His word of hope just now.
We need not be troubled. Fear can dictate our lives. We are always afraid that the worst will come. Christ would say that, even if it does, you still have no reason to fear.
Why should we not be troubled? Jesus said, “Believe in God.” This belief means never having to manage on our own. We can always go to Him and be helped by Him. He loves us. John 3:16 tells us, “"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Death most certainly should not be our ultimate fear. Death is not falling into an endless chasm. Death for the believer translates into heaven. While we know very few details, the New Testament leaves no question that heaven is a glorious place.
Whenever we are to take a trip, there is always some concern over preparations. When I arrive, will I have been expected? Will accommodations be in order? John 14:3 reassures us , And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Jesus said with absolute assurance that preparations have been made. Each believer has his or her own personal and exclusive place in the Father’s plan. As a believer, Fred has taken his place in God’s plan. And his place is in heaven.
Consider once again the image that is offered. When a special guest is coming to visit your home, you make certain that everything is in order. You know of those things which are special to your guest. The right books, food, and flowers will be appropriately placed. These preparations will be well thought out before your guest arrives. You await your guest with anticipation. You greet your guest with joy after preparing so meticulously.
Preparations have been made for each one of us. Our coming at our birth and home-going when we pass from this life is no accident; God has planned well for His family! In John 14:2, we are assured that, In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
These preparations have not been left to chance. Christ has taken it upon Himself to make the arrangements. We are important enough that the Son of God Himself has taken care of our ultimate needs. When we, as believers, encounter death, we do not embark alone. Death does not take us by the hand. Instead, Jesus takes our hand and leads us through a path He has already traveled.
Once again, we would benefit by trusting in God. If we can trust Him in this life, we can trust Him in the life to come. Fred did. There is no need for fear now or later on. Christ has gone before us and made all the necessary arrangements. This is not vague, wishful thinking. God’s Word has established this promise for all people in all ages to come. Indeed, Christ goes before us. He is the Way. The Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.
And so, calmly and quietly, we note Fred’s going home, one who is known and loved, one who will spend eternity in heaven with his heavenly Father because he knew the Savior. With courage and determination we will move away from this hour to accept those unlived days before us with full assurance that our loved one has only claimed the place prepared by the Lord of life. Yes, we still mourn and grieve but not because we have lost Fred forever; it’s because we will miss him being a part of our lives. We know that some day we will see Fred again; we will join him in heaven where we will both live together forever.
Hear our prayer, O God, as we lay before You the concerns of our heart. Our hearts feel pain in these moments. Hear our cries, especially those that are deep and silent. You know the sorrow that has befallen us and You are aware of the grief within us. We come to You for healing and strength.
Lord, You have been our refuge for all generations. Men and women have called upon Your name since the beginning of time. Through this affliction draw our hearts closer to Your great heart of love. May these moments help us to train our eyes more steadfastly upon You.
We stand strong upon Your assurance that You have made preparations for us, in this life and in the life to come. Your loving assurance is our only refuge.
We thank You for the heritage of Fred’s faith. Through it our troubled hearts find rest even in sorrow. As we commend Fred to You, we do so with confidence that he rests securely in Your loving arms. Bless his passing and our memory of days which are gifts from You.
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20–21)
In Christ’s name. Amen.