Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trinity 24 Sermon

Trinity 24 – November 14th, 2010 – Matthew 9:18-26

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Before we actually look at the text, I want to make clear this morning how we are going to approach it. We are approaching the end of the Church Year, and the End of the Church Year can be sometimes viewed as a dour time. We often talk about the End of the World, and we can get kind of uncomfortable and grumbly. The great joy of this text is that it shows us why we shouldn’t be apprehensive or nervous about end times talk, but it will also shine some light on why it is so easy for us to be nervous. You see, this is the thing – there is the simple, plain, blunt, worldly reality that we see all around us – and this is often dour and depressing and frightening. But as a Christian, you have been shown a reality that is greater, that is more wondrous than just the fallen, dank world – you have been shown Christ Jesus and His life. You have been shown a hope that does not fade, that the world cannot conquer. We’re going to see two examples of this in our Scripture lesson today – and then we are going to take these examples and see how they teach us, how they apply to our lives here and now. We are going to see movement from horrid realities here and now to joy and growth and restoration in Christ – and that same pattern in the text is the pattern of your life. Let’s dive in.

“While He was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before Him saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” So, this is the first set up. This man sees a horrid, horrid reality. Death seems to be pretty high up there on things to fear or dread in this life – and the death of a child. When we hear things about “reality setting in” or the “truth hits everybody” we are talking about these harsh, harsh things. That is what this man sees. His daughter is dead. However, he sees another reality – while it is true that his daughter is dead, if Jesus touches her, lays His hand upon her – she will live. Two realities there – one reality overwhelmed by death; the other focused on hope in Christ. And so our Lord agrees to follow this man, to come with Him to lay His hands upon this man’s daughter and heal her.

Now, we are going to come back to the woman whom our Lord deals with on the way, but for now, let’s see what happens when Jesus arrives at this man’s house. “And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and crowd making a commotion, He said, ‘Go away, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping,’ And they laughed at Him.” Jesus arrives at the house, and the mourning is on. We tend to think of a flute as a happy instrument – it was often used for somber songs of mourning in Christ’s day. The crowds are there, and they are all mourning together – weeping, wailing, dirges. That’s reality. We understand this – we ourselves mourn together – and this is by no means a bad thing. There is the harsh reality of death. But then Jesus speaks – not dead, she’s asleep. So why can Jesus say this? Isn’t the girl really dead – is this not a miracle, did these people just think the gal was dead? No – she’s dead. That’s reality – but Christ Jesus sees something bigger. She’s not dead like you people are expecting – she’s not dead as though that’s it, it’s over, that’s all she wrote, kaput. Jesus knows that He is going to walk in that house, touch that girl, bring her to life, and she’s going to walk right out again with Him. Yeah, she’s dead, but truly, it’s closer to what you folks are used to dealing with the idea of sleep – because she’s going to rise from that bed where she lays.

And they all laugh. They laugh at Jesus. Look at this stupid Fellow, He thinks the girl is just asleep. In the middle of their mourning, they pause to mock Christ and His promise of life. Do I need to draw parallels to your own life, where I’m sure that you all have had people mock you and your faith in Christ – where the meanest, gruffest people will pause and laugh at you and make fun of you for being a Christian. It shouldn’t be surprising. Happens to Christ. Yet what happens in our text – “But when the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.” Precisely what Jesus said would happen. Exactly what the girl’s father knew would happen. The daughter, healed by Christ lives – death is undone, death overturned. There is a reality stronger than death – Christ Jesus Himself.

Now, let’s backtrack a bit in the text – as Jesus is walking to this house to raise this girl to life, there is an interesting occurrence. “And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, for she thought, ‘If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.’” We see another example – perhaps even more poignant, worse than simple death. We see the woman with the discharge of blood. Okay, Pastor, we know you are a squeamish sort of fellow, when you say that her situation is worse than death, are you just being grossed out? Nope. Think like a Jew for a moment. According to the Jewish law, when a women is menstruating, she would be considered unclean. You didn’t really hang around with her – it was a time of more or less isolation for purification. But for this woman, it’s not a few days – something is drastically wrong, and for 12 years she has been living in isolation, cut off from society, from events, from people. Do you see how in the text she sneaks up behind Christ? She doesn’t just walk up to Him and say, “Would you heal me” – she feels compelled to creep up, quietly, while He’s moving and won’t notice – if I just touch His garment I’ll be healed – and only His garment, because a good Jewish man wouldn’t touch a woman with a flow of blood. That fear, that isolation, that shame – that is this woman’s reality.

