My father was lying in his hospital bed, dying. We talked about a lot of things, but there were a few conversations I’ll never forget.
My father, the retired pastor, asked if I thought there would be baseball in heaven. And I told him there would be fields so green he would almost weep for joy and he would be able run like he had as a young boy without ever tiring and he would see the curveballs coming and somehow, even though there would be no errors, the game would be so beautiful in its playing.
“Good,” he said.
But more than this, he told me he loved me and was proud of me. He told me he loved my family. I cannot even type this without tears. And then he said he was ready to go ahead and be with Jesus. We talked about how Jesus, The King, will make all things new. And we both sat that there holding hands, tears in our eyes.
A lot of conversations with my dad shaped me through to those final days. But maybe none so much as these, which felt like blessings.
When Jacob was at death’s door, he called all his sons to himself and blessed them, one by one. It’s a moving scene after so much drama in the saving of God’s people through the work of Joseph. Some of the blessings didn’t sound like blessings. Some were short. Some were hopeful. Some had a dark shadow across them.
But there was one line that stuck out like a sore thumb—an encouraging sore thumb.
In his blessing over Judah, Jacob prophesied, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.” The line of kingship ruling over God’s people, starting with David, was of the line of Judah. And Jacob said it would know no end.
As I write this, we are waiting for Christmas day— the day when Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the long awaited King, was born. Israel had been looking for a coming King to make all things right and new, a King whose reign would not end. This works on two levels because Jacob was also called “Israel.” Israel, the man, and Israel, the people, would both look for the unending reign of Judah.
I am sure much of the hope of that first Christmas was the expectation that the prophesied king would defeat those who had made life so miserable for Israel. Did they know that their hopes would be exceeded and that death itself would be defeated? And along with this, the sin which makes us enemies of God and leads to death will also be conquered?
Did Jacob see this before the death rattle?
This is the hope we cling to as we hold onto the bars of hospital beds. It is our hope as we hold the hands of those who will go on before us into the unending reign of the King, who has also gone before us, conquering sin and death. He is the one who holds the scepter and will not let go.
Written By Matthew B. Redmond