Sunday, September 7, 2008

Trinity 16 Sermon

Trinity 16 – September 7th, 2008 – Luke 7:11-17

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
There are times when we as Christians do not pause to ponder fully the depth of what Christ Jesus did for us by going to the cross. In fact, I would say that this is quite often the situation. We know the story, we confess the creed, we get the third day stuff. . . and so sometimes we can slide on by, just breeze past it. We can be like the teenager, assuring their parent, “Yes, I heard you, yes, I know what I’m supposed to do,” – but who forgets half of the instructions and runs off joyriding with friends. There is a staggering depth to the wisdom of God which He has shown by giving His Son unto death that you might have salvation, and it is a depth that we as Christians ought to strive to understand more fully every day of our lives until that day when we see Christ the Crucified face to face.

And our Lord Jesus desires that we know what He has done for us, that we understand the depth of His care for us. He desires that we know that He loves us. He desires to teach this to us – but His teaching for us today isn’t just our Lord saying over and over the words, “I love you,” but rather He paints a picture of His love with this miracle in our Gospel lesson today, not just His love for this woman, for this young man – but also His love for you. This is what we will look for today – how Christ shows love to these two people – and from that we will see how Christ indeed loves us by going to the Cross.

Soon afterward He went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a great crowd went with Him. As He drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. So, here is the situation. Jesus is traveling, and He comes upon a town called Nain. His disciples are with Him, lots of other people are following Him this day as well – a large group. And as this group of people approaches the town – they come across a funeral procession. A widow is burying her only son. We can understand how that is tragic – but it is more so than you think. Later on we hear that this is a younger man – which means this would be most likely an extremely young widow – just old enough to where she can’t have any more children, but young enough to have many days ahead of her. And her son is gone. Her husband is gone. Where does that leave her? You see, she doesn’t live in a day and age where she can just go and get a job for herself. There are no jobs for middle aged women. They didn’t work. And now, her family is gone – there’s no support. You didn’t have social security, no check from the government at least giving her meager support. We will talk about family values today, but then we will just run off comfortably on our own – they couldn’t in Jesus’ day – no family meant you were alone, broke, destined for a life of begging until you died. When that widow saw her son’s funeral bier, she not only saw her son dead, but she saw her own death.

And that is what Jesus sees when He sees this funeral procession, when He hears the cries and wails. And so, He acts. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion upon her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Christ has compassion – He feels for this woman, He sorrows for her – and so He must act – but even before He does anything, before He performs the miracle, He speaks to the woman – I am here, do not weep. And then, when He has told her that He was going act – then He does. Then He came up and touched the bier and the bearers stood still. Scandalous. A good Jewish person didn’t mess with a dead body – you would be considered ritually unclean. Being a pallbearer is an honor today – it was a burden then. And sudden, Christ touches the bier – a shocking move. And everyone pauses – what will this crazy Man do? And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And He raises the dead man. Get back up, you shall live again, you shall walk and talk again. The young man is healed – but then the interesting line – and Jesus gave him to his mother. Now see and understand what you are raised for, young man. This is not about a second chance for you to go and follow the fancy of your heart – this isn’t your chance to go see the big city or some other whim. You have life so that you may serve your mother. Here she is – now go and serve her.

That is what Christ does that day in Nain, sees a poor woman, has compassion, interferes with the funeral procession, raises her son from death, and then gives the son to back to the mother. A great miracle – isn’t it? Yes – but through it, let’s examine and look at an even greater miracle, one that makes this one pale in comparison. Let us see what Christ does for you.

Our Gospel text began with Christ seeing a poor woman. Christ’s love and miracle for you began with Christ Jesus seeing, knowing you were trapped in sin and death. Before the world is created, before the garden of Eden is planted – God Almighty knew you, and knew that you would be born trapped in sin, knew that as you grew and lived your life you would fail again and again, and knew that one day, left to your own, after heartaches and pains, you would die. He knew that left to your own devices, you life was just as tragic, no, more tragic than the story of this widow. And just as we today can miss the impact of how tragic the situation was for this woman, we can forget how dire our straits are apart from Christ. Look on the misery of the world, how sad and ruined lives are, without any hope. If not for Christ, where do you think your struggles would lead you? Indeed, think of the most pathetic person you know – that is where you by rights should be. And then, a sinner’s death. And then, hell, eternal damnation. That is the lot you deserve apart from Christ.

