For the Committal of Jan Papson
(September 13, 1952 - May 15, 2020)
A LIVING REDEEMER GIVES LIFE EVERLASTING.
In the name + of Jesus.
To appreciate Job's words, it helps to know Job's background. God had blessed Job with a large family, made him a highly influential person in his community, and granted him enormous wealth with flocks, herds, and servants. Then Satan challenged Job's faithfulness to God, suggesting that if God had not given him so much, Job would no longer have a use or a love for God. So God allowed for Job to lose everything—his wealth, his reputation, his health, and all his children. Job went from being rich and respectable to pitiful, penniless, and a shriveled up shell of a man. And yet, Job did not trust what he experienced. Although he never knew why he suffered and lost as much as he did, he still believed that the Lord was his good and merciful Father in heaven. Although the evidence suggested otherwise, Job still believed that God loved him and would restore him.
The particular confession of Job that we are considering does not suggest that Job expected life to get better in this world. Job looked beyond that. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27) Job knew that even if his diseased body would give out, he would be raised from the dead with a renewed and perfected body. He would see his Savior with his own eyes, and he would live with him forevermore.
Now, if there is a comparison to be made with Jan Papson, it is that she ended up suffering from cancer for quite some time. I never even knew her in her more lively, healthier days. I knew her during a time of catheters, chemo treatments, and frailty. And while death is not a topic that we usually want to talk about, she and I talked about it often because it was imminent. God allowed her to endure a terminal illness, and he did not tell us why. Oh, in general we can know why—this is a broken world and bad things happen in it. But why God afflicted Jan with cancer? He has not told us.
But Jan and I focused on what God has told us. Like Job, we chose not to focus on what Jan felt and experienced. We acknowledged her cancer and her frustrations, but we also recognized that these were no proof that God was getting back at her for something, or that God had abandoned her when she needed him. Our focus remained on what God tells us. While God tells us a lot that is worth considering, for now we will limit ourselves to Job's confession: A living Redeemer gives life everlasting.
First of all, our God is a Redeemer-God. That means he has acted to ransom us from the brokenness of this world. The first thing that is broken is us. We are all sinners. We get bitter, sarcastic, greedy, and petty. We don't even love our loved ones like we should. We have all failed to live up to God's standards. Because of that, we are all marked for death. Since all are sinners, all will die. But our Redeemer, Jesus, has delivered us from our sins. Even though Jesus lived up to God's standards and was without sin, he exchanged his perfect life for ours. He carried our sins to the cross and suffered the judgment we have earned. Jesus died a cursed death, enduring our hellish judgment for us. This is how he has delivered you from the curse of sin and has taken away your guilt. Jesus is your Redeemer, so there was a cost to saving you. That cost was his perfect life and innocent blood. But your Redeemer not only died for you, he rose from the grave and conquered death for you. This Redeemer lives and can never die again.
The living Redeemer gives everlasting life. And the living Redeemer already gave new life to Jan Papson when she was baptized into his name. By that baptism, the Lord put to death the sinful heart of Jan and gave her a new heart which believed his word and received his blessings. God poured out his favor upon her, and he never removed it from her. Cancer may have wracked her body, but that did not change God's mercy. Like Job's body, Jan's was tainted with sin. We all are. That is why we get diseases, grow frail, and finally die. These sin-stained bodies cannot enter God's holy presence.
But our living Redeemer gives everlasting life. He who conquered death will raise up Jan with a new, holy, and glorious body. She will stand with Jesus on the Last Day and never again know pain, medication, or weakness. She will live in joy and peace forever. For now, her soul dwells with Jesus in such peace and joy. But God did not create us to be ghosts. He made us to be people with bodies and souls. Jesus became a body and soul man so that he would ransom us to be his body and soul saints for all eternity.
Thanks to Jesus, Jan bore the status of a saint throughout her life. And at the resurrection of the dead, she will live and look like the saint God has made her to be. This is the promise God made to her and the confession that Jan lived and died in. God's promises to her and God's love for her could not be negated by her cancer, her hardships, or her death. They are proved by Jesus' life and sufferings, death and resurrection—all done to redeem her from sin and death to life and peace.
Our Redeemer lives. And because that Redeemer has saved Jan and marked her as his own, she will too. In her risen flesh, she will see Jesus. With her own eyes, she will gaze on a loving Redeemer. For our Redeemer lives, and he gives everlasting life.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.