Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sermon -- 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (June 30, 2019)

LUKE 7:11-17


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Psalms declare, “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)  This means that God had your life planned long before you were born.  God had predetermined when you were to be born, where you were to be born, and to whom you would be born.  Even more than that, God also has predetermined how long your life will be on this earth.  All your days—from conception to death—were written in God’s book before any of them came to be.  God is far more active and interested in our lives than we often consider.
     Even though all the days which God has determined for you are written in his book, he has not revealed those dates to us.  You know that death will come; for it comes for everyone.  But you do not know when it will come.  It will not consult with you or ask permission.  It will not show mercy upon your loved ones.  Death takes, and it does not care whom it hurts.  Death doesn’t just steal people away, death also wounds the loved ones of those taken.
     In a small town called Nain, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. (Luke 7:12)  This widow was all to familiar with this journey.  She had likely made the journey for her parents and her in-laws; certainly for her husband.  Worst of all, she was now making this journey for her only son.  She was not only devastated, she was also going to be destitute.  All means of income or support for her had been carried out to the tombs.  Death had never asked this widow if it was coming at a convenient time.  Death takes, and it does not care whom it hurts or how it hurts them.
     The funeral procession which was departing from Nain was suddenly confronted at the city gate by a different procession.  The Lord of Life and the large crowd with him met the procession of death.  When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her. (Luke 7:13)  It is interesting that we don’t hear about Jesus having compassion on the deceased.  What moved our Lord to act was the fact that his gut ached for this woman.  The compassion that our Lord calls on us to have for widows and orphans was demonstrated at the city gate of Nain.  Death had taken a widow's son.  Death had deeply wounded her.  But death was about to be overturned by a compassionate Savior.
     When he acted, Jesus said something that seems cruel; then he did something that was shocking.  When the Lord saw (the widow), he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.’ (Luke 7:13)  “Do not weep”!?  That is all this woman had left!  Death had wounded her deeply.  It was like telling a paralytic to get up and stretch.  It was like telling a starving man about a five-course meal.  But Jesus was not offering a pep talk.  Jesus was going to dry her tears with a real solution.  Death would be overturned by a compassionate Savior.
     Then Jesus did what was shocking.  He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. (Luke 7:14)  The Law had declared that anyone who came into contact with a dead body becomes unclean.  Nevertheless, Jesus came up to the dead man and touched the gurney on which he was being carried to his grave.  Jesus took upon himself the uncleanness of death, and then he restored the life of this young man.  He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. (Luke 7:14-15)  Death was overturned by a compassionate Savior.  Mercy was shown to a devastated widow.  A joyful reunion of saints took place.
     Whenever our Lord performed these miracles, he acted because he has compassion.  He saw sinners whose lives were afflicted with the evils of a sinful world, and he demonstrated his mercy to them.  The miracles such as these also gave concrete evidence of Jesus’ message: The kingdom of God is near.  Each miracle is a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom where all will be restored and perfected.  By raising the dead man, Jesus gave a glimpse of life where death is overturned and where all of the evils, sorrows, and pains that come from sin are eliminated.  Our Lord does not intend us to be reincarnated and to continue re-entering a broken world to live shattered lives over and over again.  Our Lord has come into this world of death and decay, pain and problems in order to deliver us from all of these things forevermore.
     Therefore, Jesus took on human flesh to touch our lives and connect himself to our world.  He knows our world of diseased children, grieving widows, funeral processions, and broken hearts.  Jesus himself had been in a procession to the tomb for his guardian, Joseph.  He did not just watch people hurting; he knows by experience what it is to hurt.  Therefore, he made contact with death and took into himself its uncleanness.  More than that, he absorbed from us all of the filth of our sin and wickedness which is what produces death in us.  The Bible declares: “For our sake (God) made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Jesus exchanged his holy innocence for our sinful guilt.  He gave us his perfect life in exchanged for our cursed death.
     “For our sake (God) made him to be sin who knew no sin….” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Then God did to Jesus was sinners deserve—he put him under judgment, he found him guilty, he sentenced him to death, he put on him a divine curse, and he subjected him to hell.  And this, Jesus did “for our sake,” that is, for us—in our place and for our benefit.  Jesus did not merely witness death or sympathize with people who grieve over death, he gave himself into death for all mankind.  And this he did to put an end to death.  His death has atoned for all our sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  By faith in Jesus, we are.  Jesus' resurrection from the dead puts an end to death so that in him you too might rise from the grave to life everlasting.  By faith in Jesus, you will.  For, death is overturned only by our compassionate Savior.
     Therefore, it will not be just a young man from Nain who rises from the dead.  The grave must give up all its dead.  At Nain, Jesus gave the command, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  And the dead man sat up. (Luke 7:14-15)  Likewise, Jesus will come from the clouds and will call forth all the dead.  The grave will have to give up all people—good and bad, righteous and wicked.  All will be raised for judgment.  Death has been overturned; the grave will keep no one.  It will be just as we confess: “On the Last Day, he will raise up me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.” (Luther’s Small Catechism; Apostles’ Creed, 2nd Article)
     Death is overturned by a compassionate Savior.  The widow at Nain rejoiced to have her son back.  But as I had said, this was a glimpse of Jesus' everlasting reign.  The glories of the heavenly kingdom have not begun yet.  The widow eventually made one more funeral procession—her own.  Later, her son would be carried out again, this time with no interruption in his trip to the tomb.  Likewise, we all know that we have our own grave to face.  But even in these bitter times, we still have a compassionate Savior.  He has overturned death with his resurrection.  And by uniting us to himself in our baptism, he makes us partakers of the resurrection to life everlasting.  It will be just as we confess: “On the Last Day, he will ... give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” (Luther’s Small Catechism; Apostles’ Creed, 2nd Article)
     The Psalms declare, “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)  Though the Lord knows how many days you will live on this earth, he has hidden that information from you.  But he has revealed how many days you will have in his kingdom, and that will be without end.  You are in his kingdom now, for you believe in him, and by faith in him you have been delivered from the curse of sin.  You still suffer the pains and sorrows here, but soon enough you will be delivered even from those.  For death is overturned and life is given by our compassionate Savior.  He will bring us into the heavenly kingdom where there will never again be death or mourning or crying or pain—or weeping widows or dying children.  For God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and God's people will live in joy forevermore.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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