Justin Donald Zuber

A Memorial Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

A few minutes ago we read about how the Lord once entered the house of a little girl who had just died. Her mother and father were weeping because they loved her very much. The Lord said to them, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52) Then, after He had sent away those people who did not believe in Him, He took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” (Luke 8:53)

To the astonishment of her father and mother, the girl came to life again. You can imagine how delighted they were, how overcome with joy that they were to see their daughter alive and well.

These events are recorded in the gospel of Luke especially for the parents of children who die, because the Lord wants us to know, to be absolutely certain, that He performs this same miracle for everyone who dies. The only difference is that the little girl in the gospel was brought back to life in this world. All others, He calls to Himself and awakens in heaven.

The Lord did not cause her death, any more than He causes the death of any person. Death comes through disease, and accident, and because this world does not follow the order of heaven. The world of nature is not perfect, nor are the people who inhabit it. But when death does come, when there is sickness and accident, the Lord acts in His great mercy to turn it somewhere, somehow, to good. Therefore, those who die in this world are raised up by the Lord from their sleep and live again in the spiritual world, having left their earthly body behind. This is what the Lord meant when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, [yet] shall he live.” (John 11:25)

The Lord never wants young people to become sick or accidentally die, but when they do, He takes them up immediately into heaven to be with the angels. There, they finish the process of becoming fully adult, and are taught the things they need to know so that they may eventually find their own place and home in heaven and become angels of the Lord.1

Young men and women are precious in the eyes of the Lord, and every one who dies before reaching full adulthood is certain to become an angel in heaven. This is because all young people are endowed with the heavenly quality of innocence while they are growing up. Once when the people were bringing young children to the Lord so that He could touch them, and the disciples tried to turn them away, the Lord was very angry. He said, “‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God’. …And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:14-16).

This is the very same thing that happens to young people who die. The Lord takes them up into heaven, and no one forbids or stops them. He takes them up in His arms, holds them in His hands, and blesses them with eternal life.

Justin is even now awakening into his new life. At first he will be with the most kind and protective angels who will see to it that his first experience of spiritual life will be peaceful and gentle. Gradually, as he becomes more familiar with his new surroundings, Justin will begin to explore the wonders of the spiritual world. He will join with other young men who will travel throughout the world of spirits with a teacher and guide to see the many wonders and to learn the many things that he will need to know to grow up to be a useful citizen of the Lord’s kingdom.

His physical limitations and pain have been left behind with the cares of this world. In his new spiritual body, he will enjoy perfect health, and the freedom to run and exercise, and be with other young men and women, people like himself who will become his true friends, who will enjoy his sense of humor, and who will no doubt be caught by the sharpness of his mind from time to time.

Justin loved learning and was a challenging student. No teacher could ever let down his or her guard while Justin was in the class, there could be no sloppy preparation because, in his very cheerful and open way, he’d catch the error and point it out. Some of his teachers were known to use this characteristic of his to set traps for him – which, not being a slave to conventional thought, he happily leapt into. Justin laughed just as much when the joke was on him as when the joke was his, because more than anything else he loved the challenge of thought itself and knowing the minds of others.

In the spiritual world, his new home, he will be assigned to teachers who have been particularly chosen for him by the Lord Himself, and who will be able to show him the way to find the answers to all his questions. And particularly, Justin will be able to learn about the Lord and His kingdom.

One of the ways that young people are taught in heaven is by means of plays which, through costume and setting, are able to communicate powerful ideas and emotions in a few words. There is no doubt whatever that Justin will be irresistibly drawn to these productions, and it’s easy to imagine him talking many different roles and wearing extravagant costumes to teach and entertain generation after generation of newcomers into the spiritual world.

Justin will not remain a youth forever. He will grow into a fine young man, and one day the Lord will lead him to meet a young woman whom he will see as the image of beauty itself, and each will know that they were born for each other. They will marry and live together in heaven forever.

While we may find some satisfaction in knowing that Justin will not be lonely, or unhappy, or afraid, still those of us who are left behind will grieve for him, because he is not here with us any more. We can no longer be with him, we can no longer enjoy his good company. We might ask ourselves, “Why did this happen?” We may even blame ourselves, or be angry with God. But Jesus said, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14). How then did it happen that the Lord should allow him to die so young?

The Lord permits things to happen that He does not wish to happen, just as a loving parent sometimes allows their child to burn themselves on something hot so that they may learn what the concept “hot” means, and so prevent a much greater harm later. The parent does not will that the child feel pain, but grieving, permits it for the sake of a greater good. The Lord’s greatest love and purpose is to provide a heaven from the human race, and in His infinite wisdom, He provides for this in ways which sometimes we don’t understand. But we must be certain of this: that nothing is permitted by the Lord unless it can be turned to some good.

We may not be able to clearly see the Divine Mercy in a tragedy while we are still thinking about our loss. It is normal and proper for all of us to feel a terrible sense of loss. Yet even in these states of grief the Lord is working to bring good from evil. There can be a precious closeness shared between members of the family, a common turning to the Lord for strength. The minds of all of us may be softened and opened to perceive the reality and nearness of the spiritual world, and give us cause to reflect on the course of our own lives, and perhaps change them for the better. The death of a loved one is a time to reflect deeply on eternal values.

When we see the way this young man’s life has touched the lives of so many others, and how this tragedy has caused us all to think more about spiritual life and to have a deeper awareness of the dangers that are related to our freely made choices, we can begin to see the Lord’s hand in this, lifting all of us up.

And so let us not lose faith in the Lord’s mercy, for “The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9). Let us pray that the states of heaven may sustain and comfort us. And let us never forget the hope of eternal life which should live within us.

As we think of Justin in his new life, in his strong and healthy spiritual body, we can know with certainly that the Lord has indeed fulfilled His promise, given to us in the words of the Prophet Isaiah: But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (ISA 40:31)

First Lesson: PSA 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. {3} He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. {4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. {5} You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Second Lesson: Luke 8:40-42,49-56

So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. {41} And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, {42} for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him.

{49} While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” {50} But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” {51} When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. {52} Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” {53} And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. {54} But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” {55} Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. {56} And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.

Third Lesson:

HH 329. …Every child, wherever he is born, whether within the church or outside of it, whether of pious parents or impious, is received when he dies by the Lord and trained up in heaven, and taught in accordance with Divine order, and imbued with affections for what is good, and through these with knowledges of what is true; and afterwards as he is perfected in intelligence and wisdom is introduced into heaven and becomes an angel.

HH 445. When the body is no longer able to perform the bodily functions in the natural world that correspond to the spirit’s thoughts and affections, which the spirit has from the spiritual world, man is said to die. This takes place when the respiration of the lungs and the beatings of the heart cease. But the man does not die; he is merely separated from the bodily part that was of use to him in the world, while the man himself continues to live. It is said that the man himself continues to live since man is not a man because of his body but because of his spirit, for it is the spirit that thinks in man, and thought with affection is what constitutes man. Evidently, then, the death of man is merely his passing from one world into another. And this is why in the Word in its internal sense “death” signifies resurrection and continuation of life.

  1. 1See AC 2289, HH 329

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