Joe Quattromani is my second cousin. His Aunty was married to my uncle Bill, whom Joe loved so much. But I didn’t know Joe until he came to MBM over 20 years ago. The night I met Joe, I just happened to tell the story of how my uncle had his thumb wrenched off by a rope when the cow took off. At that point, Joe said to Steve who had brought him to MBM, “You know Steve, the same thing happened to my uncle as well”, not realizing that my uncle Bill was his uncle Bill too.
That was the night I properly met Joe Quattromani as my cousin. But he would soon be my forever brother in Christ. From the moment Joe came into a personal relationship with Jesus, you couldn’t shut him up about Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 4:13, it is written, “I believed; therefore I have spoken. Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.” You have nothing to speak unless you know what you believe. So what did Paul the apostle and Joe Quattromani believe?
Let’s hear from Joe, for he will be preaching this sermon, not me. On October 24, Joe wrote on Facebook:
I’ll be gone soon and I will be no more than just memories for those who I shared life with—dead and buried. Thank God that it’s not left there for me. All those things are true, but I have a hope from a living God. Jesus saved me when he died for me. He took all my sin away. I do not have to face death with fear anymore. […] You don’t have to be good to come to Jesus […] Jesus did it all. Love you friends. I want to share with you as much as I can while I can.
Joe tells us the four things that he and the Paul the apostle believed.
Joe believed Jesus when he said that no one is good except God alone. Joe knew like the rest of us that he was a sinner who deserved hell. You would have heard Joe say it many times.
Joe said, again on one of his many Facebook posts:
Jesus saved me when he died for me. He took all my sin away. This is the only lifeline God has thrown out to every human, and its Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
You must believe in his Son Jesus, who alone can save.
Joe was spot on when he said:
You don’t have to be good to come to Jesus. Jesus did it all.
And so Joe grabbed that lifeline of salvation with so much gratefulness. He knew and loved God’s grace. That is why Joe specifically wanted this verse to be read, Ephesians 2:8-9:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (NIV)
Joe loved how heaven is not a wage to be earned by good works but a free gift for all trust Jesus. Joe had Jesus as his saviour, but Joe still needed to have him as his Lord. The hardest verse in the bible for Joe were the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:37:
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (NIV)
It was hard because Joe loved his family so much. But I remember the day when he said, “When my life is over its not friends or family who will judge me but Jesus alone.” Jesus was now his Lord and his saviour.
From the beginning, Joe had a soft heart to God’s word. He wanted to obey the Lord Jesus who saved him. I remember one time I preached on how God has no favourites from the book of James and so we should have no favourites in the church. He came up to me and said, “Ray, I was hit by that message. Frank Spiteri asked me to go motor bike riding this afternoon and I said yes.” And I said, “Joe, I don’t get it! What’s the big deal.” Then Joe said, “Ray, “Harley Riders never go riding with Jap bikes.” (Frank rode a Honda or Suzuki.) It was a big step. It showed Jesus was Lord of his life.
Joe was also quick to forgive. I once confused the sound of his Harley with the sound of a VW beetle. It was the only time he gave me a dirty look.
Joe faced his death so confidently because he trusted God word. This is what he said on November 30th, 3.36am:
Good morning my friends. May God's blessing be poured over your lives this morning. I’ve now reached palliative care—that last move before you take that final breath in your lungs and face the true God. […] I’m happy to share I am excited.
Why excited? Because Joe believed that Christ is risen, and so will he be. 2 Corinthians 4:14:
[…] because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself (NIV)
In case you don’t know, you’re reading the very words of God. Faith is taking God at his word. Joe truly believed that Jesus rose from the dead never to die again. Death has been defeated. And the one who raised Jesus would raise Joe from the dead. That is why Joe was excited. It’s not wishful thinking to get us through a funeral. We are not pulling a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute.
While this is faith, it is not blind faith. Joe knew that Jesus himself predicted his own death and resurrection at least three times, and then Jesus proved it by appearing after he died and rose again on over ten different occasions. These eyewitness were not just friends: they included his enemies like the Paul, who wrote this letter and who himself was once a Christian killer. And all who saw Jesus alive again were all prepared to die for what they saw. And the promise from God is clear. The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus. Friends, that is our comfort today. God doesn’t make promises that he don’t keep. As surely as Jesus rose from dead, all who trust in Jesus will be raised.
Joe was excited because God had promised him a new body, and a new body is what we all need.
