Download or listen to the Funeral of Mickey Williams: “He Does Not Enter Into Judgment” (John 5:24)
“He Does Not Enter Into Judgment”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Family and friends of Mickey: grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that none of you expected to be here today. Neither did I. As you can all attest, Mickey always seemed to be in great health. In fact, someone asked me the other day how old he was, and I said, he must be pushing…70. Shows how solidly healthy he appeared to be, at least to me. He was not in the hospital; he had not been diagnosed with a fatal disease; there was no hint that his life was coming to an end last Friday. And that sudden separation can make the shock of death that much worse. For that, I pray God’s mercy in Christ upon you who knew and loved him. But while death sometimes surprises us when it comes, we should not be surprised that it does come. Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Many people, however, have found ways to avoid taxes; no one has found a way to avoid death. Whether expected or not, death comes to all of us. Death itself is no surprise, especially to Christians, because it is the consequence of sin. Since Adam and Eve sought their independence from God’s command and God’s life, death has been as inevitable as sin. Since you and I daily show our opposition to God’s life and our desire to be masters over our own destinies, death is the salary we have earned for our work. We signed the contract with sin at birth, and death always pays out what is owed. But the wages of sin is much more than physical death: it is eternal death. We think of death in this life as a process that ends at a particular point of separation. But when that point comes, a judgment is rendered by the Judge of all creation, and that judgment means either death or life. The simple fact is that the Father and the Son have life in themselves, and everything outside the communion with the Father and the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit is not life but death. The judgment for rebellion against God and His Son is separation from His life forever.
And that is what Mickey and you and I have earned. Each of us is stillborn in sin. But here in John 5, Jesus speaks His promise: “Truly, truly I say to you that the one hearing My Word and believing the One who sent me has life eternal and does not come into judgment, but he has passed from the Death into the Life” (5:24). While the simple fact remains that the Father and the Son have life in themselves, they also have a single will: that you have the Life that is theirs. That Life was the will that God had for Mickey as well: He was not content to simply let Mickey go his way from death to death. Hundreds of years before Mickey’s birth, the Son of God took on flesh in the womb of His Mother, just as Mickey did. Then He lived out His life in a relatively small area of the world, just as Mickey did. This Man, Jesus, also died on a Friday, and was buried. But this Man, Jesus, was without sin, unlike any of us. Death always pays out what is owed, but the only thing that was owed to Jesus was life, so Jesus took on what was owed to each of us instead, both physical and spiritual death. He took on Himself what was owed to Mickey. And Jesus, in the Will of the Father, passed over from death into life on that Resurrection morning which we celebrate every Sunday. This Life is the Life that Jesus promised to Mickey 86 years ago with water and a Word. “Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have, then, been buried together with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also would walk around in newness of life. For if we have been identified with the likeness of His death, we will be also with [His] resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5). God Himself identified Mickey with the death of Jesus by Holy Baptism, so that He might also identify him with the Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus cannot die anymore after His resurrection; and when He raises Mickey’s body, he, too, will never die again. From baptism on, Mickey was identified with Jesus and Jesus with Mickey, and Jesus never breaks His promises. What happened to Jesus will happen to Mickey, as surely as the wheat planted every year goes into the ground dead and comes up alive. Jesus, in His flesh, passed over from the Death of your sin and mine into the Life of God; so it will be for Mickey and for all those who hear and believe the Word who is Jesus. All the dead will be raised, and the dead who have died in Christ will enter the new creation and God will give eternal life to Mickey and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true. True for Mickey, to whom that baptismal promise was made and made more sure every time he ate the living Body and drank the living Blood of Christ; and true for all those who hear Jesus and trust Him as the only one who gives real life.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/25/11