SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – OCT 5, 2014
TEXT: LUKE 7:11-17; EPH. 3:13-21; 1 KINGS 17:17-24
DEATH GIVES WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. The large crowd entering the city could be termed a procession of life!  It was a joyous throng, filled with expectation and hope! The center of their attention was a young man named Jesus.  His popularity was at an all-time high!  He had healed many of their diseases.  There was anticipation about what this prophet from Nazareth might do next?  We might aptly call this great crowd that followed Him a procession of life!


Not so the procession leaving the city for which the center of attention was also a young man.  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.  Two thousand years later we still refer to her as the widow of Nain.  But before she was a widow she was a bride and a mother.  She had received the love of her husband.  She had carried her son in her womb.  She had nursed him at her breast.  When her husband died she was comforted that she still had her son to love.  In that culture he would be her security in old age.     But now her son as well as her husband had been torn from her by death and she walks toward His burial.  That’s the reason for the procession going out the gate – one that could best be termed a procession of death.


Picture these two crowds - these two processions – these two streams of people - who met at the gate of the city called Nain.  A greater contrast could hardly be pictured than the contrast between them.  At this gate - a procession of life met a procession of death!  

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – OCT 5, 2014
TEXT: LUKE 7:11-17; EPH. 3:13-21; 1 KINGS 17:17-24
DEATH GIVES WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. The large crowd entering the city could be termed a procession of life!  It was a joyous throng, filled with expectation and hope! The center of their attention was a young man named Jesus.  His popularity was at an all-time high!  He had healed many of their diseases.  There was anticipation about what this prophet from Nazareth might do next?  We might aptly call this great crowd that followed Him a procession of life!


Not so the procession leaving the city for which the center of attention was also a young man.  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.  Two thousand years later we still refer to her as the widow of Nain.  But before she was a widow she was a bride and a mother.  She had received the love of her husband.  She had carried her son in her womb.  She had nursed him at her breast.  When her husband died she was comforted that she still had her son to love.  In that culture he would be her security in old age.     But now her son as well as her husband had been torn from her by death and she walks toward His burial.  That’s the reason for the procession going out the gate – one that could best be termed a procession of death.


Picture these two crowds - these two processions – these two streams of people - who met at the gate of the city called Nain.  A greater contrast could hardly be pictured than the contrast between them.  At this gate - a procession of life met a procession of death!


And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  He said this not to stuff her emotions but knowing that He would presently change her cause for grief.  His insides were moved with compassion for this grieving widow.  Common courtesy would mean that the funeral procession had the right of way and others would step aside to let it pass. Jesus’ focus, however, is not common courtesy but rather the common curse of mankind!  Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still.  Jesus here confronts death with His bare hands.  Jewish ritual made clear that contact with the dead rendered one unclean.  But Jesus is in the process of bringing purity to an unclean situation.  He went up to the coffin (the open cot) and touched it.  Those carrying it stood still.  The large crowd of people coming out of the city would have had to halt behind them.  Since Jesus had stopped, the other large crowd halted behind Him.  Two crowds going in opposite directions - with opposite concerns - converge at this city gate.  At their center was the coffin of a dead man, interrupted on its way to burial by another man – now touching it. 


Then, just as if His voice could be heard by the dead, Jesus spoke to the corpse.  “Young man, I say to you arise.”  And there at the gate of that city, on that day, at the center of those two crowds, DEATH GAVE WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!  The processes of decay that occur in a corpse were stopped dead and instantly reversed.  The heart that had been still was beating again!  The lungs that had ceased their work were breathing again.  The voice that had fallen silent in death was active again. The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  What a marvelous gift of life from death!


Then – Fear seized them all, and they glorified God saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and God has visited his people!”  Why the fear?  Because DEATH GAVE WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!  With a word Jesus made the final enemy take its leave of this young man.


Fear seized them all…Dear Christians, True sanity includes fear of God – fear of our broken inadequacy to stand in His holy presence – fear of our un-readiness for death and judgment on our own merit.  All people are in crisis but not all people are aware of it!  The Introit expresses the substance of this fear rightly – Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy…In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. 


