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Eternal Hope

Below is the text for the sermon preached by Frank on May 15, 2022. You can also listen to it here: Eternal Hope, Frank Coats – audio.

I want to start with the encouraging news that in 40 years many of us in this Sanctuary will be dead!  I’ll be over 107 years old, and it’s possible I’ll have to get someone to drive me in order for me to conduct the funerals.  

We’re still looking here at what the Resurrection of Jesus means to us, here in this wonderful season of Eastertide, the days between the Resurrection of Jesus and Ascension Day.  What does the resurrection of the dead mean for us when we face the certainty of our own death?  How does it affect the way we live?  Or does it? 

I want to start with two stories before we move into today’s Scriptures.   The first is from a sermon by Dr. Tim Heller, in which he told the story of evangelist Donald Barnhouse, driving his family to his wife’s funeral.  He was wondering what to tell his children about their mother’s death.  A large truck passed, and then its shadow.  Pastor Barnhouse pointed this out to his daughter in the car.

“Do you see that truck and its shadow?” He said.  
“Yes, daddy,” she replied
“Would you rather be hit by the shadow or the truck?”  
“The shadow!”
“See,” Pastor Barnhouse continued, “What Jesus did for us is to take the hit from the truck, so all we have to do is be hit by the shadow, and we’ll be all right.  That’s what happened for your mother.  She entered the shadow, and she’s with Jesus on the other side.”

And here’s another story, and this is from Book Six of The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I’ve been reading this series of books for a while, for the first time in years, and I’m struck by the depths of the Christian imagery found here.  Tolkien, a contemporary of C. S. Lewis and one of those who led Lewis to Christ, was a committed Christian and these themes run throughout these books.  

In the short passage I’m going to share with you the two hobbits, Sam Gangee and his master Frodo, are trudging toward Mount Doom in the Land of the Shadow.  The Dark Powers are seeking them.  Frodo has been tasked with destroying the great Ring of Power, which can only be destroyed in the fires in the mountain.  Their task is nearly impossible, and they are alone.  Sam has rescued Frodo from captivity, but Frodo is weak and they have little food or water.  A dark shadow had been following them, partially blotting out much of the sky.  

“Now you go to sleep first, Mr. Frodo,” he said.  “It’s getting dark again.  I reckon this day is nearly over.” Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken.  Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell.  Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out.  the land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot.  Far above the Ephel Death in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale.  There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.  The beautify of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.  For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach…Now for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.  He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.”   (p.901)

What are you afraid of?  In the end, the ‘shadow’ is but a passing thing.  It says in Psalm 23,“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for Thou art with me, Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me…”  

And from Psalm 42-43, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul?  Why do you sigh within me?  Hope in God! For I shall again be praising Him in the sight of my Savior, and my God.”

AsBill Gaither sings, “Because He Lives, all fear is gone….and life is worth the living, just because He lives.”  


We have the eternal hope because Christ was resurrected from the dead, because He took our sin upon Himself in accordance with the Scripture. And because He was raised, we will be raised one day.  We have the eternal hope because Christ lives.

Let’s look at our passage from Revelation 21:1-5, the vision from the Apostle John:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And Heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 

We believe in the Resurrection of the Body. What will our new bodies be like?  Remember Jesus’ resurrected body had the power to appear and disappear, pass through walls and locked doors, yet he ate and drank with his disciples.  Don’t try to limit it by asking questions on our level of understanding.  God is a God of limitless power and imagination, far beyond anything we can conceive.  There will be a new heaven, a new earth and God will dwell with us as our God.  Death will be no more; tears will be wiped away by God himself — He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  All that we understand will pass away.  

But that’s not all: “And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”  Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”  Revelation 21:5-6

Who said He was the source of living water?  Jesus.  And who, when abandoned by his followers, his friends, and even God as he stretched out dying on a cross, said, “I thirst.”?  Jesus, who died for me and for you and was resurrected for us and for life and the eternal hope.  

What does it mean that Christ was raised from the dead for us?  It means that death has been conquered, and if death has been conquered then what is there to be afraid of? 


But that’s not now, today.  Here we are, still in the living.  What do we do?  

Let’s look at the passage from John 13: 31-35, familiar to many of you, but always worth a fresh look. This takes place in the upper room, when Jesus was gathered with his disciples for the last supper before he was to be betrayed, arrested, condemned, crucified…you know the rest. Judas had just left the gathering, to meet the priests and soldiers who were going to meet Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane for his arrest. 

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified i him.  If God has been gloried in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glory him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer.  You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so no I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come”.  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  

Our Lord’s last commandment to His disciples was to love one another. We and they already had what Jesus said was the greatest of all the commandments, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our mind, with all our soul and strength.  And the second was like it — love our neighbors as ourselves.  When asked to define who was the “neighbor”, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, the cultural enemy who took care of the wounded man that the priests had walked by.  

We are to love as Jesus loved.  Jesus had just washed the feet of the man He knew would betray Him.  Jesus had just washed the feet of the man He knew would deny Him.  Jesus had just washed the feet of all those who would desert Him.  And Jesus loved them, not because of what they had done for him, or because they agreed with him — really not much to do with them at all.  Jesus loved them because His nature is love.  

And we are to follow Him.  How do we do that? Well, a start would be to focus on the One who gave us life, the One who teaches us love, the One who loves us so fiercely we might want to crucify Him ourselves if we were left unchanged.  Yes, that One.

And when we pass through the shadow, He will be waiting.  And He is with us here and now. AMEN.

Questions for reflection:

  • What do you think about a new heaven and a new earth?  Does this change your idea of heaven?  If so, how?  
  • What do you think about the image of the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, adorned like a bride for her husband?  What do you think that means?
  • Are we known as disciples of Jesus because of our love for each other? 

Frank Coats is an Inspire Missioner, and Pastor at Cooks Point United Methodist Church in Texas, USA.
Sermon for Easter 5 – May 15, 2022

And Then One Day I’ll Cross The River;
I’ll Fight Life’s Final War With Pain.
And Then, As Death Gives Way To Vict’ry,
I’ll See The Lights Of Glory And I’ll Know He Reigns.

Because He Lives
I Can Face Tomorrow
Because He Lives
All Fear Is Gone
Because I Know He Holds The Future
And Life Is Worth The Living
Just Because He Lives

© David Crowder Band, 2012
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