Great to be back. In this past week's gospel, Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall never pass away. The message preached focuses in on the phrase "pass away" and examines the world's passing away and our passing away versus Jesus' Words never passing away. What certainty that gives us! In a pass away world, words like, "Be of good cheer--your sins are forgiven" endure!
My Words Will Never Pass Away!
In the name of Jesus, Amen. Did you ever stop to consider just how complicated words can be? I looked up the little four-lettered word “pass” in an unabridged dictionary and would you believe there were 85 different ways for that little word to be used? Count ‘em, 85! The word “pass” focuses on the concept of somebody or something that is moving. You get a pass for a movie so you can move through the line of people waiting to get in. Football players catch moving balls called passes. When history moves along we say something “comes to pass.” We pass by, pass off, pass out, pass over, pass up, pass through, pass the buck, pass the hat, pass the time, and we pass on, to name just a few of them.
Jesus uses that little word in our text this morning to speak about a kind of moving, and He uses it a way that we’re all familiar with. He says “Heaven and earth are going to pass away.” You and I know what it means to pass away, because it’s something we face personally as human beings. People and places and things move from life to death, but Jesus says there’s one thing that never passes away.
I. Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away
What does the Bible say about our world? Jesus puts it all in perspective in our reading when He says the created world is temporary, that is, like us, its days are numbered. Isaiah says that this world that we love so much will wear out like your favorite clothing. Paul says the very creation itself, “groaning” while it looks forward to the passing away of temporary things and the revealing of what will be eternal.
I think it’s safe to say that there are those times when you and I grow weary of the way things work here on our temporary earth. Here, we have no enduring city. So instead of focusing on the eternal, our hearts often become set on some temporary trinket, and we believe that when we finally get that temporary trinket, happiness will somehow be ours. What temporary trinket are you pursuing that will complete you being once it touches your hands? Finishing you education? Getting the right job? Finding the right person to marry? Retiring and taking it easy? The instant that temporary trinket is in your hands, its value deflates, and the joy it brings you is slight compared to what you expected. St. Augustine recognized that futile and hopeless cycle. He said that God must have made us for Himself, because our restless hearts never seem to find peace until they rest in Him
What’s more, Paul says that our bodies are in the process of passing away. In one place he calls them tents because they’re temporary. In another place, he says they’re clay pots because they’re so fragile. And nothing we can do will ever prevent that passing away. People have tried preserve at least the memory of someone’s life. We see monuments left by former generations in hopes that at least somebody would remember those whom the monuments commemorate. But after a hundred years or so, even the stone letters on a gravestone begin to wear off. Headstones sink lower and lower over time, and along with that sinking, the memory of the one it memorializes sinks as well.
Because everything in this created world is temporary, Jesus says that it will pass away at its appointed time. In his epistle, St. Peter tells us that the whole planet is going to come unglued, far beyond any earthquake or global warming or ozone depletion. It’s almost as if Peter is saying that all the molecules that hold together so nicely for us now are going to suddenly disintegrate. It’s similar to what happens to your car on the day the guarantee runs out.
Everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with the angels. The trumpet will sound, and all God’s people will be gathered from the four winds and from the four corners of the earth. How can we even picture that event? No one will be able to put it on canvas or film, because it will be the event that will undo both the canvas and the film. Nothing that you and I have experienced can compare with this passing away of everything, except that in our text, Jesus tells us about this passing away so we know about it ahead of time.
II. My Words Will Never Pass Away
And of all the things we humans worry about—from halitosis to hair-loss—thank God the passing away of this world isn’t another item you have to add to your worry list. Mark reminds us that we can wait for the passing away of this world watchfully and obediently and expectantly, because even as we see the world passing away, Jesus says, “My Words will never pass away.”
As Jesus is speaking today’s text, He knows he’s going to the cross. His words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” and “Today you shall be with Me in paradise,” spoken from the cross, are included in the words that never pass away.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but today, I would like us to think about just the opposite. Words can do things that no picture could ever do. Words can bring death, as when the judge says, “I sentence you to die in the electric chair.” Words can also give life, as when the same judge says, “I find you not guilty.” And words can also bring eternal life, as when we hear the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” or, “I forgive you all of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
If you and I had no relationship with Jesus, the idea that His words last forever could be a frightening one, because He told His disciples that not one jot or tittle would ever pass away from God’s Law. That’s not good news for people like you and me who seem to be experts at breaking the commandments and falling short of what God expects. But included in the Words that will never pass away are all Jesus’ words about the forgiveness of your sins—the words you can hang onto as everything else passes away into oblivion.
We seem to lose things as we age. Your eyesight starts to go. Your hearing begins to fade. Muscle tone and strength begin to wane. We lose our mobility. Even our hair passes away, but then it begins to grow in places where we never had to shave before! Our privilege of driving a car might be taken away when somebody discovers out we can’t hear or see as well as we used to. Sometimes they even take the keys to your house away from you and say something like, “Grandpa, it’s just not safe for you to live alone anymore.” Often, the ones we loved most pass away before we do. So imagine for a moment that you have experienced those losses, and just about everything is gone and you’re lying on your deathbed. Everything in your body and in your very existence is starting to dissolve and come apart.
Everything, that is, except for the words. “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven...In my Father’s house are many mansions...I am going to prepare a place for you...I am the Resurrection and the Life...whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned...My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me...I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” When nothing else will do you any good, indeed, nothing other than those dependable declarations of Jesus will be needed! And then imagine those words you will hear as we open our eyes in the next world: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundations of the world.”
I’d like to conclude by telling you about some human words that had a hard time passing away. A soldier was stationed at a California military base thousands of miles away from his wife. His link to the lovely woman who was waiting for him to come home was their love letters.
But one letter of this soldier never got delivered. Somehow it was lost, lodged between two walls in Fort Ord’s mailroom in San Francisco. The letter was lost in the shadows, with its romantic affections of a youthful marriage, sealed with a kiss.
A half century later, this soldier and his wife had just finished celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and were relaxing in the living room when their favorite song, began to play on the radio. His wife affectionately remembered the song and how she used to get calls and letters from the soldier who owned her heart. They joked together that there would be no letter or phone call this time because her husband was with her, at her side.
Meanwhile, a construction crew was dismantling the old post office at Fort Ord, and they discovered a long-forgotten letter from a young army corporal. The crew turned the letter over to Bob Spadoni, the postmaster in nearby Monterey. Spadoni began the process of delivering that letter, tracking down the soldier and his girlfriend [now wife] through post office records and phone books.
Just a few days after hearing their favorite song, the letter, dated January 28, 1955, was delivered. That letter set a wife’s heart aflutter, tears welled, and she again became a love-struck 22-year-old. “It meant a lot to me then,” she said. “It means even more now.”
In the same way, God’s love letter written to you in the Scriptures, means more and more as each passing year brings His return ever closer. How do we live with the world around us passing away? One hymn writer puts it like this:
Hark a thrilling voice is sounding
“Christ is near” we hear it say
Cast away the works of darkness
All you children of the day
See the Lamb so long expected
Comes with pardon down from heaven
Let us haste with tears of sadness
One and all to be forgiven
So, when next He comes in glory
And the world is wrapped in fear
He will shield us with His goodness
And with words of love draw near
When everything else is folded up and put away for eternity, the words that assure us of eternal life will remain. Indeed, those words are worth more than a thousand pictures! Be of good cheer! Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ words that save you will never pass away! Amen.