Text: John 6:35-40
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our savior Jesus Christ. May the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of our own in Him be of special comfort to you, family and friends of our dear Velda gathered here today. Jesus said, “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40, English Standard Version). This promise of our Lord serves as our text.
The teaching we hear from the mouth of our Lord comes as part of the discussion the day after the Feeding of the Five Thousand. As our Lord was teaching His disciples near the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd came to Him because they had seen the miracles He was performing. Our Lord had compassion on the crowd, and with only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus fed a crowd that would’ve taken 200 days’ salary to feed. This miracle was a sign that Jesus truly is God, and also the abundance of blessings He gives. Some of the crowd did not understand this and came again the next day, seeking to be fed again. Jesus taught them not to long only for food that perishes, but also for the food that endures to eternal life – Jesus Himself. Those who come to Him in faith, Jesus said, “shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst…and I will raise him up on the last day.” (vv. 35, 40)
With these words, our Lord touches upon a central teaching of the Christian faith: the Resurrection of the Dead. This is what Velda, by the work of the Holy Spirit, believed from her childhood and what we, also, believe. We believe, according to Jesus’ Word, that He will return on the Last Day. As He ascended on the clouds, so will He come; and every eye will see Him. By His glorious power, He will raise the dead out of their graves. St. Paul said that we who have believed in Him will have our mortal bodies changed to be like His immortal body, and we will live forever with Him and all who have gone before us in the Christian faith.
We are reminded today why the Resurrection is necessary; we are gathered because our sister Velda has died. Though it is something that she welcomed, especially since the passing of her husband and our brother in the faith Harry, death is still something bad. Death was not a part of God’s good creation. In six days, God created all that exists in both heaven and on earth, things both visible and invisible. Death was not among those things. Death, rather, was introduced to the world through the temptation of the devil and the sin of our parents Adam and Eve. As we are descended from them according to the flesh, the corruption of sin has passed to us all. St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (5:12) These words are also familiar to us, “The wages of sin is death.” (6:23)
We confess, as Velda freely would as well, that we are sinners. In the words of the Liturgy, we confess that we are sinners in thought, word, and deed, both by what we have done and left undone. For this reason, pending the quick arrival of the Last Day, we, also, will die. This is a just punishment, for with each sin we have disobeyed the Lord God Almighty and have, in fact, hated Him. Though, by His mercy, we may not perish directly because of a sinful act, we will die from the condition of sin. We must not stop with this thought, though. Hear, again, the promise of Christ: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the Last Day…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him [has] eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.” (vv. 39-40) These words are true, and they are true of Velda.
Rather than leave His creation to die in sin eternally, our Lord Jesus entered into His fallen creation. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He grew and lived just as we all have, yet without sin. He fully obeyed the will of God the Father and, for our sake, bore our sins on the cross. Jesus bore the weight of all human sin – yours, mine, and Velda’s – and made payment for it in His death. By His resurrection, He restored eternal life to all who trust Him, including Velda. It was into this faith that she was baptized on May 24th, 1925. Through that sacred washing, Velda was united to Christ’s resurrection by the gift of faith. She was clothed in His righteousness. Velda publicly confessed the same May 12th, 1940. By God’s grace, Velda was kept in the Christian faith her entire life, thanks in no small part to her faithfully receiving the Lord’s Supper for almost 80 years. In fact, my last conversation with her was in the context of a communion service. Some of the final words I ever heard from her were the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer; she even took the time, with her lost voice, to encourage me in the faith as her pastor.
The Lord granted many blessings to Velda, including a truly and dearly loved husband. Through Velda, we all have been blessed and, at one time or another, encouraged by her witness. The chief blessing which she received from the Lord, she now enjoys: eternal life in heaven with Christ, with Harry, and all the Christians who have gone before. This same blessing, this same promise, Jesus gives to us. All who believe in Him, He will not cast out, but raise on the Last Day. Today, we give thanks to God – even in our sadness – for all the blessings He bestowed on Velda, and we ask that He would keep us in the same faith, that she and we would be reunited and together raised on the Last Day. In Jesus’ name.