For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24
In Vienna, Austria, there is a church in which the Hapsburgs, the former ruling family of that country, are buried.
For centuries it has been customary for a funeral procession to be greeted with locked doors. When the royals knock to be given admittance, they hear a voice call out from behind the bolted vault doors: "Who is it that desires admission here?"
Depending on the rank of the deceased, a designated guard will reply with words something like, "His apostolic majesty, the emperor!"
The voice from within responds, "I do not know him."
The people in the funeral procession knock again, and once more they are challenged: "Who is it that desires admission here?"
This time the guard who is serving as spokesman replies, "The highest emperor."
There is a lengthy pause and then the words, "I do not know him" echo through the burial chamber.
A third and final knock is made. "Who is it?"
"A poor sinner," comes the guard's answer.
Only then is the door opened, and the royal burial is completed.
I am willing to guess that most of us are not emperors who will be buried in a cathedral. Yet, even though we have no grand rank or great social standing, we, like these Hapsburgs, shall die, and our mourners will wend their ways to a cemetery or mausoleum.
What will give comfort to those we leave behind: only the firm conviction that our earthly sorrows are more than balanced by the Savior's love. Because of the Savior's sacrifice and resurrection victory, because of Baptism and the faith and forgiveness it imparts, believers know the Savior has won the ultimate victory.
At Bethlehem God showed us His Son for the first time. At the Jordan God blessed the holy commitment of the Christ. On Calvary Jesus became the sacrificial atonement for our sins. And then, on the third day, at the empty tomb, a living Lord Jesus has shown His sacrifice is accepted, and death itself has been defeated.
Because of what Christ has done, all those who believe on Him as Savior can hear the Father say to them, "You are My dear sons and daughters. Because of Jesus, you are forgiven and I am pleased with you."
This is the Gospel message which reminds us that Jesus truly is good news of great joy.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the world has called some men and women "great." Still, when all is said and done, when they have breathed their last, they are like us: poor miserable sinners who need a Savior. May we always rejoice that admittance into heaven has been won for us by the sacrifice which He made. In His Name I give thanks. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries