Today, a young wife and her two daughters will be joined by forty-seven other people to grieve the death of her husband and their father. It’s not supposed to be like this. On their wedding day, brides and grooms covenant together for what is expected to be a long life together. Fourteen years of marriage ended by death—well—it’s not supposed to be like this. Little girls expect to grow up before the eyes of their father and to have him scare away the bad boys and to approve the good ones. They don’t expect to attend their young father’s memorial service. It’s not supposed to be like this. Parents expect their children to speak at their funeral service, they don’t expect to bury their child. It’s just not supposed to be like this. The memorial service for a well-beloved middle-aged church member is often standing room only. But today, there will be a limitation of fifty people, separated by social distancing. It’s just not supposed to be like this. But it is.
Today is a sad day for the Lötter family and for many others, including the membership of Brackenhurst Baptist Church. We mourn with Tania and Sarah and Emma at the death of Martin. As I will share in a few hours, we will miss, among other things, Martin’s smiling face at the ramp by the back-side doors. Our brother is with the Lord and so we have good reason to rejoice, yet everything about us screams, “It’s not supposed to be like this!” How do we process this?
We know in fact that death is an anomaly in God’s original creation. It was never supposed to be like this. But sinners and sin have made it like this. As the old catechism put it, “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” or, as Paul wrote, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Disease—including COVID-19—death and dysfunction in every realm testifies to the reality that sin has morphed glory into an inglorious new normal. Therefore, life is like this, and we weep. And so does God.
We probably all know the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). I’m sure there are numerous reasons why Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus (whom he was about to raise back to life). But certainly, in Jesus’ tears, we hear his conclusion: “It’s not supposed to be like this.” The salty water running down his cheeks spoke volumes back then; they do today. And in a few hours, our tears will be mixed with his, testifying to the same conclusion: “It’s not supposed to be like this.” But, gratefully, this is not the end of the story. Hardly!
By God’s grace, he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live the life that Martin could never have lived and to die the justice-satisfying death that Martin could never have died. Three days later, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, vindicating him as the sinless Saviour, the one who alone could save Martin from sin, guilt, and eternal punishment. And save him he did!
Knowing what he deserved from holy God, and rejoicing in the mercy and grace he has received instead, I can imagine that today, with that beautiful smile, Martin just might be saying, “Hallelujah, it’s not supposed to be like this!”
Brothers and sisters, amid our deep and understandable sorrow, let’s remember that God is able to turn mourning to rejoicing. Because he so loved the world that he sent his only Son, we have everlasting life through repentance and faith. Truly, the experience of this gospel mercy gives a whole new meaning to, “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
Grieving, and grateful, with you,