And yet, in the middle of that reality, in the middle of seeing that – and I can’t even imagine what it would be like – she sees another. Christ Jesus can heal me. And so she creeps closer and closer, and then we hear this – “Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, ‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well.” Jesus sees her, and He loves her, shows compassion on her – treats this woman who had been cut off for so long as His own family – calls her daughter. Her view of reality, her understanding of the truth that Christ brings healing, her trust in Christ – her faith – it is proven true.

In both these examples – the ruler with his dead daughter, the woman with her flow of blood, there is the common, simple reality that the world can see. A dead child. A woman forced away from society, despised and forsaken. Neither of these realities are pretty. And these people both know it. The ruler – he doesn’t pretend that his daughter isn’t dead. The woman, she doesn’t pretend that she isn’t an outcast. But they see a higher reality, they have their eyes fixed upon Christ Jesus – they live by faith – faith is the hope of things yet unseen. And as their faith is in Christ, as Christ Jesus knows them and loves them and cares for them, as their faith sees the higher and greater reality, they rejoice.

What does this mean for you? First, do not be afraid to admit, to confront, to deal with sorrow and pain and suffering in your life. You don’t have to pretend it isn’t there. Being a Christian isn’t pretending or expecting that everything in life will go your way – in reality this world is full of pain and death and suffering – and as a Christian in the world, you’re going to see all that in spades. Don’t pretend it’s not there, don’t ignore that reality. Rather, pay attention to the higher, the greater reality, Christ Jesus and His love for you.

Our Lord and Savior didn’t pretend that everything in this world was alright, He didn’t bury His head in the sand saying that everything was hunky dory. Instead, He came down from heaven and went to the Cross, and was buried until the third day in His tomb. The Cross is the ultimate statement of reality in this world – the world is a fallen, wretch place – where even Christ Jesus, True God and True Man, perfect, holy, loving, where even this Christ Jesus is put to death. Nothing shows us the pain and sorrow of this world more than the Cross. And we aren’t to pretend that this suffering isn’t there – we aren’t to deny the cross. Rather, what does our Lord say. Take up your Cross – take up the suffering you face in this life – acknowledge it, bear it, fight against it. Indeed, take up your neighbor’s burdens as well – and what? Follow Me. Keep your eyes upon Christ Jesus. Why?

“Because if we follow Jesus then, gosh darnit, we’ll just be such nice people.” No! That’s not the point. Follow Christ because He gives and He brings to you a reality that trumps and conquers and gives victory over every sorrow this world can dish at you. The reality of the Cross yields, gives way to the reality of the empty tomb. That’s where we follow Christ to, that’s where our Lord leads you to. Jesus knows what you face in this life – so what does He do? He takes water and the Word and baptizes you – calls you daughter, calls you son, and washes you clean of all of your sin and impurity and restores you to you family, the family of God. He sees you dying, and into your hands He puts His own Body, says, “Take and eat” – now may this true Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ keep and preserve you unto… life, life everlasting. One of the Church fathers was fond of calling the Lord’s Supper the medicine of immortality – that’s a beautiful way of putting it. You will live forever, for Christ touches you and gives you life in His Name. While you do live in a world full of just wicked, horrible stuff, things that impact you – by Christ Jesus, by His Word of forgiveness, by His sacraments you are shown, you are made to see a higher reality – you have life and forgiveness and salvation in Him.

And this truth, this life, this reality of salvation that is yours in Christ, this is applied to the entirety of your life. In our text, we saw two examples of how the world can come crashing down. Isolation and death. Both are real – but Christ is bigger and conquers. Now, this week to come, I don’t know what the world is going to throw at you. I know that it will throw stuff at you – that’s the way this world works until Christ comes. But whatever it is, remember the higher reality. You are a baptized child of God, you are part of His Body and indeed have communed with Him, He is yours, and thus life everlasting is yours – even though the world mocks and ignores this – even though you are attacked sorely – you have life in Christ Jesus, and you have it even until He comes again, where we will all see this wondrous reality face to face. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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