Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This is Paul Kattupalli. This week my mother went home to be with the Lord. I thank everyone of you for your prayers, for your sympathy cards and condolences. From the day we found out she had breast cancer, we had been praying for her recovery, but it pleased our blessed Lord to call her Home. For the last few years, I have been dealing with the health issues of my father and my mother. Both have been diagnosed with cancer. I often think of what C.S.Lewis wrote in his book Grief Observed, ‘Cancer and cancer and cancer. My father, my mother, my wife. Who is next in the queue?’
King Solomon wrote in his Ecclesiastes, ‘there is a time to be born, a time to die’. When I was in medical school, my mom was working in the same hospital as the chief of nursing staff. Today I went to bring her dead body from the mortuary of this teaching hospital. I remember the days when I was working as a young physician in this hospital while my mom was overlooking the nursing staff and patient care.
My mother influenced my life tremendously. Every time I stand to preach, she would send me a note, advising me to speak more about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of her analysis of my sermons, I started to end every sermon with the blessed hope of the gospel of our Lord. So, today also, in her remembrance, I would like to speak about the solution God has provided for our death in our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ. I will read a few verses from John chapter 20, starting with verse 11.
11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Jesus was crucified, killed and buried. Then Mary went to his tomb. She is crying. Two angels are standing nearby. They asked Mary, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’. She said, ‘They have taken away my Lord, I don’t know where they have taken his body’.
Lord Jesus, freshly resurrected from the grave, is standing right behind her. But she did not recognize him. Jesus asked Mary, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who are you seeking?’. Mary thought she is speaking to the gardener. She says to him, ‘Sir, please tell me where you have laid the dead body of my preacher. I will take his body’.
I have been weeping for my mother during the last ten days. Why am I weeping? My mother passed away around 3 pm, USA time. That morning, I had a dream. In this dream, my mother was speaking to me but I could not speak back to her. I was feeling that my communication to her was blocked. It would be a painful thing when you cannot communicate with a loved one any more. I was disturbed by this dream. I got up and went to work. Then my sister Ruth, who is a nurse by training, called me and asked me, ‘Paul, mom got fever. Her lung sounds are not normal. I think she got pneumonia. Please advise me about the medications’. I am a medical doctor by training and I was thinking. I could not think of any options. Since my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, we had tried all kinds of treatments: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, natural medicine etc. The cancer only metastasized to different parts of her body. So, I did not know what to say to my sister.
I wanted to talk to my mother directly. I looked at her cell number on my phone. I pressed her number but my mother already became too sick to talk over the phone. She could no longer recognize her loved ones, not even my father. It would be heart wrenching when a loved one can no longer communicate to us, can no longer even identify us.
The Loss of Communication & The Loss of Identity
We’ve seen incredible progress in our communication technology in the recent past, yet death comes and stops all our communication to deceased loved ones. I looked at the cell number of my mother over my phone. I can no longer listen to her compassionate voice even if I press on her phone number a million times. Jesus, where are you? Are you listening to the cries of my heart?
At the beginning of the gospel of John, we read, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth’. God came down to us with a message and the message is Himself. We find 7 miracles in the Gospel of John and each miracle has a message for us. But for our discussion, we will focus on the seventh miracle: Jesus raising Lazarus from dead. There are two sisters in a town called Bethany. Their brother Lazarus has been dead for four days. The sisters and their loved ones have been mourning for Lazarus. Jesus goes to visit them and he weeps with the family. Jesus wept: that is the shortest verse in the Bible but has the most profound truth of God’s incarnation in this world. In Jesus Christ, God came down to dwell among us, to share our pain, to experience our suffering, to grieve with our grief, and to weep with us. The Son of God shared our grief.
After I received the news that my mother passed away, I drove to New York City and went inside the John F. Kennedy International airport. I got the last ticket on the plane flying to India. The security officer asked me, ‘Why did you buy the flight ticket in the last minute?’. I told him, ‘Sir, my mum has died just a few hours ago. I am going to India to attend her last rites’. The officer was not convinced. I was taken for a special security screening. I was searched from top to bottom. All my bags were searched thoroughly. Then they told me, ‘you are good to go’. You see, there is so much insecurity in our society. We are acquiring more and more security guards, more and more CCTVs, and more and more screening devices. We have a deep sense of insecurity in our hearts. How can Jesus address this problem?
