St. Luke 7:11-17
September 24, 2020
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For the last couple of weeks, our Hymns of the Day have been of trust, hope, and comfort in times of suffering. They were written by men who knew earthly and spiritual suffering personally. These great hymns put good words in our mouths, divine ideas in our thoughts, and comfort on our hearts that confess against our current circumstances. They bring our eyes up out of our suffering and place them on the hope that, because of our Lord, Jesus Christ, our suffering will have an end. They help us make a Christian confession when the words and thoughts escape us. That’s what a good poem does, that’s what these hymns do.
A few weeks ago when we heard about the Good Samaritan, we rightly saw ourselves beaten, left for dead in the ditch by the devil, the world, and our sinful nature until our Redeemer came our way, stooped down into our ditch and rescued us. And then we sang “I trust, O Christ, in You Alone”. He alone is our Good Samaritan. He was the one who had mercy on the man who fell among thieves.
We heard about Jesus having mercy on the 10 Lepers having only one return and give thanks, falling down before the true temple, priest, and sacrifice, and we sang “From God Can Nothing Move Me.” There is no other place for us to go. Jesus has the Words of eternal life.
Last week we heard about seeking first righteousness and trusting that God would also provide food, and drink, and clothing, and we sang “What God Ordains is Always Good.” LSB 760. What He ordains is always for our spiritual benefit.
Today we hear about the sorrow and anguish of the woman from Nain whose husband and only son had died and how Jesus restored her dead boy back to her alive, and we sang “The Will of God is Always Best.” LSB 758. Even when we mourn loss and suffer heartache here, God’s will is always for us.
The Biblical accounts have us place ourselves into the story 1. as the man in the ditch, 2. the lone, thankful, leper, 3. the bird of the air, the lily of the field, 4. and the mourning widow. In all of these accounts, our Lord steps in and brings comfort where there was none, gives us a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, and supplies what was needed where the sinful world had let people down. He brings compassion to dire circumstances.
The compassion of Jesus is pure. Our own compassion is sincere, because as Christians, it flows from Christ, but it is not like our Lord’s. Ours lacks power. Ours is still tainted with selfishness. His compassion is powerful. Nothing can stop it—no sin, no devil, no world. It cannot be denied by any unworthiness in us and it cannot be diverted even by sin. His Will is always done. It is not because we are lovable that God loves us. It is because God is love. The Psalmist says in our Introit, “Great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Ps. 86:13; Introit). And later in the Psalm goes on, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15). God’s compassion and mercy are greater than our ability to understand.
The compassion that God has for us is manifested in Jesus. It is experienced at a funeral. It is seen in the raising of the widow’s son.
Two very different crowds collided that day outside Nain. The crowd surrounding Jesus had just witnessed Him healing the centurion’s son. They were rejoicing and celebrating the accomplishments of God in the flesh. They basked in the glory of God. That happy crowd was met by a different crowd coming out of the village with a casket. The funeral crowd suffered under the reality of sin in this world. Death and life came face to face when those crowds met. The result was that life overcame death. The Lord of Life approached the dead boy, and with a word, raised him to life again.
Christ’s compassion is not limited to that place and time although it differs in how it is manifested. The same Jesus who spoke then speaks today; and this account is given to us for our comfort in our own circumstances. Listen to what He said and did. He told the woman that she could stop crying. Then he touched the open coffin of the dead man. He took the uncleanness of death onto himself and gave His purity to the boy. He spoke. “Young man, I say to you, arise!” His word brought the man back to life. The wages of sin killed the boy, but the sinless Lamb of God raised the boy to life.
This is not our experience at funerals. When our loved ones were in their caskets, our husbands, our children, our parents, Jesus did not give them back to us alive. He spoke, to be sure. We heard from His Word how death is swallowed up in victory; that Jesus has overcome death, and that all those in Christ, too, will overcome on the final day. His words for us at funerals are future focused. We must still wait in sorrow and grieving for a time. There are very few in the history of the world that have received their loved ones back from the dead (the number is around 10). And while we don’t know why, we know from these few accounts and from our Lord’s promise that one day we will be united with our Christian loved ones. And because our experience is not like the woman at Nain, that’s why we sing our confessions more heartily now:
“In the midst of death’s dark vale Pow’rs of hell o’ertake us. Who will help when they assail, Who secure will makes us? Thou only, Lord, Thou only!” LSB 755
“Though I the cup am drinking which savors now of bitterness, I take it without shrinking. For after grief God gives relief, My heart with comfort filling and all my sorrow stilling.” LSB 760
We sing these verses even as we look death right in the face, even as we peer into a casket, even as we contemplate our own mortality. And the only reason that we can do so with certain confidence is because our Savior has already passed through death into life. He has already blazed the trail through death and has been raised never to die again. We don’t merely look from the outside in on His death and resurrection. We have been joined to it. We have been united with Him in it. We have been baptized into His death and have already been raised with Him in life.
Christians make an extraordinary confession. We confess against the devil and the world and our own reason that death is not the end. We confess, rather, with St. Paul, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our Lord is one who knows our suffering because He took on our flesh. A great prophet has risen up among us, yea more than a prophet; God has visited His people. He has stooped into our world of death, in the flesh. He knows the pain of loss. He witnessed the death of friends and family. He wept when his good friend Lazarus died. More than likely, He was at the deathbed of Joseph, His earthly father, and mourned with Mary and his brothers and sisters at his passing. Our Lord does not have compassion on us from the outside, but from within our own circumstances. He is with you to the end of the age. Therefore, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We mourn with an eternal perspective. While we sorrow and mourn now, our sadness will have an end.
This real, historical, account in Nain gives us a picture of what will happen on the last day. The crowd of life will process out of heaven with our Lord and meet the crowd of death here on earth. Death will yield to eternal life. And until that day, we will confess boldly, “When life’s brief course on earth is run And I this world am leaving, grant me to say, ‘Your will be done,’ Your faithful word believing.”
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.