There was once a wolf who tormented a flock of sheep. Every day he would come to them and swallow up as many of them as he could fit in his greedy mouth. Night after night, these sheep trembled as the wolf howled and prowled outside of their fold, never far from them.
The shepherd saw his trembling flock, and took pity on them. That night he covered himself in the wool from his sheep, and hid among them. He slept with them and ate with them until the wolf came again.
When the wolf came he saw the shepherd, and thought to himself “What a large sheep! Surely he will make a fine meal!” The shepherd stepped forward and the wolf swallowed him up. He was so full that he lay down contentedly in the middle of the field. The sheep saw this and scattered in fear.
But soon they heard the wolf groaning and moaning. “Oh, what a terrible pain!” One by one the sheep snuck back to see the wolf writhing in agony. As the last sheep rejoined the flock, the wolf’s stomach suddenly burst open, and out tumbled the shepherd! He lead all of his sheep out of the belly of the wolf, who scampered off defeated into the woods.
Now, though the sheep still shudder from time to time at the baying of the wolf outside their fold, they are not afraid, for their Good Shepherd has walked into the belly of the wolf called Death and carved a path straight through for His sheep to follow. So it is for all who fall asleep in the Lord: They will follow Him in His resurrection, for He is the first fruits from among the dead.
Last week I was laughing with my father when we received the news of my cousin’s death. For now, he has fallen asleep. But soon — oh God may it be soon — he will rise bodily from the dead, for his Savior has already Risen. And when He comes He will gather His flock, awake and asleep, into a place where tears do not flow and life does not end and there is no dark night, for the glory of God will perpetually chase it away. Until then, pray for my family, especially his young wife and their children.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.