Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Third Sunday after Pentecost (C – Proper 5)
June 9, 2013
Text: Luke 7:11-17

            Jesus stops death in its tracks.  And that’s good news for us who carry about the death that is sin’s wages in our very bodies.  That’s good news for us who have had to lay loved ones to rest in the grave.  That’s good news for us who have been dying ever since death entered the world by the one man, Adam, in the Garden.  The procession coming out of Nain is one of grief and heartache.  It is a procession of death.  But Jesus meets the procession at the city gate and stops it dead in its tracks.  Do not weep,” He says to the poor woman mourning for her only son (Luke 7:13; ESV).  And then He touches the bier bearing the dead body, and once again He speaks: “Young man, I say to you, arise” (v. 14).  And he does.  He does because Jesus’ Word is just that powerful.  It gives what He says.  No more need for weeping.  Life is restored.  Jesus gives the young man back to His mother.  Tears of sorrow turn to tears of joy… and fear!  Who is this man?  What power He has that He raises the dead!  So they glorify God by confessing the truth of the matter: The Great Prophet has arisen, the Messiah has come, God has visited His people (v. 16).  And they’re right.  He has.  In the flesh.  Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, the Son of God, has come to give us life.
            The widow has been surrounded by death.  First she lost her husband, now her only son.  And she, herself, is as good as dead, for with no men in the house, who will provide for her?  Where will she live?  What will she eat?  How will she make a living?  As she follows the bier to the place of burial, she sees her own death before her.  Imagine her loneliness and her grief.  It’s hard enough to lose a spouse.  But your children are not supposed to die before you do.  Some of you know that grief.  Undoubtedly all of you know some measure of this grief, and if you don’t, you will.  Death is all around us.  And unless the Lord returns first, each one of us will have to die.  That is why Jesus coming and touching the bier, taking death by the throat, and speaking His Word of life is so important for each one of us.  This is not just some event that happened long ago in a far off place (although it is that… this is most certainly history, it happened).  This is also something happening to us, right here, at this very moment.  Jesus is coming to us, surrounded as we are by death, and He speaks.  Do not weep.”  Do not weep, because, despite all appearances, death is not the end of you.  Death is not the end of your loved ones.  Death is not the end, because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!  And He has come to give life by His Word.  He marches right up to the bier, right up to the corpse, and He touches it.  Well, if you know anything about the Law of Moses, you know that touching a dead body or even a casket makes you unclean.  Jesus comes right up and touches us, and He takes the uncleanness, takes death itself into Himself, and in exchange imparts His cleanness and His life.  It’s the great exchange, and it only happens in Jesus.  Young man, I say to you, arise,” and he does, because now he has life in Jesus, the life of Jesus, life in His living Word.  He’s so alive, he sits up and begins to speak.  And Jesus gives him back to his mother. 
And what our Lord here does for the young man and the widow, He does for you.  Okay, not in the sense of your loved ones hopping out of their caskets… yet.  But in this sense: He says to you at the font, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and you die in your sinful flesh and He raises you to new life in Himself.  That is to say, you’re no longer spiritually dead, but alive.  You have eternal life.  He says to you again, “I forgive you all your sins” in that same Name of the Triune God, and since your sin is gone, you no longer have to pay sin’s wages by dying.  You have new life in Christ.  He says to you, “Take, eat… take, drink, this is my body and blood, given and shed for you for your forgiveness, life, and salvation,” and there you have it.  That Meal gives you life and keeps you alive.  It is the medicine of immortality.
            And what about our death?  Sin’s wages have to be paid.  And they are.  When our Lord touches the bier, He takes away the young man’s death for payment at a later time.  That time is when He is nailed to the cross and lifted up to die your death, for your salvation, and for that of the young man and the widow, and for all people.  That’s where our death is accomplished.  On the cross.  In our Lord’s crucifixion.  He is buried in our tomb.  He sleeps the sleep of death for our sake.  And then, what happens on the Third Day?  He is risen from the dead.  Death has come to an end.  Our Lord has marched right up to our death and grabbed it by the throat and taken it into Himself, that we might not perish, but have eternal life.  So for us, death is but a slumber.  We need fear the grave no more than we fear our bed.  For we will wake up on the Last Day when the Lord Jesus calls us by name speaking these words: “I say to you, arise.” 
            There is a lot of confusion about death and dying, even among Christians, so perhaps we’ll take this opportunity to set the record straight.  When you die, physically speaking, your soul separates from your body.  Your body is put into the ground.  Your soul is carried by the angels to be with Jesus in heaven.  When a believer dies, their soul goes to heaven.  When an unbeliever dies, their soul goes to hell.  And there, whether it be heaven or hell, the soul awaits the resurrection from the dead.  The souls of the believers are in bliss, beholding the Lord Jesus.  The souls of the unbelievers are in torment, being separated from God and His love.  On the Last Day, when our Lord Jesus returns visibly to judge the living and the dead, He will raise all people, believers and unbelievers alike.  And what we’re talking about here is a bodily resurrection.  You’ll rise in your body.  You’ll sit up and talk and hop out of your casket just as surely as the young man did in our text.  Believers will be raised to eternal life in a new heaven and a new earth.  We don’t know much about that from the Scriptures, except that it will be paradise restored and even improved.  God will be with us in a very intimate way.  There will be no more sorrow or troubles.  No striking sun or scorching heat.  No hunger or thirst.  God will be our eternal consolation.  Unbelievers, however, will be raised to be cast into the Lake of Fire with the devil and the evil angels.  They will exist in eternal torment, body and soul, a reality upon which we prefer not to dwell, but a reality nonetheless.  And notice several common misconceptions that are excluded by this.  No, not everyone goes to heaven, sad to say.  You don’t become an angel when you die.  The angels are not human, but a special creation of God to serve Him and us.  There is no such thing as a ghost.  There are angels and demons, but no ghosts.  We don’t know if our loved ones in heaven are conscious of us who are still on earth.  Certainly not always.  I would hate to think my dad is watching me when I’m in the shower (creepy), or worse, when I sin.  You’re not done with your body when you die.  You’ll take it up again in the resurrection.  That is why we treat the bodily remains of the deceased with reverence and respect, even though we know that body will decay.  Our Lord redeemed that body as well as the soul, and He will put it back together again on the Last Day.  And the bodies of believers will be made perfect.  No more aches and pains or disease or glasses.  We’ll be like Jesus Christ, who is risen, and who will raise us.
            The young man’s resurrection was a foreshadowing of all this, including our Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday and our own resurrection on the Last Day.  But the young man—like Lazarus and like Jairus’ daughter, the two other instances of our Lord raising the dead recorded in the Gospels—he died again.  Presumably after his mother, this time.  He died again, and in this way was restored to her again, this time in heaven, where they both await the resurrection, when they will never die again.  And as we die, we will be restored to our loved ones in heaven, and they to us, where we will wait together for the resurrection of our bodies. 
            And all of this is true because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  That changes everything.  Death is not the end.  Resurrection and eternal life are the ultimate reality in Christ.  For Jesus enters our sorrow and death and stops death in its tracks.  And He undoes it.  Our tears of sorrow turn to tears of joy, and we glorify God in hymns of praise.  For Messiah has come.  God has visited His people in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.  And we are saved.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        


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