The Love of a Son
Funeral Sermon for the Funeral of Michael Saunders
Text: Luke 2:6-7, 19
A mother holds her dear son in her arms. He is more precious than anything to her. What can compare to a precious little baby in a mother’s arms? Gazing into his sparkling eyes, the mother hardly knows what’s in store for her son.
Over the years the child grows and matures and becomes his own man. The older he gets, the more he does that his mother can’t comprehend. He begins to make choices that his mother isn’t entirely sure about. He even does things that might be considered dangerous. Finally, at an age far too young by human standards, everything ends tragically. The son gives up his life of his own will and on his own timing.
Thinking back to that sweet little boy she held in her arms, the mother can hardly believe it came to this. But now her son has indeed died.
How Mary must have mourned when Jesus died! When she held the newborn Savior in her arms she could hardly have known what really was coming. Other things were on her mind. After all, she had given birth in a barn in Bethlehem! The baby’s first clothes were some cloths he was wrapped in, and his first bed was a manger! At the time she could hardly envision her Son hanging from a cross and covered in blood.
Yet Mary knew what the angel Gabriel had told them. They were to give him the name Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins. And so we are told that with all of the craziness of that first night—the birth, the angels, the shepherds—“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
She didn’t always understand what her son did, but she knew the special purpose he was born for. He came to save people from sins. So some 30 years later when she saw her son dying on that cross, she saw him fulfilling the very purpose he was born for—to pay for sins. All sins.
Mary certainly loved her son Jesus, but she also knew that the love of her son was far greater. Even though Jesus loved his mother, he also loved all other people—enough to die for them. What he willingly endured he suffered for the sake of all people. When he willingly died, he gave his life as a payment for all sins. All sins. That’s the love of the Son of God.
As we gather here this afternoon we are certainly left with a lot of questions. Why did it have to end like this? What exactly was Michael thinking at the time? What are we all supposed to make of this?
Yet while we are left with many questions, we do have lots of answers from Scripture. We know why things like this happen. There is no perfection in this world. From the very beginning perfection was lost when Adam and Eve sinned. Starting with them the curse of death has followed every descendant ever since.
That was part of the punishment for sin. God declares that, “The wages of sin is death.” This is something that all of us face because all of us fall short of what God demands in our lives. So whether we die of natural causes, or someone takes our life, or if we take our own life, death is inescapable.
So the real questions then are: What happens to us next? Where will we be next? What does it take to get to be in heaven?
The tendency in times like these is to talk about how good and nice people were. “Michael was very caring.” “Michael was a loving man.” “Michael was a good son or a good brother.” “He was a good man.”
Those things might all be very much so true. But the important thing to understand is that none of those things have earned Michael a spot in heaven. That’s because no one can earn a spot in heaven. It’s simply impossible. God’s standard and demand is perfection. If we want to be with a perfect God in a perfect heaven, then we would need to be perfect ourselves. And that’s just the problem. Not one of us is perfect because we all make mistakes. We all have imperfections. We all have sinned.
So it would be a false hope today if we thought that Michael was in heaven because he was a pretty good person. Or that even though he made a few poor choices he was mostly a great guy, so he’s definitely in heaven. What we do will not ever bring us to heaven because we will not ever be able to do enough for God.
That’s not where we find our comfort today. Instead we return to that little manger. We return to Mary who treasured up and pondered the mystery of her little baby boy who was God in human flesh, come to save his people from their sins. And from there we return to that same child grown up as a man and hanging from a cross. There Jesus shed his blood and died to pay for sins. All sins.
Through his life and death in our place, heaven becomes God’s free gift. A famous Bible verse says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The Bible tells us that heaven is a gift of God that comes through faith. Much like at Christmas when we parents will give Christmas presents to our children even though they don’t always deserve it, God gives the gifts of forgiveness and heaven to sinners who don’t deserve it.
Is this something we have to earn? Is this something we have to pay for or put on a Visa or Mastercard? No! The Bible says that it is by God’s grace (undeserved love). It is a gift.
That is our comfort this afternoon. God is able to see what is in everyone’s heart. We might not know exactly what was in Michael’s heart or mind in his last few moments on earth. But God definitely knows. And if Michael had faith in Jesus as his Savior from sin, then he is absolutely, definitely, 100% in heaven.
You heard Jesus say it just a few minutes ago, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” This is God’s promise. If someone believes in Jesus, they will not die spiritually, but will go on to live forever in heaven.
What a comfort to know that you and I, and Michael, don’t have to earn life in heaven, but this is God’s free gift won and given through the love of his Son Jesus! Today we trust that our compassionate and loving God has handled this situation according to everything that he has promised.
And so like Mary, today we treasure up all these things and ponder them in our hearts. As we ponder the vast love of God, we are reminded today of what is truly important in our lives. Christmas isn’t just about lights and trees and presents. It’s about family and friends. But it isn’t just about family and friends either. Christmas is about a loving God who came to earth so that he could make heaven possible for us.
Then moving past Christmas, we are reminded of what is truly important in our lives. This life can be very short. Sometimes too short. So we cherish our friends. We cherish our families. We cherish the many blessings that we have. But at the same time we remember that there is something still yet more important—our relationship with God. Everything in this life is just temporal, but eternity is eternity. Thus, we are reminded today that our relationship with God is to be absolutely number one and most important in our lives, because we never know what the next day may bring.
Today we mourn the loss of someone that we love—a friend, a brother, a son. But through our tears of sorrow we peer back through time at a tiny little manger. There we see another son, the Son of God, sleeping in heavenly peace. Born in this world for us, come to save us from our sins. This loving Son of God came to forgive all sins—Michael’s sins, your sins, my sins. Those who have faith in that loving Savior most certainly will sleep in heavenly peace—and live forever with God. God grant that for Jesus’ sake.
Posted on December 15, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Earn, Ephesians, Ephesians 2, Grace, Love, Luke, Luke 2, Michael Saunders, Palm Coast, Sermons, Son of God, Suicide. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.