Sermon: The Unknown

Bible talk by Steve Millay

The Unknown
September 12th, 2013 7:57 pm     A+ | a-
Reading 1 Peter 1

He remembered the first time he saw her. Her long dark hair bounced with each step as she walked toward him. Her smile was warm and her eyes were filled with life. She was so beautiful. She was petite, but very energetic and strong. He loved the way she laughed when she talked with him. Her skin was dark and soft. Her face glowed and she looked like a little girl, but she was a woman, a young woman. She was so soft and innocent. Most of all he remembered just how good it was to see her. He had traveled for weeks. Walking through strange lands, only meeting strangers. He was always on guard against robbers. All his life he had lived close to home and it was so hard to leave home. It was hard leaving the mother who had raised him up. The long journey had given him time to think. He felt so alone and unsure about what lay ahead. And on the day he first saw her, that smile of hers just made all his problems melt away. He felt at home, he felt comfort. He no longer felt alone.
He knew everything was going to be okay when his uncle came running to meet him and welcomed him with open arms. His uncle Laban reminded him of the mother he missed so much. He enjoy talking to him and listening to his stories. About a month after he arrived his uncle asked him what he would like to earn for wages. Jacob didn’t take long to reply. Over the past month he had grown a very strong attraction to Rachel and his heart felt a strong love that only became stronger with each passing day. So Jacob told Laban that he would work to marry his daughter Rachel. Laban was taken back for a moment because Rachel was only a teen and Jacob was almost 80 years old. But then he answered, “Well better you than another man.”
Those days went by very quickly. Each year she became more beautiful. He liked to watch her dance. She moved so graciously and he was amazed at how she became one with the music. She would smile and laugh when she danced and her eyes were filled with life. You could tell she loved moving to the music. And yet every day she would wake up early and attend to the flock. She took her work very seriously and always kept a close eye out for the flock. He liked that about her. She was very different from a lot of the women that he knew at home, she was very special.
They were like each other in a lot of ways. They were both born the younger of an older twin. They were both physically attractive and both were very business minded. They loved to talk and they loved sometimes just to think.
A baby cried in the back ground and Jacobs’s thoughts came back to what was now happening in front of him. The love of his life lay before him, very still. She was no longer breathing. Next to her was her sister Leah. Tears filled her eyes. He leaned forward to touch Rachel’s hand. The same hand that he had loved to hold for over 30 years. Normally the hand would wrap itself around his. But this time the hand did not respond. It was beginning to feel cold. He keep looking at her face, hoping that she would move, hoping that this was just a bad dream, hoping that she would give him that smile that he loved. He looked for life in her eyes but did not see any.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Everyday there was one thing he looked forward to, coming home to his wife. Yes, there was times that she would do things that frustrated him. Yes, she had her faults. But he knew she loved him and only wanted what was best for the family. She had wanted so much to give him children and now she gave her life giving him his twelfth son.
He had seen himself living together with Rachel for many years to come. He could see traveling though out the land together with her and spending time with the grand kids. But no one ever told him about the sorrow that he would now face.
How can you mend a broken heart? How can you stop the pain that comes with the emptiness? How can you keep your tears from tearing you apart? How can you go on after losing the one you love? When someone you love dies a piece of you dies with them.
This prince who had power with God was powerless to save the one he loved from dying. The only man who was daring enough to grab hold of an angel of God could do nothing now to bring her to life again. Was it his own fault for speaking so quickly and saying who ever stole the idols should die? Was he to blame for her death? Didn’t it count that not to long prior to this they had gathered and buried all those idols so that no one would find them? Why has the Lord taken away the one he loved?
He heard the baby cry again in the back ground. It was crying for its mother. It was hungry and wanted to feel the warmth of its mother to be comforted by her heart beat. But its mom’s heart was no longer beating and the little child would never receive that comfort.
Rachel had called the child the son of her sorrows and truly this was a time of sorrow. Jacob looked beyond this horrible day and called the child the son of my right hand.
But this favorite aunt who now was no longer alive, who now would no longer sing and dance, this favorite aunt would be remembered for a long time to come.
