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The Resurrection Presence

October 1, 2017 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: Mark 7 :11–7:17

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Luke 7:11-17 ~ The Resurrection Presence

Trinity 16 @ Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cleveland, OH-10/1/2017

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And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep."  (Luke 7:13)

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

Dear beloved of the Lord:

                The confrontation of death with life in today’s OT and Gospel lessons is also seen in the raising of Jairus's daughter (Luke 8) and the raising of Lazarus (Jn. 11).  These dead rise not because God does some medical resuscitation procedure on them, not because God puts some magical resurrection machinery into gear, but simply because God has that effect on the dead.  It is especially evident when Jesus is present and He confronts death.  The dead rise because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life even before He himself rises — in other words, Jesus is the grand sacrament, the real presence, of the mystery of a kingdom in which everybody rises.  It is also perfectly plain in the Gospels: Jesus never meets a corpse that doesn't sit up at His command. 

                Last week and this week we hear of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17), who’s life God invades through the prophet Elijah.  Her account also presents similar struggles between the God who is present to deliver and save and the reception given by the objects of His compassion.  Last week called for trusting God’s providence in the face of starvation and death.  This week, Elijah is in the middle, between a mother, her dead son and God.  Greatly troubled by the woman’s sharp question and accusation: “What have you against me, O man of God?  You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son.”   Elijah makes her no promise but says, “Give me your son.”  Clearly, the accusing mother is hopeless.  Elijah calls to the Lord three times, “let this child’s life return to him.”  And when God returns life to the child, his mother says to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”  Her sinful flesh needed the real presence of life restored so she could accept the truth that God had already placed in her presence, namely Elijah, God’s prophet.

                A similar struggle with truth takes place in today’s Gospel.  It’s not so surprising that Jesus says, “Do not weep!”  What is surprising is … when He says it.  To human reason it’s puzzling, He appears to be all words and no action … and the grieving mother should trust that! 

                No, it is not so surprising that Jesus says what He says to the widow at Nain.  After all, He is filled with compassion for her; Jesus perceives that she is both a widow and the mother of the young man in the open coffin.  A great, overwhelming compassion wells up in Jesus for her.  Jesus has a similar wrenching of His very being for “the crowds” He calls “sheep without a shepherd” and for the sick and ailing in their midst. (Mt. 9:36; 14:14; Mk. 6:34)  Also, according to the Gospel of John, chapter 11, Jesus exhibits a similar compassion that is intensely agitating as He joins Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus. 

                Have no doubt, Jesus knows the loneliness of the survivor who was once joined to a spouse, a sibling, a child, a dear friend — but now, has that relationship torn asunder by death.  Jesus feels the pain of this parent who is in such agony over the loss of her child.  Jesus knows the type of sadness that moves even the strongest of men and women to tears … yet, He says to her.  “Do not weep.”  Again, it is not so surprising that Jesus says this.  What is surprising is … when He says it.  Because He says it before He has done anything to address her loss.  It is surprising, because it seems backwards.  It seems that there should be a reason not to weep before the words are spoken. 

                Perplexing to sinful man is the way God’s overwhelming compassion for man’s need is made know.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8) At the funeral in Nain, Jesus does it His way.  Like all the things God does for us, He does it His way for a reason — a most excellent reason.  Here, that reason is a most excellent lesson for that widow, for His disciples, and for us.

                Jesus speaks His Word first because hearing Him — the Word made flesh — is receiving the Word that always accomplishes God’s purpose.  It is a lesson for faith and hope.  It is a lesson for our lives because we are called by the Holy Spirit to live by faith in God’s commands and promises.  It means Elijah’s “give me your son” and Jesus’ “do not weep” already contain the content faith seeks to trust.  Because of our fallen human nature, we are not capable of walking by faith and not by sight; unless we see first, we will not believe.  And as we waffle between doubt and believing God’ promise, Satan seeks his opportunity to ply his deadly trade of doubt and lies.

                But God has intervened and had compassion on you.  He saw you in that funeral procession, in which each one of you were being carried off in your spiritually lifeless bodies to eternal death because of the sin of unbelief and unfaithfulness.  Seeing you in your helpless and hopeless state, the compassionate Jesus stopped your procession into hell.  God’s Only-Begotten Son took your place in that coffin.  He suffered death and hell, and separation from His Father in the stead of you, the sinner.  And now the Crucified and Risen Savior stands before the world’s coffin and speaks to sinful man His Word of Life: “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  Arise to live again — to live forever — because of God’s gracious forgiveness of all your sins — even moments of unfaithfulness and unbelief.  You can join the psalmist and say: “For great is your steadfast love toward me; for you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

                In His Cross and Resurrection, the Christ who has pursued and persecuted you with His Word of Law, now preaches the Gospel Word to you: to forgive your sins and give you life instead of death. This, in fact, is what God has always been aiming at; what He has desired and sought for you from the very beginning.  All along, He has acted in love toward you, by grace and with mercy.
                He is moved by His deep divine compassion for you; for which the Father has given His Son and sacrificed Him for you, and the Son has given Himself and sacrificed Himself for you.  Such love, such mercy and such compassion are beyond human understanding.
                God turns Himself toward you, His face and His heart, and He comes to you — in Christ Jesus — for the sake of His divine and holy love: to save you from sin and death, and to remove from you forever the accusation, condemnation, and punishment of the Law.  All of this He does by the Word of the Gospel, which is preached to you, even here and now.
                This Word of the Lord in my mouth — in your ears — is Truth, it is Spirit, and it is Life.  This Gospel that I preach to you is not mine but Christ's; and it is for you.  Here and now — with Jesus present for His gathered family — He forgives your sins and gives you life.
                He gives you and yours back to your Mother, His Church.  No longer are you an orphan or a widow, but you are His own beloved and beautiful Bride, and you are a dear child of His Father.  As often as you die each day because of sin, He raises you up again through His forgiveness.  He speaks His life-giving Word of Holy Absolution, and He touches your dead body with His own holy flesh and precious blood.  By these means, not only does He give you life and makes of you a new creation; He also restores you to the family and fellowship of His Church, so that you belong to one Body and Bride of Christ. 
                Here in His house, in His home and family, by and with His Word, His Body and His Blood, He remembers you, and He feeds you in mercy, grace and peace.
                Your sin He remembers no more, for He has removed it far away from you forever.  It is gone.  Therefore, you shall not die, but live; and even though you die, yet shall you live.  “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)  Dare I say it again?  Jesus is the grand sacrament, the real presence and the real evidence that you will rise with Him.  You, He does remember; and, remembering, He acts to save you.  Do not weep, but arise, and here be given back to the bosom of your Mother.  Be seated at the Table of your Bridegroom, and be well-fed here in your Father's house, both now and forever. 

                “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith —that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

                Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:17-21)   

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
S. D. G.