Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (June 9, 2013) sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the seventh chapter (Luke 7:11-17).
Beloved in the LORD,
A. A Widow’s visit with Death
Nain’s widow joins the unending parade once more. Death has drawn near to claim another. Sin’s wages have been gathered up. Thus, lock step with all of Adam’s children the widow marches to death’s dread dirge. But, the widow’s march is not hers alone. She marches with her family. Her steps echo her friends and neighbors. Together they carry her son, her only son, to the grave.
The widow’s march is not hers alone, but it is the march of all humanity. It is the walk of all who have been visited by death. In this widow we see ourselves. In this son, we recall our loved ones. Where the son goes – so the widow goes – so we go. Death’s parade will stop at our house as well. For there is none – who eats right? All have fallen short of – their exercise programs? All have – broken their resolutions? All have run out of health insurance? Is that why death continues? Is that why we follow in this long black train? Is death merely a diet problem? Is death the result of “use it or lose it?” Will death pass by because of our promises? Can we keep death at bay with regular doctor’s visits, better health coverage, bigger hospitals, more money? We certainly try all of that and more don’t we?
The fact of the matter is our place in the parade is made certain because of sin. We’ve eaten from the wrong tree. We’ve put all our heart into deeds of unrighteousness. We are all like this widow. We are all like this son. We all will die. Beloved, the Widow’s march is not hers alone – it is also humanity’s. It is also ours, yours, and mine. And so we lament, we cry, we weep. Our bodies hurt from the sorrow. Our souls struggle to bear a burden we were never meant to bear, a burden contrary to creation and contrary to our creator.
B. Do Not Weep
It’s in the midst of this weeping that one greater than death approaches. As the widow and her clan trudged to the grave, Jesus and His disciples cross before them. One greater than death approaches. Everyone else along the way just watched her go. Everyone else ignored her plight. “There goes another one. Another death. Another funeral. Another one lost to the enemy of mankind.”
But Jesus is not like everyone else. Seeing her, Jesus has compassion. He is “turned inside out with love” and so He is turned toward her. He does the unimaginable. He stops the parade. He ceases the march. He stands between her and the grave. Death shall not advance past Jesus. He will not let it. The line has been drawn in the sand. His heart, full of love and mercy, will not surrender the ground. And so “the ranks of death and the Lord of Life stood face to face that hour.” Though they oppose each other, Jesus does not rebuke death. That battle will be fought on the cross. And Jesus will die, like every other man. But remember, Jesus isn’t like every other man. He’s without sin. And death has no claim on Him.
At this moment, however, Jesus speaks to the widow. In the midst of death He gives more than a kind word. He gives His Word. And His Word is the Word that chases away pain, sorrow, sadness. “Do not Weep.” Where Jesus speaks, He speaks to cease our weeping, to end our sorrows, and wipe away every tear from our eyes. When Jesus speaks, He gives His heart and giving His heart He unites Himself to ours. Touching our heart He takes our burdens. For in the words, “do not weep.” Jesus takes upon Himself the burdens of this widow, burdens that He himself will bear on that great and fateful day when he and death shall wrestle into the ground, when He shall die and surrender His life on behalf all the world’s, when He shall join Himself to humanity’s death that on the third day death may be undone forever and life may reign eternal!
