"Yes, Jesus Loves Me!" #68-32
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 15, 2001
By Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Psalm 30
Prayer: God of love, Father of help and mercy, we give You our hearty thanks that You raised Your Son Jesus Christ from the dead and from His tomb. You have spread the light of life to our world darkened by sin and suffering. Give us, we pray, Your Holy Spirit that we may embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin and from eternal death. Enable us to serve You in pureness of living and holiness of heart with a fervent hope of life and glory everlasting through Jesus Christ our living Savior. Amen. (adapted from "The Lutheran Liturgy," p. 113).
Easter Story Luke 24:1-8 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground. The men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee? 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" "Then they remembered His words."
There's a face I won't easily forget, and if I should forget Amy's face, I know I'll see her again. I met Amy years ago when I visited a Collinsville nursing home. Our Ladies Aid went each month to the facility called "Pleasant Rest." The name has changed; I don't know what it is now. The Ladies Aid and I would put on a little service, sing some Gospel songs and then a Bible reading and short message. The volunteers and workers always brought Amy to that monthly gathering. Confined to a wheelchair, Amy was severely retarded. She seemed to understand a fair amount as I recall but speech was beyond her. She could only make sounds. But that didn't stop her from communicating her emotions oh so well with her eyes.
Some 50 people were always brought into that meeting room where we held the monthly service. I might not have noticed Amy were it not for Margaret, who led this activity for the Ladies Aid. She had learned years earlier that Amy had a favorite song. So as we were singing favorite Gospel songs like "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art," Margaret would always work her way over to Amy's wheelchair and say, "Let's sing Amy's favorite." We did and Amy's eyes became especially bright and happy when she heard "Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is strong."
Amy's was a sad case, and too often you and I face situations with loved ones where hope seems to be in vain -- severe retardation, devastating injuries from an accident, a terminal diagnosis from the doctor. These seemingly hopeless cases remind me of some symbolism you may have experienced on Good Friday. Good Friday was only two days ago and Christians around the world went to church to remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Many Christians worship in a service called "Tenebrae." That's Latin and it means darkness. As the Tenebrae service progresses, the candles in the church are extinguished one by one until all the lights are out, and the worshippers exit in darkness and in silence. Isn't that so symbolic of these sad cases? Our hopes grow increasingly dim because it's hard to argue with what we see.
But now comes Easter. Easter is when God comes to me feeling sorry for Amy. Easter is God coming to you when life is fading for you or someone you love. Easter is God coming to us once again and asking, "Don't you get it yet?" Of course, it's hard to argue with what you see, but this Easter God is again helping us to get it. That's just as He did the first Easter Sunday.
In the old story of the Emmaus disciples, hope had gone for the two who were trudging home. Their Lord Jesus had died and been buried. But then came a "stranger." We know whom that "stranger" was, the resurrected Christ. "You don't get it yet, do you?" was His opening. Then He talked with them about the Bible and before it was all over the light was back on in their lives, brighter and more certain than it had ever been before. They knew their Lord was no longer in the darkness of death but had burst forth from the tomb with the radiance of life that can never be extinguished. Their grief had been turned to joy. They were thrilled, for they knew what Amy knew. "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me; the Bible tells me so."
Like the Emmaus disciples, we don't do a good job of analyzing our hopes. The doctor walks toward you with a somber face. He might shake his head and say, "There's little hope." What's the reason he says that? It's the doctor's extensive knowledge and experience. "There's little hope" is the conclusion drawn on the basis of sight. Many a time the diagnosis turns out to be accurate. The birth defect cannot be corrected. There is no recovery from the injuries of the accident. The cancer takes its toll. Because we've been in these situations more often than we'd like, the word "hope" has become hollow, devoid of real substance.
But there is another hope; a hope not based on sight but a hope radiant because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope is not focused on what we see but on what the Bible tells us, that God loves you and has given you a Savior from the sin that has brought death and so much suffering into the world. By raising that Savior Jesus Christ from the dead, God demonstrates your sins have been forgiven and death has been conquered. The "Tenebrae" service is over. Jesus Christ "has abolished death and brought immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). That's the hope that shines from faith. "Jesus loves me! He who died, heaven's gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in. Yes, Jesus loves! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so."