Jesus comforted those two sisters and along with the family and friends, he walked to the cemetery where Lazarus was buried. He weeps and then says, ‘Take away the stone’.
Take away the stone: They were all shocked. They warned him, ‘No, Jesus, Lazarus has been dead for four days, he must have decayed by this time’. Jesus told them, ‘If you believe in God, you will see His glory’. Then he cried out to the grave, ‘Lazarus, come out’. Lazarus, the dead man became a living person. He walked out of his grave. We can see the divine power of Jesus in this miracle. Jesus himself was crucified, died and buried. Then, on the third day, he raised from the dead. When we trust in Jesus, we don’t have to be insecure about our lives. Jesus gave us eternal life. And nothing in this world can take way this eternal life. Apostle Paul wrote in the epistle to Colossians: Your life is hid with Christ in God. Our life is secure in God himself.
Our security is not in a locker,
Our security is not in an investment
our security is not in government
our security is not in religion
our security is not in the church
our security is not even in heaven.
our security is within God himself.
Your life is hid with Christ in God.
Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’.
So, we got this lively hope by the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and we are preserved and kept by the power of God.
When I buried my mother, I buried her with the hope of resurrection. We read in First Corinthians chapter 15, form verse 42.
So also is the resurrection of the dead; It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
Then verse 47, The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
The first man was Adam. In Adam, we received the curse of sin. We became corruptible. We received death. We became dirt returning to dust of the earth. But there is good news. The second man came from heaven. The second man is the Lord from heaven. The second man is our Lord Jesus Christ who came from heaven to give us eternal life. Because of Jesus and his resurrection,
what is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption
what is sown in dishonour, raised in glory
what is sown in weakness, raised in power
what is sown as a natural body, raised as a spiritual body.
Apostle Paul met the resurrected Christ, he believed and proclaimed the resurrection of all believers who put their faith in Christ. He wrote, ‘I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better’. In the airports, we see the signs like arrivals and departures. What is your destiny after your departure? Paul said, ‘I am departing to be with Christ’.
On Sunday morning, Mary went to the tomb of Jesus. She could not find his dead body in the grave. She started to weep. Two angels asked her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping’. She said, ‘I am looking for the body of my Lord’. Lord Jesus was standing right behind her. Mary could not identify Jesus. She thought she was talking to the gardener. She asked him, ‘Sir, let me know where you kept his body. I will take it’. She thought Jesus had gone, gone forever, and she would never be able to talk to him again: the loss of communication.
She could not identify Jesus who was standing right in front of her: the loss of identity. When we bury our loved ones, we lose the joy of conversing with them. When we bury them, they mingle with the dust of the earth. We experience the loss of communication and the loss of identity.
When Mary went to the graveyard, there was darkness, silence, fear and death around her. But Jesus walked to her. There by the empty tomb, Jesus met Mary. Then he called her Mary.
Mary!….when our blessed Lord called her, it was a new beginning for Mary. When he called her Mary, all her weeping ceased, all her grief stopped, all her tears evaporated. Her joy knew no bounds. When Jesus called her Mary, communication is restored, identity is restored. Jesus calls every one of us by our name.
Through his resurrection, Jesus gave us this great and blessed hope.Only Jesus – not Muhammad, not Allah, not Buddha, not Krishna, not Confucius. Only Jesus can give us this hope because He alone defeated death and grave.
So, we can expect to meet our saved loved ones in the future. We are going to meet them, hug them, and rejoice with them. We are going to identify them, we are going to talk to them. Our communication will be restored and our identity will be restored.
We read in Revelation chapter 14: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. If you die in the Lord, you are blessed. We can divide the life of a Christian into three phases: In Christ, for Christ and with Christ.
First, In Christ: When we put our faith in Christ, we became In Christ.
Then, For Christ: After our salvation, we live for Christ.
Finally, With Christ: When our heart stops beating, we go to live with Christ.
My mum worked as a nurse in a large hospital. She served her patients well and also told them about Jesus. Who are you? What is your race? Where are you from? Are you rich or poor? It does not matter. She would ask you, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘Have you put your trust in Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior’. What matters is whether you are saved in Christ or lost in your sins. She led hundreds of people to Christ through her preaching. In her final days on her deathbed, she was trying to preach the gospel. I wanted to share her story with you because I am sure you will blessed and inspired by her example.