INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: We can’t escape death.))
The tragedy of it all: a widow’s only son, dead. No wonder there was “a considerable crowd from the town with her.” But, as tragic as that was for her and that town, as tragic as those sorts of things are in our time, too, the real tragedy is something we don’t really want to think about. The real tragedy is: we can’t escape death. The funeral procession, the coffin, the grave awaits each and every one of us. One day, you’ll have your coffin, too.
But that’s not all. Each and every bump and bruise, every cold, every ache and pain, every exhaustion is just a preview of that certain and final end. Oh, we may get better and heal, but one day we won’t. Behind every physical pain lurks death. Suddenly or not so suddenly, the bell will toll for you.
((4. Ugh!: Apart from Christ, we’re spiritually dead.))
We’re afraid to die. Death is scary! Our flesh, our Old Adam doesn’t want to die; it’s really his last day. No wonder he’s afraid. But he must die.
That’s what we deserve. The sins we do “daily and much”—their “wages are death.” So death must come, it’s the only thing our flesh and Old Adam can produce. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest is sick with that spiritual sickness: sin.
Apart from Christ, without Him, we’re the spiritual equivalent of that young man. Dead. Oh, people can do nice things for each other, but that doesn’t mean they’re alive before God. Just because people outwardly keep some parts of Commandments 4 through 10, doesn’t mean anything. Just dead works before a living and holy God.
As Christians we must confess that such death still lurks within us. If it doesn’t, if we only need a little help, if being nice enough were enough, then why did God have to die? If Christ’s death isn’t sufficient, there’s no hope—only death that gives way to the second death of hell.
((3. Aha!: Being dead isn’t a bad place to be in.))
Why don’t we want to confess that we’re complete and total beggars before God? Why don’t we want to confess that all we bring to the table is sin, death, and resistance toward God? Why do we want some sort of self-help project? Why do we want something other than Jesus for us—as if it’s not grace alone? Our flesh thinks: if I can cheat death for a little while by living right, I can cheat the second death that way too! We just act that way naturally. We don’t even realize we do it.
The flesh cannot and will never believe what’s actually true, what our Gospel text shows to be true: being dead isn’t a bad place to be in.
((2. Whee!: JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE TO THE DEAD.))
Why is being dead not so bad? Why is being carried in a coffin not bad? Why is being spiritually dead left to ourselves not so bad? Well, it’s bad if you stay that way, but look at what happened in our Gospel! JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE TO THE DEAD. No can stay dead around Jesus. With Jesus life is contagious! “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak.
He gave His life for the dead, for you—sin taken care of, paid for. He goes through death, dies, and then comes out the other side alive as alive can be. That’s what He does for the young man. Jesus gives His resurrection ahead of time. He dies and rises. He raises the young man.
No giving your life to Jesus. None of that! He comes. He takes your death away, and He gives you His life. He takes your sin away, too. That’s JESUS giving HIS LIFE TO THE DEAD, to that young man, to you. You’ve been washed in the river of the water of life: sin and death washed away. He’s given you to eat and drink from the tree of life: Body and Blood for forgiveness and eternal life.
((1. Yeah!: We will overcome death.))
So, what’s left? Well, you’ll overcome death one day. Christ will give you that victory. Christ’s resurrection life is yours now, and so you don’t have to be afraid of dying. Christ already united you to His resurrection at the Font. His life from the dead is your life from the dead. Death for you is just a nap, a nap Jesus will wake you from just like He did that young man.
What that man had was death, what He gained was Christ’s life because JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE TO THE DEAD. What is Christ’s (His resurrection from the dead) is yours and will be yours because JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE TO THE DEAD. It can’t be any other way.
With us sickness and death is contagious. But not with Jesus. With Jesus life is contagious. It’s His life, and JESUS GIVES HIS LIFE TO THE DEAD, to you.
We’re waiting for the day that will be like that day in Nain. When “the ranks of death, the Lord of Life Stood face to face that hour…’Young man, arise!’ [He] ordered loud, And death defeated lay. The widow’s son cast off his shroud And strode from death away.” (LSB 552:8) So also you: “Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave And at death no longer tremble; He, the Lord, who came to save Will at last His own assemble. They will go their Lord to meet, Treading death beneath their feet.” (LSB 741:7)
INI + AMEN.