Jesus Has Prepared a Place for You: A Funeral Sermon

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Though we would each wish it might be for another occasion, it is fitting to be here in this place today. It was here in this place that the Holy Spirit worked faith in Don’s heart through the blessed sacrament of Holy Baptism on June 14, 1936. It was in this place where Don was catechized and then confessed his faith publicly in the Rite of Confirmation with the class of 1950. If you check out the north wall of the church basement, you’ll see his picture there. It was those two formative events in Don’s life and other memories of his early years at St. John’s that influenced him to request his funeral service be held in this place.
But as important as this place was to Don, there is a more crucial place we will speak of today. Jesus spoke of this place in our Gospel: “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Notice that Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us. That’s because none of us, neither Don, nor you, nor I, nor anyone in the world would be able to prepare a place for ourselves in heaven. It would take perfection and, as you are fully aware, no one born of a man and a woman is perfect. Not only are there things that we do which are sin, so also there are those sins when we don’t do what we are commanded to do. Even imperfect thoughts render a soul unfit for heaven. So, no one is able to earn the way to heaven, and any attempt to do so, and any sort of preparations we undertake to impress God and to earn His favor, is a rejection of Christ, both Who He is, and what He has done for us to have a place in heaven.
Jesus said that He was going to prepare a place for us. To prepare a place for us He had a specific course to follow. But it would not be an easy road. For Don, or you, or me, or anyone to ascend to the joys of the Father’s heaven, Jesus must descend to the sorrows of this fallen world. The Son of Man who would prepare a place for us had no place of His own to lay His head. To remove the curse of sin from us, Jesus must become a curse in our place. To be forgiven of all our sins, Jesus must take all our sins upon Himself and then pay the awful price for all of them. This He did when He was crucified and when He hung from the cross.
There, on that cursed, barren, leafless tree, Jesus was preparing a place for us in the Father’s house. To the repentant thief who prayed to God, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, He bought us back, He redeemed us from sin and from an eternity apart from Him, which is hell. That is what Don believed and confessed. This is what gave him a joyful hope in the dark days of the last two-and-one-half years and sustained his soul in the long hours of the night especially these last few weeks.
Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house. To do so, He died on the cross and His body was placed in the tomb. It didn’t look like He was going anywhere, let alone to prepare a place for us. But on the third day, Jesus the Christ rose again from the dead. That grave would not keep Him, for He is God and He was going to prepare a place for us.
If the cross tells us that our sins have been paid for and that God’s wrath has found satisfaction in Christ’s crucifixion, then the empty tomb on Easter morning shouts the truth that death has been defeated and that those who depart this life trusting in Christ are with the Lord where He is, just as Don is now. It is also the promise that, on the Last Day, our bodies will be raised from the dead and united with our souls and we will be with the Lord forever in our Father’s house.
Following His sin-atoning death and His death-defeating resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven in the final preparations necessary for Don, for you, for me, and for everyone. All things are now ready and Christ has given to His Church the means for granting people the gift of faith for making them children of God and heirs of heaven. This takes place through Baptism, which is for you and for your children. In Baptism, God calls you His own and gives His gifts to you. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” This is what Don believed and it was so from the day of his Baptism through his last breath.
The Church is given the authority to forgive sins and this is what Don heard when he came to Church—namely, that he was forgiven of all his sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—the same triune name of God into which he was baptized. When Don was no longer able to come to Church, the Ministry of the Word came to him and he heard the same Word of forgiveness as he prepared for and received the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.
Is it any wonder than Don could commend himself—his body and soul—into the nail-pierced hands of the Lord and depart in peace according to the promise of Jesus? He promised to go and prepare a place for us in His Father’s house. Jesus promised to come back for us and take us to be with Him forever.  
So here we are this day. And it is days like this that none of can ignore the reality of our mortality. Each one of us awaits that one day that will come sooner or later, as it did for Don, when we will be called out of this life. Dearly beloved, a place has been prepared for everyone. Not everyone, however, cares. How about you? How about your children? I implore you. I plead with you. I beg you, that if you have neglected the spiritual care of yourself and/or your family, to not let such continue another week, or another day, or even another hour. None of us know how much time we may have left. So much or our life, including the time and manner of our death, is uncertain.
Listen to the Gospel reading once again, noting as you listen that three things are certain—one, God in Christ has died for all your sins and prepared the way for you to be with Him forever in heaven; and two, there will come a day when your casket will not be empty; and three, you either will, or you will not, receive the promised blessings because Jesus has prepared a place for you, too.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1–3).
Thanks be to God for Don, who is, according to the promise of God, with the Lord in the place prepared for him in the Father’s house. May this knowledge give you hope in the days ahead, even as you grieve Don’s death. May Jesus continue to hold you close in His Word and Sacrament and bring you to be with Him and Don and all of those who have died in the faith when your time comes as well. May God grant this to us all. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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