Summary: A funeral focusing on love with a strong opening and closing illustration
In his book, “The Case for Christ,” Lee Strobel tells of interviewing Professor of Theology and Philosophy Gary Habermas. He asked about the importance of the resurrection for Christians. Professor Habermas began answering the question theologically, but then turned reflective as he began to speak of the death of his wife Debbie in 1995 of stomach cancer. He said one afternoon he sat on his porch looking off to the side at nothing in particular. His wife was upstairs dying and except for a few weeks, she had been home through it all. It was an awful time and the worst thing that could possibly happen. He then turned and looked at Lee and said, “But do you know what was amazing? My students would call me and say, ‘At a time like this, aren’t you glad about the resurrection?’ As sober as those circumstances were, I had to smile for two reasons. First, my students were trying to cheer me up with my own teaching and second, it worked!” As he sat on the porch, he’d picture Job who went through all of that terrible stuff and asked questions of God, but then God turned the tables and asked him a few questions. “I knew if God were to come to me, I’d only ask one question: ‘Lord, why is Debbie up there in bed dying?’ And I think God would respond by asking gently, ‘Gary, did I raise my Son from the dead?’ And I’d say, ‘Come on Lord, I’ve written seven books on the topic! Of course I know he was raised from the dead! But I want to know about Debbie!’ I think God would keep coming back to the same question: ‘Did I raise my Son from the dead?’ until I got the point.
And then he said, “The resurrection says that if Jesus was raised 2000 years ago, there’s an answer to Debbie’s death in 1995. And do you know what? If the resurrection would get me through that, it can get me through anything. It was good for AD 30 and it’s good for 1995 and it’s good beyond that….I believe that with all my heart. If there’s a resurrection, there’s a heaven. If Jesus was raised, Debbie was raised. And I will be someday too. Then I’ll see them both.”
We are here today because of love: our love for Walter Harris and God’s love for him and us as evidenced in the gift of resurrection. It’s because we love people so deeply that their absence makes us hurt so much. Death is something that separates us and when we are separated from someone we love, we feel as though a part of us has been cut off. But while death does separate us from those we love, Scripture tells us that there is one thing from which death can never separate us, and that is the love of God. Romans 8:38 says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What kind of love is the love of God? Well, to begin with, it is a love that seeks. We may not like the comparison but Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.” That means we are prone to wander. Psalm 23 speaks of God as the Good Shepherd and Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15). Jesus describes both God and himself as one who knows his flock and whose flock knows him and his voice. Jesus goes on to tell the Parable of Lost Sheep and the lesson is that the shepherd didn’t wait for the lost sheep to wander home. He wasn’t passive but actively went out seeking the lost sheep. He searches everywhere and goes to the greatest length to find the lost sheep, even at the risk of great personal danger and harm. And he doesn’t return home until he is found. And just to prove His point, Jesus goes to the cross to save you and me. And then Jesus says, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.” We have a God who is in the business of seeking the lost. In fact, that’s why he sent His son. God has a passion and joy for seeking and finding that which is the lost, his sheep, you and me. That’s His love for us.