Helen’s Redeemer Lives: Sermon for the Funeral of Helen Westphal

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Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

It is never easy when a loved one dies. A death during Holy Week complicates things with all the other activities and worship services. But on the positive side, it really gives us another opportunity to proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection. Today, I won’t speak a lot about Helen, but I will tell you about Helen’s Redeemer.

The message of Good Friday is that Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, died for the sins of the world. Every sin has been paid for by Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. On Easter, we celebrate the Good News that the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep has taken it up again. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. He gives eternal life, and we will never perish, and no one will snatch us out of His hand. The message of Easter is of life in the resurrection of the crucified Son of the living God.

This has been the hope that God’s people have always had, believed, and confessed. It is the hope that Adam and Eve had when they beheld the body of their slain son. The promise of the resurrection was all that they had. Abraham trusted in the resurrection of the dead, even as he prepared to slay his son by the Lord’s orders. Job did as well, and dear friends, I direct your attention this morning to Job’s words written in time, confessed for millennia, sung throughout the centuries, and lived unto and throughout eternity.

“Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:23-27).

Job was a man who was severely tested. Indeed, when we consider what happened to him, we are even more amazed that he could make such a confession as: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job was a blameless and upright man in the sight of God… a man who feared God… a man of repentance who was clothed with God’s righteousness… a man blessed with ten children, thousands of livestock, and numerous servants.

Then God allowed Satan to afflict Job. In quick succession, Job lost all his children and possessions. To make matters worse, Job was afflicted with hideous sores that covered him head to toe. Job had but three things left: his life (at least what was left of it), friends that failed to give him wise counsel; and his wife who encouraged Job to curse God and die.

Job did not do this. Instead, he made a remarkable confession of faith: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” It seems to be at odds with his circumstances. But Job kept his eyes focused on the Word of promise and his Redeemer. In the midst of the turmoil and trials God permitted to happen to Job, the foundation of his life was the Word of God. Centuries later, the Lord Jesus would repeat this truth Job confessed. Jesus told His disciples of all ages, “Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). The risen Jesus proclaimed to His Church: “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

The promise of the resurrection of Job himself and of Job’s Redeemer was what kept Job going spiritually even as his world was falling apart. He knew that not only was this Word of God, the object, or focus of his faith; but it was also the means by which his faith was sustained. Job was sorely troubled. He complained. He moaned. But in all of it, he did not blame God.

The foundation of Job’s great hope was the Redeemer. The Hebrew word is “Goel,” which is used to describe the situation where a man had sold himself into slavery and the obligation to buy him back rested upon a kinsman, a relative, a goel. Job, because of the promise first given to Eve in the Garden of the Seed of the woman who would defeat Satan, was confident that his Goel, his Kinsman, would buy him back from the slavery of sin and the bondage of death. This Jesus did for Job and for Helen and for you and for me and for the world when He died on the cross.

From his confession of faith, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” Job is telling us at least three truths concerning his Redeemer. First, he knows that his Goel is Divine. Job recognizes that his redemption is not going to come from another man. Job’s friends were trying to convince him that he was suffering God’s judgment because of a particular sin or sins that he had committed. They assumed that Job was getting exactly what he deserved. They forgot about God’s mercy and grace, and that the Redeemer is God Himself.

Only God Himself could be our Goel, our Redeemer. God has sent His Son, not to punish us, but as the Kinsman to buy us back. God does not punish His children. All the punishment that we deserve from God was taken out on His Son when He died on the cross for all the sins of all people—past, present, and future.

Second, Job understands that His Redeemer is personal. “I know that my Redeemer lives,” he confesses. Job knew that His Redeemer is not just a god who set the world in motion and left it to itself. Job knew, as Helen knew, and you and I know, that God is present with us—not just during the happy times of life, but especially when the days are dark, and the future seems uncertain. He keeps us in our baptismal grace, sustains us with His Supper, and is always with us to the end of the age.

Finally, Job understands and knows that his Redeemer is a living Redeemer. Jesus is not a dead god made out of stone or wood, or a dead man still buried in the dust of the earth like Buddha or Mohammed. Job is completely confident that his Savior is alive and, at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, “yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Job’s Redeemer was and is Helen’s Redeemer, too. The Lord made Helen His own child through the water and Word when her parents brought her to be baptized at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Worthington, Minnesota on July 15, 1923. She publicly confessed her faith in her Redeemer, Jesus Christ, in the Rite of Confirmation in that same place on June 5, 1938.

Though Helen didn’t quite reach her goal of living to the age of 100, God blessed her with over 98 years of life, nearly sixty years of marriage to Paul, with three children, seven grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Along with the joys and blessings, Helen experienced the losses and sorrows that come with a long life in this fallen world, including the death of her husband, Paul, the loss of her sight, her hearing, and mobility.

Through it all, Helen kept her eyes focused on the Word of promise and her Redeemer. Like Job, she looked forward to the Day of Resurrection and believed that one day she would see her risen Savior with her own 20/20 vision eyes and clearly hear her Shepherd’s voice with her own ears.

God granted her so many blessings in this life, but she knew the best was yet to come. Her Redeemer purchased and won her from sin, death, and the devil, not with silver or gold but with His own holy and precious blood, His innocent suffering and death. He clothed her in His robe of righteousness, fed her with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of her sin and the strengthening of her faith. And she passed that faith on to others.

Christ Jesus is your Redeemer, too! He came to live for you, to die for you, to rise again for you—all that you might hear that you are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With your mouth you sing “I know that my Redeemer lives” and with your tongue you confess “Christ is crucified; and in your souls you believe that Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Helen’s Redeemer lives. And because He is risen and lives you have the sure and certain hope that one day He will return to raise the bodies of all the dead, and give unto Helen, and you and me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

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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