Seeing Joe deteriorate this last year has been hard for all of us, but especially for his precious children, Danielle, Brenda, Beck, and Jacob. It was hard for his loving mum and dad. It was hard for his devoted sisters and for his close friends who regularly visited Joe. In fact, I’ve never seen so many visitors for one patient.
What happened to Joe in the last year is what is happening to all of us. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “outwardly we are wasting away”. If our minds don’t outlive our bodies, then our bodies will outlive out minds. Eventually what is wasting away is destroyed. But something else is happening, 2 Corinthians 4:16:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (NIV)
The worse the cancer got, the stronger Joe’s faith grew. God was doing a beautiful work in Joe’s life.
Joe was the first to say he was not the best son, the best husband, or the best father. But I do want to say that you four kids have all carried a heavy load of pain, not just through the last year but through these last 12 years. We honour you for that.
Joe was being renewed day by day. On November the 30th Joe wrote:
I’ve spent many long talks and prayers and time with God, where he has taught me some of my life’s greatest lessons. He has preformed miracles before me as I have spoken, he has turned an angry boy’s heart into joy, a rebellious heart into peace, an angry boy’s life into happiness, my hate into love, and my unforgiveness into true joy. Slowly I walk to the end of my road waiting patiently for my God’s calling, excited and humble at the same time. Love you Lord, not long now. I’ll surrender my soul to you and rejoice in you.
Joe was not going to waste his cancer. He taught me what it means to not be ashamed of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:13, “we also believe and therefore speak”.
When I visited Joe last Monday week, I said, “Joe I don’t think you have a filter between what you think and what you say. While sometimes it’s got you into trouble, it has made you an outstanding evangelist.”
If Joe is thinking a thought it was out of his mouth, and with Joe it was often a God-thought. While the rest of us worry about what people think, Joe said it or wrote it on Facebook. I don’t think there is a person in Westmead Hospital or on Facebook who did not hear about Jesus from Joe.
I think a Joe Quattromani comes around once in a lifetime. Joe was God’s gift to you. God has used Joe to introduce you to Jesus. Don’t let this be wasted on you.
I told Joe the best sermon that has ever been preached at MBM was when I interviewed him and Todd earlier this year. Joe talked honestly about the pain of betrayal. He could talk just as honestly about the depth of forgiveness, and not only forgiveness but true reconciliation. In that interview—and you can go on our website to see it—Joe said, “I can only forgive because Jesus has forgiven so much.”
I don’t know what is stopping you from turning and trusting Jesus as your personal Lord and savior. I don’t know what is stopping you from forgiving your enemy. But I know this—Joe has stolen whatever excuses we all have for not putting Jesus first. Joe has shown us that God’s way is the best way, that there is nothing Jesus can’t forgive, that we must never be ashamed of Jesus, that forgiving other is not weakness but freedom. Most of all, he showed us that we are to live for God’s glory, that the suffering now can’t be compared with the glory that will be revealed. 2 Corinthians 4:17:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (NIV)
The good news is that Joe does not need our prayers. If someone were to go up to Joe now and say, “Hey Joe, didn’t you cop a lot of suffering back on earth”, then he will look at you now and say, “Suffering! What suffering? I barely remember it: but, oh isn’t it great to be here and enjoy the glory of God’s presence? It really doesn’t get any better than this.”
The last words I quoted from the Bible to Joe were 2 Corinthians 4:18:
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
In a 100 years, none of us will be here. The memory of us will end with the last person who knows us. Joe’s eyes were on what is unseen and eternal.
Joe may not have seen another Parra grand final win, but he has seen his Lord in his glory. On earth Joe lived by faith and not sight. Now in heaven he lives by sight and not by faith. And what he sees now is Jesus. Joe knows the only reason he is there is because of those scars on Jesus’ body, the scars that point to the cross where his sins were paid for.
Yes, today we grieve the deep loss of a dear father, a precious son, a loving brother, a faithful friend, and a brother in Christ. We do not grieve for Joe—we grieve for ourselves because we miss him.
We love you Joe Quattromani!
We thank you God for giving him to us.
Joe always had the last word, so why should today be any different. On November 14th, he wrote:
I know nothing happens to me without his will. I pray for all of you that you will have this and more for yourself. Knowing (about) Jesus is not enough—being in a relationship with him is where it happens. Whoever Jesus sets free is free indeed. I love you enough to share this truth with you. God Bless.