Sermon Illustrations

Evangelist Merv Rosell relates a story from his childhood when he and his brother contracted diphtheria. They were wrapped in white sheets and taken to the contagious ward of the hospital. He could still see his mother’s face, pressed against the glass of the ward, peering lovingly at her two boys during those days and nights of suffering. Little Robert wept day and night. Although the nurses tried to comfort him as best they could, it was almost impossible to give him relief in his complicated condition.

The nurses tried to comfort Merv as he explained that it was his brother who kept crying. After two weeks they explained how they had moved Robert to a sunny room on the other side of the hospital. A week later, their mother came to take Merv home. On the way home, Merv asked his mother, “Is Robert home yet?” His mother answered that he had been at home for several days.

As they pulled up to their house, Merv jumped out of the car and ran up the steps shouting, “Robert! Hey Robert!” But there was only silence. He persisted in calling his brother’s name. Finally, his mother drew him aside, and sitting him on her lap, she tried to explain that Robert wasn’t “home” to this house, but to his “heavenly” home.

Merv said, “You mean he’s dead!” But even as carefully as his mother talked about the resurrection and temporary loss and reunion and the joys of heaven, all little Merv could do was shout over and over, “But he’s dead!”

Standing by the front door was a crowd of boys calling for Merv to come out and play ball—welcoming him back to the neighborhood again. He marched from the dining room to the front door and shouted, “Kids, get out of here! Beat it! Don’t come back again. Don’t you know my brother’s dead? I’ll never play ball again. He’s dead, I tell you. Get out of here and leave me alone!”

They backed away, stumbling through the lilac bushes and out to the street wondering what had happened to Merv. He walked back into the dining room. It was now the loneliest, emptiest house he had ever known.

But that’s not the end of the story. For since those days there came to Merv an ever-deepening faith in the reality of eternal life through the teaching of that godly mother, the quiet assurance that what she said in those days and lived out in the subsequent years, is actually the truth, a fact, not just a fantasy.

Paul put it well when he wrote, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (I Corinthians 15:19). We shall live again. This blessed hope is the substance of every human heart that stands beside the little white crosses; the brown mounds of earth; the small coffins---every lonely heart that stands alone, save for the assurance in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.