And yet, what happens? Christ has compassion upon you. Just as He sees the sorry state that this widow is in, He sees the wreck that sin will make in your life, and He has compassion – He is determined to save you, to save all mankind from their sin. Indeed, He spoke to us throughout the Old Testament, telling us what He would do. Even in the garden, right after the fall, to Adam and Eve a Savior is promised. Moses and the Prophets all point to His coming – the entire Old Testament is nothing more than Christ saying to His people – Do not weep – for I am coming.

And then Jesus Christ enters the world, True God and True Man – and He does the unthinkable. He touches death. We are used to the cross, we are used to seeing it all over the place – like Paul we are not ashamed of it. We can forget how shocking it is to the world, that it is folly to the Gentiles, a stumbling block to the Jews. We proclaim the Cross every week – and yet, look around – there are churches around here that won’t have a single cross in them. Certainly not a crucifix, certainly not something that actually reminds of Good Friday. Why is that? Because sinful man doesn’t like thinking about the Crucifixion – the people at Nain would have been scandalized that a man would willingly touch a dead man’s bier. Today, the cross is still a scandal. It shocks people because the Cross proclaims that we deserve death – it shocks people because it proclaims that we aren’t just nice, good little people, but rather that we can’t avoid death on our own, that we need Christ. And too many people cover their eyes and refuse to see – they want a crossless Jesus. But Christ does not scorn the cross. If the situation is to be fixed, if your sin and impending death and damnation are to be dealt with, death must be stopped cold in its tracks. And so, Christ goes to the cross, and He dies, taking upon Himself the weight of your sin.

And then the astonishing thing happens. He rises again on the third day – and this resurrection is for you. Behold, I have conquered death, behold I live no more to die, behold death is undone. Of course this young man will be raised, for Christ Jesus our Lord is raised. And because He is raised, because our Lord strides forth from the tomb, we live our lives, we approach every day knowing that whenever death comes for us – so be it. It did not hold Christ, it will not hold me – and I too will live eternally because Christ lives eternally. That is what Christ’s death and resurrection means – that you have eternal life, that God Himself has gotten involved in your life, that He has intervened and brought you through all the trials you have faced, and that He will bring you through all the trials that you will face.

But this life that He has given you – it isn’t yours to do with just as you please. When the young man is raised, Christ gives him to his mother. You too, have been raised to new life – but it is not merely a life of your own wants, your own desires. That was the life of sin, and you know where that leads. But you instead have been given a life where you live for the sake of others, you live to serve, you live to show love to God and to neighbor. Look around you – see the people next to you. The reason our Lord still lets you draw breath is so that you might show love to them.

And in this – we will stumble. I’m sure in Nain three weeks after Jesus raised the young man, he did something stupid and his mom was chewing him out or complaining about something. We are still sinners in a sinful world – and Christ knows that, so He continually brings His forgiveness to you. He has washed you in it in the waters of Holy Baptism, He has it spoken to you over and over again in His Word. When you see the burdens of this life pile up again, when you see failures mount – He calls you to His table – take and eat, take and drink. . . eat and drink what? His own Body – a Body He took up simply to go to Cross and rise again so that you might live. His own Blood, Blood He took up simply so that it might be shed for you and become life for you. Our Lord continually has compassion upon you – and His Work upon the Cross, the life of His resurrection He continually gives to you and makes more and more of a reality for you through His Supper – that you might ever show forth more of His love, His life, in your life.

This is what the Cross means, this is what you are to be reminded of whenever you see it, whenever you see a crucifix. Christ Jesus, out of love for you, steps in the way of death, and by His death upon the cross and His resurrection – He gives you life, and He sustains you all of your days until heaven. God grant that we ever more understand this miracle He did for us. Amen.

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