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Thursday, April 14, 2022

OPINION:

My scripture reading that cool winter morning was Psalm 73, verses 23 to 26:

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”


Later that day, I received word that my good friend, former Wisconsin state Rep. Tom Larson had passed away after a long battle with cancer. Upon hearing the news, I called his family to express my condolences.

Tom and his wife Mary had each had their own battles with serious illness. While he had gotten better in the past, the cancer had gotten much worse and he had been in hospice for some time.

So when I read the scripture on that Saturday morning, I knew. Oddly enough, I even took a photo of the passage with my phone.

It was clear to me that the reading that day was not a coincidence but God’s providence. He was sending a very clear message that even though Tom’s body had failed, God was firmly holding him by his right hand.

While talking to Tom’s family, I read the passage to them. I opened up the picture on my phone and read from Psalm 73. That scripture would be a comfort to many in a time of sorrow but it was particularly so for the Larson family.

Thankfully, Tom had a deep faith in Jesus Christ. He didn’t need a pulpit to share the Gospel — his greatest witness was shown in the way he lived here on earth.

Late in the year before his death, I received a call unlike any other. It was Tom on the line and, in his soft but confident voice, he asked if I would speak at his funeral. We had talked about his faith before and we prayed many times so it was clear to me that his request went behind just speaking as the governor. Tom wanted me to talk about Jesus at this service. 

It was my honor to fulfill his request. Tom was a quiet but confident man who epitomized servant leadership. He loved his family, his community, his state and — most of all — his Lord.

On the day Tom died, I went for a run after reading my daily devotional and scripture. One of the songs I listened to that morning was “In Christ Alone.” The final verse says: 

“No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

At the funeral I shared these words. After the pastor gave his final comments, Tom’s family was led out of the church. Amazingly, the musicians in the sanctuary played “In Christ Alone” as we left the sanctuary. 

Tom didn’t need a pulpit to witness. His greatest testimony was shown in the way he lived. No guilt in life, no fear in death. That was the power of Christ in Tom. 

I am reminded of that story as we prepare for Easter. The early followers of Jesus must have been devastated by his death on Good Friday. Just days earlier, he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey with people saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” His disciples still thought he would rule like an earthly king.

After Jesus had his final meal with the Twelve Apostles, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed. He knew what lay ahead. The part of him that was human prayed that the cup might be passed, but then that God’s will be done.

He went to the cross knowing that his flesh and heart would fail. More importantly, he knew that God would always be with him. And God was during the angst and pain of the crucifixion. 

As we read in the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the world. He died for you and I.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the promise of eternal life. It is a life free of pain and suffering. Tom Larson was not afraid because he knew Jesus and he now knows eternal life. You can too. All you have to do is follow Jesus.

• Scott Walker is the president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.


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