Saying Goodbye to a Brother

This Saturday we'll say a last goodbye to our brother, Jeff Stables, remembering God's faithfulness to him and through him. I encourage you all to attend the memorial service being held at Culpeper Baptist Church at 2:00 PM.

This week I just want to encourage you with a passage from the first chapter of Revelation, where John writes this about Jesus,

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood... When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.’
— Revelaton 1:5, 17-18

The pain of loss so easily whispers to us that death and cancer have won. And maybe they think they have, at least for now. We know our theology, that Jesus offers eternal life, that he saves from death, yet still, those truths can seem so very far away and hollow especially when deep sadness settles in.

That is why, I think, Jesus wanted to begin the last book of the Bible the way that he did, revealing himself to his dear friend John, though now as exalted messiah rather than earthly rabbi. Jesus wanted John, the church, and us, to know that he has indeed done two things. First, he has freed us from our sins by his blood. His sacrifice was real and complete for us and for Jeff Stables. When we die, we die in Christ, forgiven, loved, and delighted in by our heavenly Father, because there is no more sin left to condemn us. But secondly, Jesus holds the key to Death and Hades. Death still tries to win, tries to lock us up in eternal darkness, using things like cancer, car accidents, and old age. But Death doesn't have the keys to Hell. Jesus does. He is the Sovereign and King over eternal life and eternal death.

So in both of these things Jesus speaks peace to mourners. He has conquered sin, death, and the devil and he literally controls access to eternal life. He makes sure that every Christian reaches in their own time the delighted presence of our heavenly Father. He has done that for Jeff, and if you're faith is in him, he will do that for you.

But for now, it remains for us to speak into pain, sadness, and darkness that Jesus has conquered death. It is left to us to grieve but not like those who have no hope. It left for us to sing praise through tears knowing that the one to whom we sing one day will wipe away every tear.

I'll close with one of the closing verses from the hymn, "For all the Saints," grateful that Jeff has entered into his rest.

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!