Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Last Will and Testament

Few things humble man more than signing a Last Will and Testament. It's the Ash Wednesday reminder: Remember, o man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return. It brings one's mortality to the forefront, something we try to ignore daily. But there before the lawyer and the witness, before God and the pen everything is disclosed. Every signature the sting of death needles you more painfully than a tattoo artist. And this is more permanent. There's no death removal laser treatment. Dust to dust. It is literally signing your life away. It's not fun. But then again it's not supposed to be. However, it is necessary. And it is good. Parents care for their children even before they are born, from conception to birth and their whole life through. Parents love their children in life and in death. In a way I suppose those marriage vows are not just between you and your spouse - vows kept by the mercy of God himself - but those vows that are also for you and your children. Till death us do part. But even there you are loving your kids, loving them to death. There's nothing you wouldn't do for them. Provide for their needs. Prepare them for the future. And give them life - an inheritance - out of your death. How much do you love me, daddy? This much. Nothing is withheld from you. All that is mine is yours. Yes, it's true that there are few things more humbling than this.

I know of only one thing more humbling, in fact the most humbling of all. The one perfect Last Will and Testament. Take eat. Take drink. This is the cup of the new testament - the last testament, the everlasting testament - in my blood. Made by the perfect Testator. He is the one who predeceases you. That's the legal term for what the Scriptures confess: Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the dead. And he goes there for you, his children. That's good news for all of us, whether you've signed a will or not in your earthly life, you are heirs to a greater, everlasting will and testament, signed and sealed in the death and resurrection of Christ.

16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.”21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. (Hebrews 9)

But in fact the Law's demands have been satisfied. Christ, your Testator, has dipped his pen in the Calvary's crimson inkwell to sign his life away to us, his wayward, rebellious children. Though we deserved no inheritance - though we squander it daily - he gives you all that he has, freely. Behold the crucifix, a divine notary public, declaring to all the world that the undersigned, hereby declares you the benefactors and heirs according to His name. There on the cross your mortality and immortality are both seen clearly. The death you deserved, Christ dies. The life you didn't deserve, Christ gives to you freely. Death has lost its sting. Sure, it pokes and prods and pricks us here in this life, but no more than it did to Jesus. He has taken your death. He has swallowed your venom and sucked death's poison out of you. and onto him. He is your Testator. His death is the guarantee of all he promises you. His body and blood? Their yours. Take eat. Take drink. His death and resurrection? It's yours in Baptism. His word of promise? It's yours. Go in peace. Your sins are forgiven you. Jesus takes on our Ash Wednesday command - dust to dust - in order to bring you his Easter proclamation: Alleluia! He is Risen!

And that's the chief difference between our Will and Testament and Jesus' Will and Testament. Ours ends on this side of the grave. His does not. His destroys the power of the grave. His is an everlasting covenant, a Testament without end. Our pain and suffering is but a shadow, our legal documents but a copy of the greater suffering endured and the greatest inheritance given by Christ for you and for the world. For Jesus is not only the giver of the inheritance. He himself is our inheritance. That's the joy of heaven even when get a glimpse of it on earth in the Divine Service.

Good Friday wasn't any fun for Jesus either. But then again it wasn't supposed to be. It was, however good. And it was necessary. In this manner Jesus loves the world, that he lays down his life for his sheep. He lays down his life for sinners, enemies and all lost sons of Adam. Jesus loves us little children into birth and life in His Name. He loves his children to death. That's his vow to you. Not only till death us do part. But even in death, he will never depart from you. Nothing will snatch you out of his hands. Just ask him; He still has the fleshly documents to prove it to you. Do not be disbelieving, but believe. Look here; see my scars and touch me here on my side. There's nothing he wouldn't do - nothing he hasn't done - for you. Provides for all our needs of body and soul. Prepares us for the future of life with him by his work in the past bringing his cross and passion to us here and now in the present. Taste and see that the Lord, He is good and his mercy endures forever.

"How much does Jesus love you", you ask? With outstretched arms suspended between heaven and earth, he replies, "This much...it is finished. Nothing is withheld from you. All that is mine is yours. I, the undersigned, do hereby declare it,

Jesus, the First and the Last, the Living One, for I died and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

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