Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Jesus Comes To Save Us

Saint Luke 7:11–17

The point of today’s Gospel account of the raising of the widow of Nain’s son from the dead is, as Luther comments, for us to “know that we need not be afraid of death and the judgment. For Christ does not come to judge and condemn us; He comes, as He came to the poor widow and her son, to raise us from the dead, and restore us that we may again hear, see, speak, and do other things. Thus He will come to all of us, who believe in Him; [He will come] and save us.”

This is what it’s all about, dear friends. This is what Jesus for you is all about. The entirety of the Christian faith, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, culminates in and is fully realized in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Death and the grave is not the end; that’s not what God wants for anyone. He wants you to live. He wants you “to be His own, and live under him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.” Everlasting. Without end. Forever and ever. Amen.

Death, you see, was not meant to be. It was not a component of God’s creation, not part of some grand circle of life, as some think life to be, but rather an aberration, a terrible consequence of the sin that entered into this world, apart from God’s will. Thus, our heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus to conquer and do away with death for you, and for the whole world, and to restore the life without end that He intended from before the foundations of the world were ever laid.

Centuries before our Lord Jesus ever set foot on the outskirts of the town of Nain and interrupted the sad procession on its way to the cemetery, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” In the days of the Old Testament, the Lord God demonstrated His holy will to “swallow up death forever” by raising from death several individuals. One we heard about in today’s Old Testament Reading—the son of a widow from the town of Zarephath, who had become so ill that “there was no breath left in him.” Elijah carried the dead child to his room, where he stretched himself out upon the child three times and cried out to the Lord God for help, saying, “O Lord, my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And God restored the child’s life to him.

Another one similarly raised up was the only child of a wealthy couple from the town of Shunem, who, after crying out to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” died in the arms of his mother. The distraught parents called for Elijah’s disciple and successor, the prophet Elisha, to come, and when he arrived at their house and saw the dead child, he did much as did Elijah with the boy from Zarephath. He stretched himself out upon the boy and prayed to the Lord God for help. And as he did this, “the flesh of the child became warm.” The child then sneezed seven times, and he opened his eyes, alive and well once again.

The life-restoring miracle that we are given to hear about in today’s Holy Gospel, certainly reminds us of those two other miraculous events, but yet there is a difference that sets this apart from those other two. When our Lord Jesus happens upon the dead widow’s son in the town of Nain, outwardly, He does not do much. He goes over to the bier, the stretcher upon which the dead body is being carried, and He touches it. That’s all. There’s no stretching out upon the body, like the two prophets had done. Nor does Jesus cry out for God to help, as they had done. Jesus simply, while touching the bier, says, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And he does. He sits up and begins to speak, and Jesus gives him to his mother.

The difference between the two Old Testament accounts and what Saint Luke reports is, of course, Jesus. Elijah and Elisha had no power over death in themselves, but Christ does. He is the Lord of life. Saint John tells us at the beginning of his Gospel account that, “In him was life,” and that “All things were made through him.” In the creeds, we ascribe the work of creation to God the Father, and this is indeed true, but it is also true that it is through the Son that the Father carries out His creative, life-giving work. So it is that only the speaking of a word is needed to raise the dead son back to life, for the one who speaks it is the very Word of God who was in the beginning speaking all things into being.

When Saint John says that “in him,” that is, in Jesus “was life,” he also states that, “the life was the light of men.” Later in that same Gospel account, the Lord Jesus Himself, would affirm this, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This light and life that our Lord Jesus is in this world is a light and life that transcends the world—a light and life that has no end—a light and life that is far, far greater than what we see being restored in the widow’s son from the town of Nain.

We’re told that when Jesus saw the funeral procession heading out to the cemetery—when He saw the dead man’s mother leading the way, filled with tears and sorrow, He told her, “Do not weep.” These words speak no insensitivity toward the mother’s anguish—no suggestion that her grief is of no consequence to Him. In fact, the evangelist is very clear in saying that before He even opens His mouth and speaks to the poor woman, “he had compassion on her.” He has compassion for all of us; He cares that you suffer in this world. When the prophet Isaiah spoke in prophecy of Jesus, he said that He is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” That sorrow and grief is with Jesus because of His compassion for you. It grieves His heart to see you suffer in difficult times; it sorrows His heart to know the harm that sin in this world is constantly bringing to you. His words to the distraught mother, therefore, are words of compassion that He has for you, too. “Do not weep,” He says. Christ has come to wipe away all tears and banish all sadness by bringing life and immortality to light. No earthly trouble can stand up to this, not even death and the grave. Jesus declares to you, “I have come that [you] may have life and have it in all its fullness,” without end, in the glory of his resurrection.

Those raised up again to mortal life by our Lord Jesus, whether it be through the prophets of old, or by His own spoken word of command, are a prefiguring—a pointing ahead to the greater restoration of life that has no end, of which our Lord’s own resurrection from the dead is the first and in which we all follow by faith, as Saint Paul tells us when he writes in 1st Corinthians, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In Christ’s resurrection you see the accomplished fact of your own resurrection unto life without end. And this is because in Holy Baptism, you have been joined together with your Saviour in both His death and His resurrection. In His death upon the cross, in payment for all of your sins, and for the sins of the whole world, you yourself have died to sin; your sins no longer condemn you; you are completely forgiven by His shed blood for you. And in His resurrection you are raised up from the death of sin to a new life that you share with Jesus—a life that is pure and holy and without blame and, therefore, wholly acceptable to your Father who art in heaven. You are raised up to have a life that has no end.

The citizens of Nain who witnessed our Lord’s life-restoring miracle were amazed. Holy fear and awe seized them and “they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has come among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’” I wonder, dear friends, is that same holy fear and awe among us today? And if it isn’t, then why not? For Christ is most certainly among us. He who is called Immanuel, meaning, “God with us,” is here in our midst, working a wonder far greater than that seen on the dusty road outside of Nain. The widow’s son He raised up from death that day would die again; the body kept from the grave would eventually find its way to that resting place. But the life that Jesus gives you this day, in the forgiveness of your sins, will never come to an end. How amazing—how wonderful is that!!!!!?

In Galatians 6, the apostle Paul says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Above all, the doing good, of which he speaks, is your believing, a good that is worked in you by the Holy Spirit, but also a good that you may turn away from and abandon because of your sin and evil desires. If you do not consider what Christ is doing for you this day, in this place, to be the most wonderful, most awesome, the best of all things to grace your life—if you have become complacent in the true and living presence of Your God, our Lord Jesus, then you’ve got trouble. If the things of this world and this earthly life itself is of greater worth to you than the things of God and the life that is to come, then you have a problem with sin that cannot be denied, that is, not without it most assuredly dragging you into a grave and death most terrible and without end.

So, I beseech you most earnestly, dear brothers and sisters, to repent of this sin and receive His forgiveness and His help to live in the life in which you have been resurrected by faith.

Forgiven by Christ, we proclaim with the words of Luther with which we began: “we need not be afraid of death and the judgment. For Christ does not come to judge and condemn us; He comes, as He came to the poor widow and her son, to raise us from the dead, and restore us that we may again hear, see, speak, and do other things. Thus He will come to all of us, who believe in Him; [He will come] and save us.”

Yes; even so, come, Lord Jesus. Even so, come. Amen.