The Light at The End of The Tunnel

Jesus is the Light!   He’s not a light switch, that can turn on or off!  He is always on! He is always light and always shines with the light of his love.   That’s why in Revelation 21:21-27 John sees heaven as the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”.   May 26, 2019.

He is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!   Alleluia!

People respond differently to tunnels!!  Would you agree? Tunnels are kind of a love ‘em or hate ‘em kind of deal!  If you’re not a fan of tight spaces, then you probably don’t like tunnels. You probably are the type that will have your hand on the door of the car so that you can push back against the tunnel wall when it starts caving in!

Then there’s the people on the other side, people that love tunnels!!   They are the ones that honk their horns the whole way through. They are the ones that will shout to hear the sound of their own voices echoing off the tunnel walls.  They think tunnels are the greatest thing!

In a lot of ways, life is like being in a tunnel.  There’s only one way in and only one way out. It can seem like a long time in between, sometimes it feels dark or like the end will never come!   It might feel at times like it’s all going to collapse around you. Does that sound like your life?

The truth that many of you know all too clearly is that life is sometimes dark – like you are in a tunnel.  And that’s not me just being pessimistic – that’s Jesus! Did you hear him in the gospel?  Very truly I tell you– you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve… (John 16:20)… He says it again pretty clearly again “Now is your time of grief” (John 16:22).     

Jesus knew a thing or two about grief!   He knew what it was like to stand at a gravesite and mourn the loss of a loved one!  He knows that because he did it when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus stood in the same shoes that many of your brothers and sisters stood in yesterday.   About two hours north of here they gathered around a casket, the casket of a man far too young to die. He was 41 with so much life ahead of him, with so much good work that he was doing and still had to do - the principal of a WELS school, ready to begin one of the last days of the school year.  He went out for a run in the morning and minutes after returning home suffered a massive heart attack and died. Many tears were shed yesterday but they weren’t shed alone, Jesus weeps with us.

Jesus knows a thing or two about grief and that means that he’s stood in your shoes, too!  He knows the pain of betrayal. He experienced the searing pain of rejection! Jesus knows loneliness!  He understands what it feels like to care about a person who doesn’t care back. He knows what’s it’s like to carry a heavy load of responsibility.  He gets disappointment.

Grief is real -  I spoke with a woman on Friday about her son who she’s pretty sure has fallen away from the faith – the desperate feeling of not being able to do anything but preach and pray – the anguish over knowing what’s at stake!  Grief is real and its debilitating at times.

And we’ve really just been talking about the effects of sin in the world, we haven’t even talked about sin itself.  As sad as those things are – what about you? What about your darkness What about your heart? The world can be a dark, dark place and our living in it hasn’t made it any brighter!  We’ve just added another body that can’t do what God demands, another soul that can’t save itself, another sinner that’s buried in shame and guilt!

You want to know grief?   Consider the implications for you of John’s statement Nothing impure will ever enter (heaven)…nor will anyone who is shameful or deceitful…

If you want to make a death seem small, or a loved one losing their faith seem insignificant, put it on the backdrop of your own soul, your own future, your own eternity.  Consider the truth that because of your sins, because of your failures you cannot live with Jesus! Trapped in the tunnel of darkness and on the fast track to hell! That’s where you are and hell is where you deserve to go!  Now that’s real grief!!

But the good news that is yours and that is yours to share with others is that Jesus chose to make that grief his own rather than see it come to you or to me!  He came into our darkness and he lived in our place. He obeyed the law for us and then willingly paid with his own life the price that your sins and mine deserved.  He endured the grief of separation from God so that we could live with God forever. He washed us completely clean, made us completely worthy, and has given us a place in the heavenly Jerusalem.

John tells us who will receive this grace:  Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.   We are saved not because of our own actions, but because of the loving actions of the Lamb of God.   He did what was necessary for our sins to be forgiven. He paid the price to take our shame and deceit away.  He made himself the sacrifice and allowed his blood to be shed on the cross so that our names could be written in the Book of Life.    Heaven is ours not because of our actions but because of his.

And when the Lamb writes down your name, that means something!  When the Lamb writes your name in his book that means everything because he is the one who really matters.   Life is what it’s all about. Eternity is what we strive for and heaven is our goal. Only Jesus has the key.  Only Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Rally nothing else matters, except the Lamb and his book of Life.  

And because of his love and because of his sacrifice, and because of his victory, that means that the city that John describes is your city.  You have an address on the street that is paved in gold. You will one day walk through a pearly gate and begin your everlasting life with Jesus.   You will one day speak of grief in the past tense. It’s difficult to even fathom. “That’s the way that things used to be, but not anymore!” John shares that joy at the beginning of this chapter: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

There’s something else that won’t be in heaven and it might strike you as odd:  I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.    Really? The best place ever – the place of perfection and there is no church? Really?   This is the place where we enjoy our relationship with God, where he comes to us in Word and Sacrament and we receive the best of his gifts.    But in heaven we don’t need a special place to enjoy our relationship with God because we will be living with him and will forever enjoy his presence.  We won’t need a place to receive his gifts because we will forever be receiving grace after grace. The riches of heaven are ours in Jesus and we will enjoy them in every heavenly place.  

Heaven is the end of darkness and the dark things that sin has brought into your life.  It’s the end of sorrow and weeping and crying and pain. It’s the end of hopelessness and despair, heart-break and the end of death.   Darkness is no more – only light!! The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

Today our God fills us with hope.   Jesus is the Light! He’s not a light switch, that can turn on or off!  He is always on! He is always light and always shines with the light of his love.   That’s why John sees heaven as the Light at the End of the Tunnel.    In heaven it will be nothing but unending joy – it will be nothing but perfection and harmony, worship and praise.  The light of the lamb’s love will radiate through and through and we can bask in the light of his glory!

Heaven is a source of hope for us.  When this world has us down, we can rejoice in knowing that these sufferings are temporary.  There’s a Light at the End of the Tunnel.

But Jesus is not just a heavenly Light.  He sines wherever he goes. And that means that when he comes into your life, he shines.  As his Words of love are read to us, he shines. As he comes to us in holy sacrament, he shines.   He doesn’t leave us to dwell in darkness. He doesn’t leave us in our own despair – he shines.

And my friends – if Jesus is Light no matter where he lives, that means that when he lives in us - he shines and we shine!  As he dwells within us, we shine. There’s a reason that Jesus tells us “You are the light of the world!” It’s because he shines through us.   How does Jesus shine into the lives of others? It’s through people like you. It’s through genuine acts of service. It’s through selfless acts of love.   When we show Christ-like love, we allow Christ to shine through us and into the lives of those around us!

So, my friends, soak up the Son!   Bask in the light of his love and then shine that love every day!   Never forget that Jesus is the Light at the End of the Tunnel.    Heaven is our eternal home!   Walk in his light and in his love.   And then with his help you will always be a day’s march nearer home.   A day’s march closer to the everlasting light!!!! Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on May 26, 2019