Rev. Nollie Malabuyo • January 7, 2019
Memorial Service for Ron Hogan
Dear friends: The context of our Scripture reading today in John Chapter 14 tells us that this was Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples before he was crucified. He came down from heaven and assumed human nature to save his people from sin by his sacrifice on the cross.
In his farewell speech to his disciples in John 14, his disciples were troubled after he told them that he was leaving them soon. What will happen to them? Who will be their leader? Jesus comforted them, saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” And this is also the message of comfort God brings to us today, to all who grieve over the passing away of our brother Ron Hogan, especially to his family.
But how can we be not troubled in the death of a loved one? We will not see him anymore, we will miss him. This is why we shed tears since he died. It is hard for us to comprehend Jesus’ words, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Some Christians go overboard comforting those who grieve, saying that the death of a believing loved one is cause for rejoicing, not for grieving. And then we are told that he or she is in a “better place” now.
But isn’t this what Jesus was saying? That the disciples should not be troubled, even at the prospect of his departure when they would not see him again? Jesus has two reasons for his disciples not to be troubled at his departure. The disciples must believe in God his Father in heaven. Most people, even those who are not Christians, believe in someone or something nebulous they call “God.” Somewhere out there, this something exists. But God in heaven is real.
Jesus says we must believe not only God, but also himself. He himself is the Almighty and All-knowing God. He is the Son of God who was with God the Father from eternity. He came down from heaven, assuming human flesh and blood, to save his people from their sins. And there is no other name by which anyone will enter the kingdom of heaven except the name of Jesus. This is why Jesus says in verse 6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“I go to prepare a place for you”
And his Father’s dwelling-place is heaven. This is Jesus’ first promise so we may not get troubled when someone dies, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” He was leaving his disciples to go back to heaven, “to prepare a place” for them, and for all who believe in him and his Father. No Christian can ever imagine the glory of his dwelling-place in heaven. Paul himself says that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). Our brother Ron is already enjoying this incomparable glory in heaven after suffering afflictions in this world.
Many people in this world believe in some kind of heaven, whether here on earth or in some other place they imagine. Some believe in Nirvana; some in an earthly utopia or Shangri-La. But the Bible says that there is a real place called heaven, where all Christian believers are taken when they pass from this world. Do you believe in the heavenly place that Jesus has prepared for all those who believe in him and in his Father?
“I will come again and will take you to myself”
The second thing that Jesus wants us to believe is his promise, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). When he ascended into heaven, he was also a pledge, a promise, that as the Head of his church, he will also take us his members up to himself into heaven. As he has promised 2,000 years ago, in the fullness of time that no one knows except God, he will come again to take his people to himself to the new heaven and new earth, where there will be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain (Rev 21:4).
Many people today scoff at the idea that Jesus Christ will return from heaven. The Apostle Peter prophesied this mocking by unbelievers, when he said, “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Pet 3:4). But Peter says that these scoffers forget that the whole universe was created by the Word of God, and by this same Word, this creation will be purged by fire and restored to its perfection on the last day, when our Lord Jesus Christ returns from heaven.
Christian friends, do not be shaken by these scoffers, and by our long wait, because “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet 3:8). God “is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). He is waiting for the last of his people to believe and repent of his sins. And then he will return to take all of you to your heavenly home that he has prepared for you since he ascended into heaven.
Anita, and all of Ron’s beloved ones, be comforted that he really is in “a better place” right now. But not merely “a better place,” but the best place: a perfect place of unimaginable and incomparable joy and peace; a place where he sees his Lord and Savior face to face. Because Jesus is his Immanuel, “God with him.” Our Lord dwells with him for eternity.
Dear friends, belief and trust in God and his Son Jesus Christ and his promise of an eternal heavenly home is what determines whether or not you will enter the kingdom of heaven. But none of us have to wait to be in the kingdom of God. Right now, Jesus invites all of you,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).
Even in this weary world, this vale of tears, where there is suffering, affliction and death, Jesus is our rest. But even now, he has a heavenly dwelling-place prepared for you. And if you believe, when he returns, he will take you, and all who believe, to a glorious, eternal, heavenly dwelling-place. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead guarantees the resurrection of our beloved Ron Hogan, and all of you who believe, to glory. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa 23:6). This is our blessed hope.