Jesus Swallows Death - For You

The following 'Funeral Sermon' is posted with family permission.  May the Lord give to the family of Willard Erdman, and all who mourn, comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in the Lord's loving care. 

Text: Isaiah 25:6-9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Death swallows up physical life.  That is a harsh reality that we all face.  Indeed, it is a harsh reality and it is very difficult to think about; however, it is true.  Death has a very strong appetite for life. 

We must keep in mind, though, that death feasts upon life in different ways.  For example, sometimes death nibbles away at life over decades, until death has devoured all of the life in a person: a battle with cancer for a couple of years, heart disease shortly after, and then in the end pneumonia.  Each of these are small bites of death; each inflicting pain and consuming valuable life in a person.  Each of these are like small morsels of life that are eaten up by death.

Other times, though, death swallows up life with one big bite: a car accident, a massive heart attack, or a sudden stroke, to name several examples.  These are all one big bite of death that eats up life at one time.      

For Willard, death seemed to nibble at him.  Little by little, death seemed to take small bites out of Willard’s physical life, resulting in Willard ending up in the hospital.  Several days later, Willard would muster up that good ol’ North Dakota strength, be released from the hospital, and then be back to normal again.  That is… until death would nibble on Willard’s life a little bit more, swallowing a bit more of Willard’s life. 

In the end, as you and I know, death took its last bite and ate up all life in Willard.   

And so, here we sit in this funeral today.  Life has been swallowed up, death licks its chops, and we sit with grief, sadness, and mixed emotions. 

Now, you would think that with all the advancements of medical science that we would have the ability to stop death and its appetite for physical life.  However, the only thing that we have been able to do is to suppress death’s appetite.  But even so, in the end, death still has to eat because death has an enormous appetite for life. 

To the point; death never stops hungering for life.  Its appetite for life is intimidating and unsettling.  There is no hiding from death, for it always has a way of sniffing out physical life.  There is no way of suppressing death’s appetite for it always hungers.  And there is no way to conquer death for it is just too powerful – its teeth are just too sharp and its jaw is just too powerful. 

But in spite of all of this, here we sit ‘not’ with a small glimmer of hope but with confidence and assurance.  That is right; contrary to all appearances, we sit here in our pews with rest and peace in the middle of death’s appetite.  You see, we are gathered into this sanctuary knowing full well that death has swallowed up our brother Willard, and knowing full well that Willard, you, and I can do nothing about death, yet we have a peculiar confidence amid our grief. 

So, why the confidence?  Why the assurance?  Why the rest?  Why the peace?  It is because we know something about death that is a game-changer.  We know something about death that changes everything.  What is it that we know?  It is a simple yet profound promise. 

The prophet Isaiah speaks this promise to you and me today.  That promise is that contrary to all appearances and contrary to all that we know about death, the tables have been turned on death.  That is right; Isaiah tells us that things have been overturned, altered, and changed with death.  You see, Isaiah gives a full staggering promise that ‘the Lord’ will swallow up death forever. 

Did you hear that? 

Yes, my friends, did you hear this promise? 
Isaiah says that ‘the Lord’ will swallow up death.  Death which devourers us as its prey is actually prey to Lord.  As they say, there is always a bigger fish.  And that bigger fish, is none other than Christ.  And so, there is someone that swallows death – that is Jesus.  Jesus is death’s destruction.  Jesus is death’s plague.  As death swallows up life, Jesus swallows up death. 

So, when the Lord swallows up death?  Well… the implications of this are quite profound; death comes to an end for you, me, and Willard. 

Dear friends, just like a whirlpool in an ocean or a black hole in space absorbs and pulls everything that comes near it, when the Lord swallows death, well… death is abolished.  It is removed.  It ceases to have its way.  This is why the Apostle Paul taunts death the way that he does in our Epistle reading today.  The Apostle Paul says to death:

“Death, you are swallowed by triumphant life!  Who got the last word, oh, Death?  Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”

You see, the Apostle Paul knows that it was sin that makes death so frightening.  But the Apostle Paul also knows that in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three – sin, guilt, and death – are gone because of Jesus. 

And so, today, we have confidence like Isaiah and the Apostle Paul that death is swallowed in triumphant life, which means that Willard presently has life right now.  His soul is with Christ.  Yes, Willard has life because Willard has a Savior named Jesus Christ.  And Jesus is not death to Willard but life for Willard, which means that Jesus is not kind to Willard’s death but the one who destroys Willard’s death. 

There is more too.  As much as it pains us, we know with confidence that Willard’s physical death is a little death.  We know that it is only for a little while.   That is why we say that Willard is asleep in Jesus. Sleep implies that one will wake up again.  And that is exactly what will happen with Willard at the great last day when Jesus comes to unite Willard’s soul with his body – resurrecting Willard physically from the dead.  At that great last day, the Lord will reunite body and soul – the graves will burst forth, and we will be delivered from the jaws of death forever.  Willard will physically be raised from the dead for death has been defeated. 

Baptized Saints, hear the good news this day: Jesus swallows death.  Jesus is bigger than Willard’s death.  And Jesus is bigger than your death too.  Therefore, have confidence, assurance, rest, and peace amid this funeral service right now.

The nailed scarred hands of Jesus drew Willard safely out of sin.  The pierced feet of Jesus snapped shut the jaws of eternal death.  The resurrected Lord will call Willard forth from the tomb on the great last day – uniting body and soul forever.  And the same is true for you and me too. 

“Death, you are swallowed by triumphant life!  Who got the last word, oh, Death?  Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.  

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