We see them along the road sides. White crosses that mark a place where some one died tragically, unexpectedly. They were put there by those who miss them. They mark the spot where the person last breathed. In this way those who live on, have a way to remember them. The place is special because it was the place where the person who died last saw life. It was that way when Rachel died. She was so young and it was so unexpected. Everyone was torn apart. Everyone missed her, everyone cried. She was a favorite aunt to the sons of Jacob. She was the life of the group when everyone got together. She seemed always happy and always smiling. So now they needed to mark this spot. It would be their way of remembering this very special person. She touched so many lives, that her resting place, the place where Jacob placed the pillar is even to this day a place many of her descendents still visit. It is regarded as the third most holy site in all the land of Israel.
How difficult it must have been for Jacob to dig that grave. As the hole got deeper for the grave, the hole in his heart must have gotten deeper. His sons helped dig the grave. No one talked. No one said anything. Everyone was silent, everyone felt the pain. There is no doubt that this event would be one of the most tragic events that any of them would ever remember for years to come.
What does it mean when even one as righteous as Jacob suffers this horrible sorrow? What does it say to our own dreams and aspirations? How can we have comfort that God will protect us from similar pain when even Jacob was made to suffer?
Jacob’s brother had given up his birthright years earlier just for one morsel of meat. Esau could not even endure the little bit of pain that comes with hunger and traded something of great value for that one meal. Now we see Jacob himself feeling a much greater pain. Would Jacob give up the hope of the Kingdom for one meal? No, Jacob didn’t sell his birthright for one meal, he didn’t sell it when his father loved his brother more than himself, he didn’t sell it when his brother wanted to kill him, he didn’t sell it when he fled to a strange land, he didn’t sell it when his father in law cheated him, he didn’t sell it when the love of his life died unexpectedly, he didn’t sell it when one of his sons committed adultery with one of his wives, he didn’t sell it when the son he loved the most was thought to be torn apart by wild beasts. He summed up his days as “few and evil”, but he never sold his birth right regardless of what happened.
But today the small group gathered together to say goodbye one last time to this young mother who was taken from then so quickly. We don’t know the words that were spoken as they gathered around her grave. No doubt Jacob thought back on happier times. He could still see her on the first day he met her. Coming towards him, leading the flock of sheep, the sun shinning on her face, she was so happy and so beautiful. But for the next 40 years of his life he would have only those memories of her to comfort him as he felt the pain of death.
Years later another group would gather. This gathering would be for an entirely different purpose. These men were very confident of their mission to show that their knowledge was so much better than his, so they surrounded him. They had spent some time preparing how they would attack. After a long thought out discussion they had decided on a strategy that they felt would be sure to reveal the foolishness of that which the man taught. They had a lot of skill defending that which they believed to be truth and felt that they could put to silence any adversary. They had laughed among themselves on how funny it would be to put the man to shame. They imagined that he would just stand there unable to answer while they won the respect and admiration of all that witnessed. No one could rebuke their common sense teaching. So certainly this uneducated man would be put in his place and silenced.
They started by sarcastically calling him “Master”. Then they began their attack. They said: “If a man die having no children, Moses wrote that his brother should marry his wife in order to raise up seed for his brother. Well Master. This is the situation. There were seven brothers. The first took a wife and then he died leaving behind no children. The second brother then married her and he too died with out giving her a child. The same thing happened to the third, the forth, the fifth, the sixth and finally even the seventh brother died leaving the women childless. Then the woman also died. So, wise Master, please tell us, when all seven brothers and the woman rise up in the resurrection, who will she be married to?
So the Sadducees sat back and smirked and now listened for the answer. They felt they had stumped Jesus. Who would he say the woman would be married to when she is raised from the dead? He couldn’t answer that, anything he said would be wrong. The resurrection of the dead just doesn’t make any sense. If it were true it would be a mess. It would lead to some difficult situations. People who believe in a coming resurrection are just naïve and short sighted. It just does not fit with the things we see and know.
