17Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Here ends our text.
Frank, Lynnda, Penny, Rosey, family and friends of Bernice, one need not look any further to the front of the sanctuary to see why we are here today. Today we come together to grieve the loss of a mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend. As we look towards the altar, we see before us the body of Bernice, and that is all that we see, just a body. What is missing is the soul of Bernice. Some may wonder what happened to the soul. Bernice had no question what would happen to her at the point of death because she had the assurance that she was a baptized child of God. Because she was a baptized child of God, she knew that when her Lord called her name, she would be with Christ forever. For those of us gathered here today, we can be sure of that fact as well.
As we look at our text for today, we see Jesus enter Bethany to find that His close friend Lazarus has died and has been buried. When Jesus meets up with Martha, she tells Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Poor, poor Martha. If only she knew what she was saying, then maybe she would have chosen her words more carefully. All she wanted was to have her brother alive with her again. Isn’t that what we want today, to have Bernice and all of our loved ones with us again? We have exactly what we want, just not how we want it.
To get this answer, we look to the words of Jesus to Martha: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” For Martha, it was her faith in Jesus that caused her to call for Jesus in her hour of bereavement. For those of us gathered here today, it is our faith in Jesus that we turn to in our hour of bereavement. It is that same faith that Bernice clung to all the days of her life, even unto the end.
If there was one thing that she valued more than her family, it was her faith. In all of my visits with her when I would bring her the body and blood of her Lord, she would always confess her sins. She knew who and what she was. She knew that she was a damned sinner, just like everyone else she knew, without any favor with God. But she also knew that on account of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, she was forgiven of all her sins.
The faith that Bernice had is what brought Bernice comfort in her final days. She had no doubt what would happen to her when she breathed her last breath on Tuesday. She knew that because of Jesus, her eternal salvation was secure. Notice what I said. She knew that because of Jesus, not herself. She knew that she could never earn her salvation because she was a sinner. There was nothing that she could ever do to save herself, regardless of how hard she tried. She knew that. She knew the only answer must be Jesus.
God provided the means of salvation for Bernice and God provides that means of salvation for you as well. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was the best thing that could ever happen for Bernice, and she would be the first person to tell you that. As Jesus said to Martha, “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.” Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. And because He rose again, so also will Bernice, and so will we.
Jesus does not just foretell a resurrection of the end times. He is the Resurrection. This sacred truth was on Bernice’s lips throughout her lifetime. She received the Resurrection and the Life in the very body and blood of Jesus in her Lord’s Supper. There she received the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of faith.
Bernice was first resurrected in the waters of her baptism. Last Tuesday she was raised forever from this world of pain and sorrow. And on the last day, when all of the graves are opened, she and all those who are asleep shall rise to be reunited with their bodies to live forever in the presence of God.
While it is natural for us to mourn, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who fall asleep in Jesus. For the Lamb has been sacrificed. Christ Jesus died to atone for your sins, as well, and He was raised again for you so that you may be with our Lord forever. In His innocent suffering and death, Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world – for Bernice, for you and for me.
Our heavenly Father assures eternal life to all those who believe. Bernice was one who was counted in that rank. For you, her family, that was her wish for you, that you would remain faithful to God, just as He promises to remain faithful to you. For all of us gathered today, that is the desire of God our heavenly Father: [that] “all people [would] be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That truth is only found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us on Good Friday, only to take it up again on Easter Sunday where He rose victoriously over sin and death, once and for all, so that we would be triumphant over sin and death and have everlasting life in Him.
Do not doubt the promise that God has made to you through Jesus Christ. When God makes a promise, He keeps that promise. He promised to send forth a Savior to redeem this sinful and fallen world, and He did. That Savior promised to Martha at the death of Lazarus that all who believe in Him will never die. That is a promise that Bernice believed in and clung to until her dying breath. And now, that promise has been fulfilled for Bernice, as she enjoys the eternal riches in heaven, won for her by Jesus Christ. Amen.