15 September 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Luke 7:11-17
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Weeping, coffins, widows, and death are utterly unnatural and foreign to God’s will. Such monstrosities were not created by God, but are rather corruptions brought about by men, the result of sin. Tears were meant to cleanse the eyes to see the beauty of God’s perfect creation. Trees were created to give mankind fruit and shade and beauty – not to chop down and make boxes for rotting bodies. Women were created as the pinnacle of creation, to complete mankind, and to give life by giving birth, not to have their children taken from them by death. And death itself, the wages of sin, the ultimate cause of human sorrow, against which even our best and brightest minds, our most wondrous technology, and our greatest advances in medicine are powerless – is the very opposite for which we were made.
But there it is. This is our world. This is our existence after the fall in Eden.
We mask it by not talking about it, or by pretending it isn’t so bad, or by distracting ourselves from it with entertainments and by the false comforts of false religions. And yet there is our common human problem: weeping, coffins, widows, and death.
This, dear friends, is the very reason our Lord has come crashing into our world. He has come incarnate to deliver us from these monstrosities, to restore us to our former glory, and to absorb the death-blow that deserves to fall on our necks.
For when our Lord saw the young man in the coffin, in a way, He was seeing Himself. He too is the only Son of a widow, and He too will leave her alone in death. And He too will rise, and will begin to speak, and His Word will reverberate around the world, raising the dead and restoring to life.
And when the Lord sees the widow, in a way, He was seeing His own mother, whose heart was to be pierced by the sword of watching her beloved Son die on the cross. And the Lord has compassion on this preview of Mary at the cross. He has compassion on her, even as He would later have compassion on His own dear mother, by presenting her to St. John, so that she would not be alone.
And perhaps previewing His own painful conversation with His mother while nails pierced His hands and feet, while he strained to take each breath under the agony of lungs filling with fluid in the torture of the cross, He has compassion on the dead man’s mother, saying to her “do not weep.” For Christ has come for the very purpose of resurrection: His own and the resurrections of His own. The cause for weeping, death, has been overcome by the One who died to defeat death. “Do not weep,” He says, not by way of a command, but rather as a kind and merciful invitation to a new life freed from the tyranny of death. “Do not weep” He says because without death, there is no more cause for mourning.
And this is what our Lord does, dear brothers and sisters, He dies to destroy death, He rises again by His own power, through His own Word, and in His own flesh. He overcomes Satan and the curse, death and the grave, sin and temptation, sorrow and pain; all of these are replaced by life and joy and eternal victory.
Our Lord touches the coffin, and it is no longer capable of containing the dead. Jesus commands the body of the young man to rise, and it is impossible for him to remain lifeless. Impossible. For sin has been removed, and death no longer has dominion over Him. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Jesus speaks this corpse to life, because the Word of Jesus is the Word of God, and that Word brought all things into being, and that Word now redeems all things from death and corruption.
Upon this command, the young man “sat up and began to speak.” For that is what happens to dead people in the presence of Jesus: they rise, and they speak. They are no longer held in the prison of mortality, shackled by the bonds of sin, ensnared in the trap of corruption, and silenced by the devil himself. No indeed! The dead rise because they live again. No force in the universe can resist the saving power of our life-giving Lord. And what comfort this gives us, dear friends! What comfort in the face of death: our own, and that of our loved ones!
And notice that the once-dead-now-living are compelled to speak. How can we remain silent in the face of re-vivification? How can we keep the good news to ourselves? How can we not confess the truth of who has saved us and redeemed us and forgiven us and given us life: Jesus Christ, the only Son of the Father, the One who suffered and died on the cross, who was placed into a tomb, and who by His own power, came back to life to give us life, proclaiming the good news and empowering us to do the same?
And we, like those first eyewitnesses to this resurrection miracle likewise are compelled – not by force, but by the power of the truth and the greatness of this news – to glorify God, to fear God all the more, and to acknowledge Jesus as a “great prophet” who has “arisen among us.” He has indeed arisen, dear friends, for He too went to the grave, and He too walked, spoke, and was reunited to His mother and all the faithful in His glorious resurrection.
And we too join the people in proclaiming: “God has visited His people.” For this Jesus is not only a prophet, but is God Himself, the Word made flesh, by whom all things were made, our Redeemer and Savior, our Lord and our God.
He has indeed visited His people, even as He continues to visit us today – in His proclaimed Word, in Holy Absolution, in Baptism, and in the Holy Supper. He is visiting us this very day and giving us life, just as surely as He touched that open casket with the lifeless body of the widow’s son, the Son of God is here among us, right now, visiting His people, taking away sin and restoring life.
The report has gone out far and wide, and we join brothers and sisters all over the globe in thanking and praising Him for raising us from the dead.
Weeping, coffins, widows, and death are utterly unnatural and foreign to God’s will. Such monstrosities were not created by God, but are rather corruptions brought about by men, the result of sin. Our weeping is turned to tears of happiness. Coffins give way to holy tables and holy altars. Widows greet their bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ, not with mourning but with holy joy. And death yields to life, life that never ends. For our sins have been atoned for, and our death has been conquered. For by grace through faith, the Lord Jesus invites us anew each and every time we encounter Him: “I say to you,” to you, dear brother, to you dear sister, to you, O forgiven sinner, to you, O baptized child of God, “I say to you, arise.” Amen.
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