C. He touched the Coffin (Bier)
But Jesus doesn’t just stop death’s parade. He’s not there just to speak a few kind words, offer his condolences. He’s there to win the battle, to beat back death, to bring comfort and joy to a poor widow’s heart. He’s there to deal with sin’s wages and resurrect unto newness of life. He’s there. He speaks to the widow. AND THEN HE TOUCHES THE COFFIN! He does what no pious Jew would do. He does the ultimate unthinkable. He touches death itself! Its as though he were taking death by the neck and rattling him about until he surrendered the young man, saying “give me back my son!” Thus with death in the clutches of the Son of God, Jesus speaks to the boy. “Young man, I say to you, ARISE!” He touches and He speaks. He takes our wages upon Himself and He covers them over with His Word. Here we see that Jesus’ power to save is not relegated to the spiritual realm. He doesn’t just speak, but he touches and he speaks. He doesn’t wave His hands in the air. He doesn’t ask for divine assistance. He doesn’t need any help. He’s not Elijah, nor Elisha. He’s greater than the prophets of old. He does what no Angel can do. He does God’s Word and Work. He touches and He speaks. His flesh with His Word bring life from death. For the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form
Therefore, what Jesus speaks He brings forth. When He says, “take courage your sins are forgiven you.” They are forgiven you. When He says, “rise and walk.” The lame walk. When He says, “your faith has saved you.” You are saved. When He say, “take eat this is my body,” or “take drink, this is my blood.” What you eat and drink is His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. When he says, “Young may, I say to you arise!” Young, dead men get up out of their coffins alive and full of the life of the Son of God. They sit up. They speak. They are returned to their loved ones. If Jesus has power over death and the grave. He has power to forgive, to save, to offer His flesh and blood for our salvation. If He has power over death, there’s nothing He can’t do for you.
B’. They Glorified God (Greatest praise is Faith)
This is the power, not of a prophet, nor of a great teacher but of God in the flesh. Thus, both groups that day were given a great and wonderful picture of the Savior’s person, power, and heart and they responded. “And fear seized all and they glorified God saying, ‘a great prophet has been raised up among us’ and ‘God has visited His people.’” They glorified God! They believed. There is one greater than death! There is one who can stop this horrible parade and bring life, and joy back to the realms of death and gloom. There is One and He is Jesus.
And Jesus doesn’t deal with our sin and death as we think He should. He’s not like us with our fallen reason, or broken hearts, our sin. He’s like us in every other way, but not in our brokenness. Jesus actually deals with the root. He takes death and puts death to death with His death on the cross. He takes the Widow, and gently deals with her heart as He speaks kind words of hope and joy. He takes the boy, the one who could do nothing to earn eternal life, who could do nothing to get Jesus’ attention, who could do nothing about his situation. Jesus touches the coffin and speaks words of resurrection to him.
These words are no different than what Jesus speaks to you and I this morning. What happens in our text is what Jesus seeks to do for all of you today. He speaks His absolution to comfort you; that you might cease your weeping. He touches you with His true body and blood that sins wages may have no power over you. He offers Himself to defeat your death and pledges within your body your own resurrection from the dead on the last day.
This, and this alone we should seek from Jesus. This is worship in truth and spirit. This is what it means to glorify God, it means to seek from Jesus the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. This is how God wants to be worshipped, glorified, and praised! Take Him at His Word. Believe! Cling to Jesus! Receive His compassion! Arise and Walk in the newness of life purchased and won for you by the eternal Son of God’s death and resurrection!
A’. God has visited His People
Beloved in the Lord, where the son goes – so goes the widow – so go we all. Sin’s wages have a claim on us all. The parade will stop for us. But who will stop the parade? Not us, not our neighbors, not our doctors, not anyone. They will all stand by and watch as another funeral processes. But Jesus is not like everyone else. He’s a different kind of Son. He who is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, does not share our sin, but rather bears our curse. He visits us today, tomorrow, and in the hour of our death. He can stop the parade. He has stopped the parade and with His resurrection has begun a new march on a new road. It is the King’s Highway, the King of kings and Lord of lords. This road leads to heaven’s gates. It is a pageant full of singing, and dancing and laughing. The wicked shall not walk this way. For all on this road have been forgiven their sins. Their death has been destroyed and thus there is great joy and no tears. Every tear is wiped away by the hand of God. All who walk this way, walk by faith. They walk following the one before them. They walk where the widow walked. They walk where THE SON walks. Where the Son goes – so goes the widow – so go the people of God!
God grant us all to follow the SON by faith! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!