It is so easy to base our lives in what we see and know around us. Knowing that death happens to all, men consider their lives and think that if they live to be 80 or 90 years old, and have done many things, and they die peacefully surrounded by love ones, that would be a great way for it all to end.
We may even imagine our life starting with falling in love with a beautiful girl, getting married, having children living in a home on good piece of land and enjoying the fruit of our labor for many years. And then to die together in the arms of the one we love at a very old age. Who can imagine living longer than that anyways? Life can wear us out and we may actually end up looking forward to death and accepting it as the end of all things.
So for us who believe in a coming Kingdom, how much do we really know about life in that Kingdom? We know some basic information. We know where it will be, who will be King, we know that the world will be better. But we don’t have any idea what our role will be, where we will live, who we will be around, we don’t even know if we will sleep, what type of work we will do, if there will be cars and planes. If there will be babies or even children beyond the first thousand years. We don’t know if we will have a house by the beach, or even a house at all, we have no idea if we will even live together with our present wife or husband.
Of course to the faithful it doesn’t matter, because we have complete trust that God will take care of us. But for those who might waver on faithfulness, who might be tempted to sell their birth right for one morsel of meal, for those who are tempted to indulge in the pleasures of the world, for those who are not strong in what they believe, these unanswered questions can cause a serious lack of appreciation for the world that is to come.
Many fall away because they can’t see beyond the times we are now living, and can not imagine a world where we just keep right on living and time doesn’t matter any more. Perhaps we can see ourselves doing fine for 500 or 1000 years, but after about 10,000 years of being alive we would certainly have lived long enough to have done everything this world could possibility offer to us a hundred times over. Boredom would set in.
So, we like the Sadducees wrestle with these thoughts and like them may end up having a serious lack of appreciation for the coming resurrection of the dead. The truth is that we really don’t know what to expect, and we are all like Abram who was called to get up out of his country and from his father’s house and to go into a land that God would show to him. We are called by God to leave the life which we know that which we have grown up in, that which we are very familiar with, and to go to a land that we haven’t seen yet, a land that he will show to us. And just like Abram this requires a lot of faith on our part.
The Sadducees did not know it but they had made a serious error in their question to Jesus. They had just assumed that everything would be the same in the resurrection as it is today. They denied the power of God just because they could not see beyond the every day things around us. They assumed that all things will continue as they were since the beginning of creation.
We are living in the age of marrying and giving in marriage. This is the age of bearing children and multiplying. The age of teaching children and instructing them so that they will teach and instruct their own children. This age has an ultimate purpose. That is to provide companions for the one we remember now this day, to provide true friends for the son of God so that he is not alone in the world that will come. But in that world he will be joined together with those who share the same blood and the same spirit. Those who have fought the same fights, those who have wrestled with the same enemy, and those who have had the same desire and will, and who worship the same God.
Therefore life beyond the thousand years will be much different than the life we know today. When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage. Nor do they die any more at all, for they are all like the angels of God in heaven and are the children of God being the children of the resurrection.
This is the reason why Jacob didn’t ever let his sorrow destroy his faith. He believed in a much better time to come. He knew that he was only just a pilgrim and sojourner on the earth. Yes, his heart pained at that moment in time. Yes, he missed Rachel so much that it hurt. Yes, he was never as happy from that day forward. But what helped him make it through each day was the hope of the coming resurrection.
Not far from where Rachel died is the town of Bethlehem. The prophets spoke of a time when Rachel would weep for her children. That time came, and all the young children of that town were killed by a very selfish man. There was great weeping. Weeping and sorrow that could not find any comfort because those children were not found any more. They no longer moved, they no longer played, they no longer laughed, and they no longer smiled.
But out of that sorrow was born a child who would become known as the man of sorrows. A man acquainted with grief. And just as Jacob in that terrible time of sorrow took the child and changed his name from the son of my sorrows to the son of my right hand, The God of Jacob took the man of sorrows and raised him up to sit at his own right hand. We who now come to remember and be a part of this man of sorrows, look for a time when we to will be raised up to life again and sorrow and mourning will flee away. (Isaiah 51)
If ye call on the Father pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. 

Steve Millay
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