Fear seized them all, and they glorified God…The fear God desires in us is not slavish fear but the humble fear of dying sinners that also wells up as reverent awe springing forth in glory to God.  The Introit also expresses this aspect of the fear of God.  I give thanks to you, O Lord my God with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.  This double crowd of people was completely overwhelmed at Jesus’ deed.  The imperfect verb (glorified) indicates they kept on praising God as the fulfillment of Old Testament hope.  Up to this point the only prophetic miracle Jesus had not done was resurrection!  Now – in their midst - He had also done that!  DEATH GAVE WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”  (See Luke 1:68, 78) 


Beloved, God has visited us in Jesus Christ.  More than anything else we need the touch and the word of Jesus.  For it is true that we are still carrying one another to the grave.  One precedes another by a few years and one follows after, but we all travel the same road.  Death is not some accidental happening or some natural stage in an unplanned circle of life.  Death is not a mystery to be explained.  Death is not something we can educate our way out of or pray our way out of or pay our way out of.  You and I cannot choose to sit out of this parade of death and be spectators!  The wages of sin is death.  You are a sinner and therefore you are dying - as am I.  You and I are participants in this march and we are already down the road a fair piece.  This procession of death is the opposite of the life God created us for!  Death is ugly!  It is a curse!  It is an enemy.  That is why Jesus is walking the earth just a few miles south of His home town of Nazareth.  ]


The man who led the crowd of people into the town of Nain is the Lord of life.  The bare hands with which He reached out and touched the funeral bier are the hands of God in human flesh.  The people saw Him as a great prophet, like Elijah, through whom God raised the widow’s son centuries before.  Their joyful conclusion was to glorify God saying, “God has visited his people.”  The truth is that God has come to visit His people in the flesh!  Jesus is the prophet Supreme – Son of God and Son of man. 


Jesus’ bare hands are the hands of God come down to confront death.  Here He did it by touching the bier of the widow’s son.  DEATH GAVE WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!   But on another day – outside the gates of another city His bare hands confronted death by being spiked to the cross.  On that day Jesus did not drive death away with His Word.  Rather, the Word made flesh went down into death’s dark shadow land on behalf of the sinful crowd.  He went under the judgment of God carrying the sins of the world (2 Cor. 5:21).   By His sacrificial death and His bodily resurrection He burst asunder man’s last enemy!  He defeated death by His own death and bodily resurrection.  That’s why God never speaks of accepting death.  He does speak of the destruction of death and the reversal of death and His swallowing up death forever. 


Beloved, as Elijah stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again” – so the water of rebirth was washed over you three times – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  In Holy Baptism you received the life of faith as the Holy Trinity covered you with Christ!  When Scripture proclaims – “baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3) God is not deceiving you.  Your washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit was commanded by the risen Christ with all the authority in heaven and on earth.  The authority of the ascended Christ has not lessened and your baptism has not ceased its powerful, saving, forgiving effect!  In your baptism, death still gives way to life at the touch and the word of Jesus!  What a marvelous gift of life from death!


These two processions facing each other at this city gate can help us contemplate the two streams of people that comprise all humanity.  While all people are in a physical procession of death – it is appointed for us once to die – Scripture bears witness to a twofold division among mankind.  These two distinct crowds aren’t the rich and the poor or the young and the old or those from this country or that country.  The two streams of people that Scripture reveals are those following behind Jesus – a procession of life receiving His salvation - and those who are not – a procession of death.


On this level - all human beings are by nature dead in trespasses and sin having lost the immortal image of God!  They are by nature alienated from the life of God.  But God’s gracious love in Christ is for all mankind!  In this the love of God was made manifest among us that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).  How dull our senses can be to this life and death reality for all people.  How weak our thankfulness can be for the standing we have – of being born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).  Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me even though he die, yet shall he live.” By His presence – by His gift of faith to you - death continues to give way to life at the touch and the word of Jesus.


Consider again the two processions facing each other at the gate of the town of Nain – a procession of death and a procession of life.  God would have you picture your corpse in the place of the widow’s son.  As you do so, there is one thing He saw upon waking from death that you will also see.  It is the man whose word makes death flee away!  Beloved - it is so easy for Him to bid you rise.  The mighty One, who speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets will have no difficulty summoning you to His side for eternity.  That’s why He comes to touch you with nourishing, forgiving, healing food. 


What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?  These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given us through these words.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.  Also at His Table, DEATH GIVES WAY TO LIFE AT THE TOUCH AND THE WORD OF JESUS!  


In His Name, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a