God Visits His People
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
One of the most frequent things a pastor does outside of his normal routine is to bring the comfort of the Word of God to the bereaved at the death of a loved one. Funeral home visitations and funerals are times of great affliction and sadness for everyone involved. Obviously the family of the deceased is suffering grief at the death of their loved one. The friends of the family feel the burden of the grief their friend is going through, and no one is quite sure what to say. Now, imagine if the pastor were to walk in without a care in the world, and he said to you, to your family and friends, “Don’t cry.” There’s a pretty good chance the pastor would be walking out holding his broken jaw. Of course death is a time to mourn. Someone you love is gone from your life, and you will not see them again until you yourself have died.
But Jesus doesn’t work the way you think He will work. He came upon a funeral procession for a young man who has died. He walked up to the casket and told the mother of the deceased, “Don’t cry.” And then He told the dead man, “Get up. Arise” And the young man got up! This is what makes the Christian faith the Christian faith. You don’t need Jesus to preach morality—He has written the Law on your heart. You don’t need the Jesus to make an effort to improve your life. But Jesus does the one thing no other god or religion can actually do. He defeats death.
The witnesses said, “God has visited His people.” God shows up, and people are brought to life. This is why Jesus came. Adam and Eve brought sin. Sin brings death. Jesus came to overcome sin so that death would also be undone. Sin and death are overcome with the forgiveness of sins. Death is overthrown. Jesus walks up and raises that boy to show each of us what our future is. You will fall asleep. And then Jesus will wake you up. We don’t call it death anymore. Now that Jesus has removed its sting, it’s just sleep. It’s nothing to fear. Death has been smacked down. It has been robbed of its power. Your sin means your death. But now, in Jesus, because your sins are forgiven, you only sleep. You rise on the Last Day, and there is no more death forever and ever and ever. The resurrection of Jesus means you can’t die any more. You’ve already died. You’ve been drowned at the font in Holy Baptism. You’ve been crucified with Christ. And if you died there, you can’t die again. You will only sleep, and only for a little while.
We think death has more power than it does. We think it’s the worst thing ever. When it happens, we join the world in making all kinds of clichéd statements about it. The world seeks comfort in memories and coping mechanisms instead of the promise that Christ has defeated death. When we fall asleep, we will wake up. Maybe it’s your own death that terrifies you. Maybe it’s the death of someone else that hurts so bitterly. But the baptized child of God has a defiant answer to shout at death:
Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes,
faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
to make life immortal mine.
Jesus has conquered sin and death with it, and so we despise death. We mock it. We can no longer fear its power. Where Christ is present, there death must yield. Where the Father’s baptized children are, there death must let go. And where our Lord’s people stand, filled with His body and blood, death must run away in fear. God in Christ has come calling, bringing life with Him. Death no longer has any power, for God has visited His people. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.