CLICK HERE for the audio file.
“God Has Visited His People”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We hear on Christmas morning the words of the Apostle John: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” These are words of great joy to the people of God, for they tell us about the wonderful love which God has for us in providing a Savior—and more than that, how that Savior is God in flesh, living among His people, bringing light and life to a world into which sin brought darkness and death. And as we go through the Gospels—and even as we look at Old Testament accounts of God visiting His faithful children—we see how His presence among His people brings blessing, hope, and life.
What a blessing that is for us to hear, because the casket is always there before our eyes. “The wages of sin is death,” Saint Paul tells us. Every funeral is a reminder that you are a sinner. Only the person who is without sin has the power to escape the casket alive. We have all known wonderful people, people whom even the cynical world would consider to be good people. We all have heard of the wonderful work Mother Theresa did for the poor and helpless in the world. But we also know that Mother Theresa is dead. Martin Luther was perhaps the greatest witness to the truth of God’s Word the world has seen in a thousand years. But Martin Luther is dead, too. If you think you can earn life; if you think you deserve to escape the grave; if you think you can cheat death—look at the casket. Look at the names on the gravestones in the cemetery. Good works done by sinners—even the greatest works performed by the greatest people—do not merit life. Every casket is a reminder that we are sinners who have earned only death.
But Jesus visits, and He stops the death procession. The pallbearers stand still. The hearse pulls to the side of the road. Where Jesus goes, He brings light and life to “those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.” He touches the coffin. He’s not superstitious, nor is He afraid of death. He says with authority, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And, sure enough, the young man from Nain sat up and spoke. Death is powerless before the Lord of life.
You may remember that I said earlier, “Only the person who is without sin has the power to escape the casket alive.” Nothing has changed to deny the truth of that statement. But what about the young man from Nain? What about the widow’s son in Zarephath whom Elijah brought back life? What about the daughter of Jairus? What about Lazarus? People are popping out of their graves all over the place! How can this be? How can these sinners rise up out of death?
This is a wonderful foreshadowing of the resurrection. Jesus is the One who is without sin. Jesus is the One who has the power to escape the tomb alive. It takes Someone who is without sin to bring life out of death. So the sinless Jesus died the death of a sinner, bearing all the sin of the world upon Himself. And then He emerged from the tomb, destroying the power of death forever. Everyone raised by the power of God before Jesus rose was pointing forward to that day when Jesus burst forth from the tomb.
And everyone raised by the power of God was also pointing forward to the Last Day, when all flesh will be raised up, and all the faithful will dwell in the presence of God forever. The One who died a sinless death has given His death to sinners so that we would live forever. Once again, Jesus stops the death procession—only this time, it will be permanent. Every casket will be empty. Every body that has been corrupted by sin will be raised up, forever to be without sin, forever to live. Again, how can this be?
This is true because, in Jesus, “God has visited His people.” He visits us wherever “two or three are gathered in His name…” He visits us in the waters of Holy Baptism, placing His holy name upon us, wrapping us in the sparkling, spotless robes of His own righteousness. He visits us in His Supper, present in bread and wine by the power of His Word to deliver to us life and salvation. And in all these things, He gives us life. Only the person without sin has the power to escape the casket, so Jesus gives us His perfect obedience, His life without sin. He visits us with His gifts of life; and death, now powerless, bows silent before Him.
Jesus tells the widow, “Do not weep.” Sinners cannot help but mourn the death of those we love. But we do not grieve like those without hope, because we know this is not truly the end. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain…” For in Christ, “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.