A.J. Washington Funeral
Friday of Proper 25 (Reformation Day)
Funeral of A.J. Washington 31 October 2008
+ Jesu Juva +
Job 1; 19; John 11:21-45
Job knows what it’s like. One day his life is as normal as yours. And then all of a sudden blow after blow after blow. Livestock stolen and destroyed. His employees murdered in cold blood. And then the biggest shock of all: his sons and daughters are enjoying a party and having a grand time. But a violent desert windstorm hits the house. The house collapses. All his children, tragically, are killed. Horrible.
Job knows what it’s like. After being notified that he’s lost all his children, his faith is shaken but not extinguished. Job gets up . . . and . . . remarkably . . . he worships God. Tears his clothes. Shaves his head. Falls to the ground. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised,” are his astonishing words. “May the name of the Lord be praised.” And also the words we heard earlier: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job would have us believe this too as we mourn A.J.’s death.
The Lord had good use for Job. An object lesson for all of us. That in the most tragic times we can praise the Lord’s Name and believe in Jesus no matter what. That the Name of Jesus is to be glorified. Even in the midst of such a tragedy like last Sunday.
Mary and Martha know it too. Little brother Lazarus is very sick. Deathbed sick. And then it happens. He dies.
And what’s Jesus up to during this time? He purposely stays away. Even after Mary and Martha put out the 911 pastor call. They expected instant pastoral roadside service. And so when He shows up, four days after the burial, both sisters let Him have it with both barrels: “Lord, if you had been here, our bother would not have died! We called your cell. We sent you numerous text messages! If you would have shown up in time, this wouldn’t have happened!” Frustrated. Hurt. Angry. Understandable from our point of view.
Jesus has another thing on His mind. He wants Martha, Mary, you and me to believe in Him. That’s right, believe in Him as the Savior. And He’ll use the death of Lazarus so that He is glorified.
Can you believe in a Jesus who purposely avoids making the prompt pastoral sick call? Can you trust a Jesus who seems to act so casual around death, even the death of his best friend? The people at Mary and Martha’s house have their doubts: “This guy can heal the blind! But why didn’t he keep his friend from dying?” Perhaps you’ve asked: “Where were you Jesus last Sunday evening?” Maybe you’ve given Jesus the what for: “Lord, if you had been there on that road or in that car, A.J, Dillon, and Tyler would not have died!”
Martha knows from her Sunday School lessons that her brother will rise again on the Last Day. And so do you.
And that’s when Jesus throws out one His best sermons ever. He’s looking for faith. So He turns her attention, our attention, her and our frustration, grief, anger, hope, and expectation, all of it, TO HIM. He gives us a big dose of Himself!
Check out this promise to Martha and to all of you: “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Did you catch that? Not, “I will be the Resurrection and the Life some day in the future,” but “I AM, right here and now, the Resurrection and the Life!”
Then He unpacks it. Explains what He means. Get a load of this. “The person who believes in Me right now even though he drops stone cold dead will live, and the person who lives and believes in me will never die eternally.”
Death is only a temporary nuisance to Jesus. Like falling asleep. Just like when Jesus woke up Jairus’ daughter the way you wake up your little girl in the morning before school. “Talitha coum. Get up, honey!” That’s all death is to Jesus, a sleep from which he will awaken you. That’s because of His Good Friday work for you.
And then comes the biggest question you can ever be asked. It’s the eternal life or death question. Jesus asks Martha, you, me: “Do you believe this?” That’s the faith question. “Will you trust me? With your brother’s death? Even with yours?”
Then it’s off to the tomb. Jesus barks out directions. “Take away the stone.” But Martha objects. She doubts. “Lord, it’s been four days since the burial. The body stinks.” Jesus snaps right back: “Didn’t I tell you that if you’d just trust me, you would see the glory of God.”
And then He rips off this prayer: “Father, I’m so thankful that you hear me. I know you always hear me because we’re on a Father-Son basis. But I’m praying this out loud for the sake of all these doubters standing around here who refuse to take me at my words.” And then Jesus yells into the tomb: “Lazarus, come out!”
And lo and behold the once dead and buried Lazarus walks out of the tomb alive. Wrapped up his burial cloths. And Jesus, still barks orders: “Loose him and free him.” Lazarus raised from the dead. A sneak preview of your own resurrection – you who believe that He is the Resurrection and the Life.
John the Evangelist doesn’t record Lazarus’ reaction to all this. No words of Lazarus are ever recorded in the New Testament. But I suspect his first reaction may have gone something like this: “Hey! What in the world is going on? You mean I’m going to have to die all over again? Thanks a lot Mary! Thanks so much Martha. Thanks to all your doubting Jesus made an object lesson out of me for you. Let me tell you something ladies: you can trust Jesus with everything. Yes that’s right, absolutely everything. Even when I die again. You can trust Him with my death and yours.”
So can all of you. After all, Jesus died for A.J. Good Friday-ed you too. All your sin is answered for because of His Calvary dying. Now He is the Resurrection and Life. Death is a defeated enemy.
With a Jesus like that you too can mock death just like St. Paul: “O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?” “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Indeed. Jesus. A big dose of Him is what’s certain and sure.
In the Name of Jesus.