Comfort One Another

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

John 2:12-22; Mark 16:1-8; 1 Cor. 15:12-22; 1 Thess. 4:13-18

Have a great luxury (something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort) – vast majority of the time, are insulated from death. Even from a lot of the dying process. Not in our faces, integral part of everyday life like for much of world’s population. See it on the news, movies, but rarely if ever for real in our personal space. Is rare indeed that we would take active role that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” did, intending hands-on preparations of Jesus’ corpse for permanent burial.

Has, I believe, contributed to unhealthy attitude toward death: get to deny it, pretend like it didn’t happen. I know that doesn’t apply to everyone; but is true for increasing numbers of people every day. So how is this text still relevant? If more people are refusing to grieve, how does this text speak to them? If they are denying sorrow, what meaning is there in Paul’s words?

Truth is, this text doesn’t speak to them. In fact, it isn’t written for them – the ones who refuse to acknowledge death and loss. Not written to those who are determined to hold on to bones of the past, refusing to give up their grief / grudge. Is written to those who grieve, whom Paul could rightly consider brothers and sisters. His words are intended to inject hope into sorrow and prevent despair regarding those who “sleep in Jesus”.

A. remember and believe (John 2:22)

Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.”

remember the Scripture

genuine hope for the future that provides comfort (gives moral, emotional, spiritual strength) must be sourced in Scripture

all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions (written, expressed verbally) that are just that, opinions, no basis in God’s reality

Bible makes it explicit: there’s this life, the next life; your standing before God in this life determines your destination in next

Bible also makes it plain what we can expect – not as comprehensive as we’d like :-), but everything God figures we need

remember his words

side note: promise of resurrection not an after-thought; came right up front in Jesus’ ministry, even before he identified all the 12

dot-to-dot, a fun little activity for children – for developing motor skills, counting ability, etc; problem with life is all dots aren’t necessarily numbered… often takes passage of time, successive events to supply numbers

we don’t get to see whole picture all at once, usually don’t recognize all details at time things happen – often more focused on finding the next number than figuring out what we’re drawing

after he had risen they remembered – probably John implying “oh, duh, this is what Jesus meant; now we get it”

Dad, in hospital, struggled with communication, “want to go home”… not across bridge to SoPo – didn’t get it then, needed more maturity, life experience, just like disciples

those who fail to remember, refuse to face truth cheat themselves of God-given opportunity to learn and grow and be comforted

have confidence in God’s word

confidence should not come from historical accuracy, beauty of language, cohesiveness of story told, number of translations or copies printed, practical benefits of book we call the Bible

should have confidence in Bible because we have confidence in its author – his knowledge, power and goodness

didn’t leave anything out, has the power to make it happen, has our best interests at heart

all those other things help to confirm our confidence in Bible is not misplaced – MAPS, for example

must translate into more than intellectual confidence – have confidence in your doctor, writes out a scrip, thank him, stick on the fridge? no, follow directions; same should be true for God and his Word

B. you will see (Mark 16:7)

“But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

required putting faith into action: go

seeing empty tomb, folded graveclothes a start, but could only provide limited comfort; hearing declaration of angel stationed in the tomb reinforced their hope, but…

wasn’t the angel they were looking for – “you seek Jesus of Nazareth”; at that point, nothing short of real living Jesus would satisfy

apparent from Mary Magdalene’s exchange with one she thought was the gardener – he was only important as source of information and help, she wanted Jesus

fully grasping the reality meant they had to go from the place of death to place of the living – “why do you seek the living among the dead, he is not here, for he is risen as he said”

required verbal witness to faith: tell his disciples

angel had said “don’t be alarmed” but his words had little effect – they kept a grip on it as long as angel could see them, then took off at top speed: trembling, amazed, afraid

totally different response from shepherds at beginning of Jesus’ earthly life – they told everyone they could what had happened

two Mary’s didn’t let off the throttle until they were back with Jesus’ disciples – friendly faces, shared perspective

Matthew adds important detail: left “the tomb with fear… and great joy” – same emotions present for us today, tug of war between

joy won out – they did indeed tell his disciples, all the others present with them – the telling helps to reinforce the reality

only then will you see

had the ladies and disciples set up vigil inside the tomb, candles and all the rest, would not have experienced the risen Lord

Jesus was done with death, had reached lowest depths of his humiliation, already begun his triumphal march back to his Father

if we expect to see him, must believe the words Jesus said, put that belief/faith into action, confess it to others, and follow Jesus among the living

C. in fact, Christ has been raised (1 Cor. 15:20)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

hope is for more than this life

previous verse (19) “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

Paul’s argument goes on – our hope not only in this life, it extends into the next life because our trailblazer is already there

don’t lose sight of first point – dependence on Scripture: only way we know about any of this is the Bible, only way we can understand significance of any of it is Bible illuminated by Holy Spirit

emphasis this morning: Jesus’ resurrection; in the big picture, that event nearer the end than the beginning

because we know the beginning of the story from the Bible, we understand why we need hope

also understand that really important things not what is limited to this life, earthly existence

talking with woman: father just died (6 wks from cancer diagnosis); he was Christian, so is she; her confession – “I’ve learned that most of what I’ve pursued in life is stupid; it is relationships that are important.”

her point: the stuff of this life stays in this life; relationships, people are part of next life as well as this one

guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection

what keeps us who hope in Christ from being miserable deluded idiots is the resurrection of Lord Jesus

think of it this way: if Son of God could not break bonds of death, what hope can we possibly have? what better hero is there?

since “Jesus died and rose again”, verified by numerous witnesses over several weeks who were still alive when Paul wrote, we can have hope that death not the end of existence

good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: there is a life after this one, unspeakably and incomparably better than this one… for those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation

he is the prototype / firstfruits

“That which is apart and portion of the whole which is to follow, and which is the earnest or pledge of that; as the “first” sheaf of ripe grain was not only the first in order of time, but was the earnest or pledge of the entire harvest which was soon to succeed.” Barnes

Jesus the pledge of the entire harvest of redeemed believers – all those who will be raised to new life on that great day

Paul makes clear who this applies to: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (22)

begs the question: are you in Adam or in Christ? no middle ground here, is either one or the other, is matter of eternal life and death

trusting in your own merits to satisfy God’s scales of justice? or… trusting in Christ’s merits, one with him by faith, believing God will accept Jesus’ payment for your sin in your place

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

D. we will always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17)

family and friends are great, but…to be with Christ is far better

what formed basis for Paul comfort of Thessalonian believers: confidence that “thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

who is “we”? – those who “believe that Jesus died and rose again”, “those who sleep in Jesus”, those who when they died believed in the death / resurrection of Jesus

we will be with one another; but more important, we with one another will be with the Lord, the one whom God raised from the dead

timing doesn’t matter – his ascension guarantees his return guarantees our future with him, no matter when he comes

declaration of God’s messengers (Acts 1:11) connected ascension and return – “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way”

not an event we will miss or miss out on: we will either come with him or meet him, whichever way timing works out

Even Jesus could not endure agony in the Garden without help – “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22:43) Father did not remove Son from suffering, did not allow him to bypass or take shortcuts through it. At one point, even felt to Jesus like God had abandoned him to his suffering, but we know rest of the story!

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32) God not only delivered him up to suffer for us all, God raised him up to be the firstfruits of us all. And he told us about it in his word to comfort us, and as we find comfort and strength in those truths, to comfort one another.

“thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”


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