In the Christian life we should learn to distinguish these hopes, hopes based on sight and the great hope based on the resurrection. Psalm 30 reflects both hopes. On the one hand, King David's enemies threatened him with death. They said his soul was near the grave, his blood was about to be poured out. He was in mourning and sackcloth. There seemed to be no hope. On the other hand, while it was hard to argue with what he saw, that is precisely what David did. He did not accept the despair so easily seen and heard. Instead, David drew hope from his faith in God. "O Lord, my God, I cried to You, and You have healed me. O Lord, You have brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness" (Psalm 30:2,3,11). What's important is not that David survived that situation. He eventually died. All the people healed by Jesus in the New Testament eventually died. What's important is that David used his hope in God to sustain him when the outlook was so dim. When earthly hopes were fading, heavenly hope burned brightly.
I should make that distinction more often in my life, and I suspect you should, too. Too often we Christians let our outlook be shaped too much by our earthly experiences, thereby reducing Easter hope to some fuzzy feeling about heaven that we relegate to funerals.
I recall an older woman in one of the congregations I served. Her first husband had died and she remarried. Both husbands were fine Christian men. She was convinced they would not know each other in heaven because that would certainly create an awkward social situation between the two men. She believed that despite the Bible's teaching there is no marriage in heaven and believers in Christ will be in heaven as individuals who know one another in a perfect joy and bliss. She had this fuzzy feeling about heaven which could not possibly be as helpful to her as a more informed hope based on the Bible's teachings.
Such an informed hope will also burn brightly in the other problems of our lives. I'll say it again. Easter is not just a fuzzy hope of heaven that we invoke in grief. When you've been laid off, or struggling with a problem in a relationship; when you don't have the money for taxes tomorrow, when it's hard to have hope based on what you see, the hope that comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ can lighten your heart. It can turn your mourning into joy, as the psalmist says. Or as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, "We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts" (Romans 5:2-5).
It's going on 13 years since I left parish ministry. Thirteen years since I saw the gleam in Amy's eyes. What a wonderful service she has rendered me over the years. Her joy in Jesus was not dimmed by her physical condition. When I remember Amy, it's as if God is asking me, "Dale, do you get it yet?" Do you understand how lively this hope is in Jesus Christ? Whether you have gotten it in the past or not doesn't really matter now. Today is Easter. God comes and gives you and me a hope the world could never give. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus really does love you. Psalm 43 says, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God" (Psalm 43:5). Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for April 15, 2001 (Easter Sunday)
ANNOUNCER: We're listening to great music of the church. I'm Mark Eischer. Joining me is Dr. Dale Meyer.
MEYER: Mark, you have a selection by Johann Michael Bach. Tell us who Johann Michael was and what we're going to hear.
ANNOUNCER: Johann Michael was the cousin of J.S. Bach's father and the piece we're going to hear is "I Know That My Redeemer Lives." The main text is from the book of Job. It's sung by the men. "I know that my redeemer lives and that He shall stand at the last upon the earth and though after my body and skin have been destroyed yet in my flesh shall I see God. I shall then behold him face to face." Against this the sopranos sing, "Christ is my life forever and death to me is gain. Cold bonds of earth I sever, I rise with Him and reign." We hear a recording by the National Lutheran Choir.
MEYER: When Jesus was raised, His body was raised. It was not just an awakening of conscious in the minds of the disciples. So also today we look forward to the time when our bodies will be raised to be with the Savior and the joys of heaven forever. In 1 Corinthians 15, it reads, "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, (it) that is the body is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor. It is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown in natural body, it is raised a Spiritual body. We don't know exactly what the body will be like, but here, the Bible tells us clearly, "We who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be raised with our bodies, to life eternal in heaven." So this is a great day of anticipation. We marvel with all the church at the power and the love of God, who gave His Son to die for our sins and then raised Him again to new life. The first fruits of that glorious harvest that is to come.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Dr. Meyer. We now come to the end of our broadcast for another week.