A Feast of Rich Food
Isaiah 25:6-9, John 10:11-15
Focus: Our Savior leads us through death to everlasting life.
Function: that the hearers find comfort in the hope of the Gospel, even in their grief.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our sermon meditates on two texts for today: Isaiah 25 and John 10, and as we reflect upon our texts and upon the life of this departed saint, there are two lessons we would cling to today. First, that God will make a feast for the ages. Second, that He is the Good Shepherd.
First, He will make a feast for the ages. That is the hope held out to us in Isaiah 25. There’s a man, named Jon Reiner, who lived in New York and because of a certain disease, was not able to eat for years (for years!). He had to have his food digested by an artificial stomach that he carried on his back and pumped into his body again. For years, this is how he got nutrition, until his doctors told him to start eating again. And when he was able to eat, he said, first thing, he went to a little greasy New York diner that had been his place many years before. He ordered a fried egg and cheese sandwich with bacon. He sat down, put his elbows on the table, and dug in. He made one of these faces, the kind of face you can imagine someone would make if they hadn’t been able to eat in far, far too long, and he turns to the man sitting next to him and says, “This is the best darn sandwich I’ve ever had.” To which the man says, in true New Yorker fashion, without missing a beat, “You think that’s good, you should try the meatloaf.”
Now, I’m not sure what Karen’s favorite food was, but I do know that it had been far too long since she could enjoy it. Now, listen again to what God says to the people of Israel. On this mountain – mountains are the symbol for the places where God shows up - on this mountain I make a feast of the finest of meats and the strongest of wines. On this mountain there will be a feast for the ages. He’s talking, filet mignon. He’s talking bacon-wrapped T-bones. He’s talking the best of wines, aged and strong. He’s promising a place where there isn’t discomfort, where there isn’t pain, where the only tears are tears of joy, where the food never runs out, and where the party is just getting started, because as we see in the next verse, God goes one step further: not only does he set a feast before his people, he finally swallows up death itself. Death gone, never to come back. For the Lord has spoken.
Karen, she desired the food that could be had in this life. She watched Food Network, like Nikki said, about 20 hours a day, and when I went to Rochester to visit her, I found that same thing to be true. And yet, when I asked if she wanted the Lord’s Supper, she turned the TV off, looked me in the eye, and said with tears in her eyes, even as she had sores in her mouth, “Yes, I do.” And the hope that we held out for her is that in her days, she ate and drank the Lord’s Supper for the strength that God gave her in it. In the end of her life, Karen was first and best hungry for the Supper that her Lord would give her. And now, in these days, know this: we take the Lord’s Supper with her and all the company of heaven, until at the end of all time, God opens up the banquet tables, we get to sit ourselves down, we put our elbows on the table, and dig in.
Lesson number one is that I would invite you to spend your days desiring the food that really matters. Let these things of eternal significance that marked Karen’s life at the end of her life also mark yours. Spend your days eager to come to the Lord’s Supper, receiving strength from the foretaste of the feast to come. Keep on being fed by the Word of God, because it will sustain you like none other especially when times get lean. Feast on the riches of God’s promises, because, at the end of all time, you’ll find this to be true: nobody throws a party like God throws a party.
Second, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” John 10 goes on, “I know my own and my own know me. My sheep know my voice.” Jesse told me that through his impressive wrestling career, he went to a lot of gyms and wrestled a lot of matches with a lot of people watching, and a lot more people yelling. And when you play, you get in the zone, until it feels like only you and the other guy are there. But, he found that there was always one person that he could hear from the stands – his mom. No matter which match it was, he could hear her voice telling him, Come on, Jesse. Get it done, Jesse. Don’t let up, Jesse.
And I tell you that to tell you this: Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep know my voice.” In her moments of fear, Jesus said to Karen, “I am your Good Shepherd.” In her moments of confidence, Jesus said to her, “I am your Good Shepherd.” In every one of her days, Jesus followed her around, and he followed her around with goodness and mercy, eager, absolutely eager to comfort her, to lead her before still waters, to restore her soul, until he took the lamb that he loves in the arms of his mercy and brought her home.
This is the foretaste that calmed her fears when they tried to overtake her, that led her to her shepherd’s arms that made her strong, even when her body failed her. This is the hope held out by our Savior, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross where his body failed him, who was crucified until he suffered the sting of sin, but who rose up as the first fruits of resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Lesson number two is that here and now I would invite you to hear the voice of your Shepherd calling. If you could hear the voice of your mother so clearly amidst all the noise of those gyms, then now listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd speak in your busy times and in your quiet times. If you could find encouragement in the strength of her love, then now find encouragement in the proclamation of your Savior Jesus Christ, when he says, “I have won my wrestling match with death. Death submits. Sin subsides. Pain will fade, because Christ has mastered it, and he mastered it for you.” Let the clear, calm voice of your father in heaven speak into your ear today. Let him tell you what you learned from your mother’s knee. That death is not the end. That you are bought with the blood of another. That your shepherd has been guiding you, and he will not rest until he guides you all the days of your life and more – to the feast of the age to come.
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