16. Sunday after Trinity Sunday
And it came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and many people.
Now when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city were with her. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, Young man, I say unto you, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
And this rumor of Him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout the entire region round about.
1. There would be much to say about today’s Gospel text. However, today we only want to talk about two things: first: we want to look at how to deal with death and how to receive comfort. It is very important to find comfort if someone close to us dies and also it is important to have a right understanding of death. Secondly, we want to look at Christian compassion and sympathy, which we should share with one another.
2. In today’s Gospel text we hear of a poor woman who had lost her husband already, and now even her only son has died, what a great sorrow for that poor widow. In Judaism it was regarded as a particular tragedy if there was no son in the house because it was part of the law to have male heirs. And so that poor woman is very downcast; it looks like God is at enmity with her or has totally forgotten about her: first she looses her dear husband, and then her son and only heir. Therefore, it would have been a wonder if she had not doubted God.
3. The Lord feels sorry for her, and in His compassion He makes her son live again; He gives her son back to her, and with that creates joy in her ten times greater than the sorrow she felt just moments before. It’s a wonder she didn't have a stroke because of the sudden change of emotions.
4. What do we learn from this? This story is meant to strengthen our faith and to make it rock solid. The Lord Christ doesn’t do this “only” for the sake of the woman. No, He wants to teach us that death actually is meaningless, therefore, we don’t have to fear death and other disasters, but in a patient set of mind -- knowing that we don’t have to worry. We have a Lord who can easily help us in the face of death and other misfortunes. Just look at how simply and easily the Lord jumps right in and effortlessly helps this despairing woman. Actually she was beyond hope because who would hope that on their way to the graveyard that a son would become alive again?
5. And at exactly that moment when no hope is left anymore the Lord Christ jumps right in to help. He didn’t say much, just, “Young man, I tell you arise!” Soon after the dead young man rises up and lives again!” We have to admit that before the Lord’s eyes, life and death are the same: there is no difference before Him who is Lord over life and death. Even if we are dead already, we still are not dead before Him. The reason for my conclusion is that He only speaks one word, and immediately death has to leave and life moves right in. It is as Christ says in the Gospel, “God is not a God of the dead but of the living.” Even though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and other saintly patriarchs have died, they still live before God.
6. The Lord wants us to learn following from today’s Gospel text: to look at the great power with which Christ will call them from their graves all of mankind, and how He will bless believers eternally. This will all happen in one instant, and let’s not doubt that both are His: the power to do this and His will to do it. Here in this account we have it in front of our eyes: the son of the widow was dead; he had lost all of his senses but as soon Christ talks to him he hears. What a strange and wonderful story this is: the one who doesn’t hear anymore hears, and who doesn’t live anymore starts living again. And all that happens when Christ just says one word. This one word is so powerful that death has to leave and life comes back.
7. That Christ easily can raise us from death again and bring us back to life we see hear, and that He wants to do that we see here also because there is no one who has asked Him to do so; He just feels compassion for this poor widow, and un-asked He steps right in and brings her son back to life. And so we should acknowledge that story and not fear death but be comforted by the Lord Christ. It all happened for our sake. He seems to tell us with this account, “I know that you’re afraid of death don’t fear it don’t let your heart get frightened over it. Because what can death do to you even though it’s an evil thing? All it can do is scare you, but don’t concentrate on what you feel but look to Me, focus on Me. For Me, rousing someone from death is like you rousing someone from his night’s rest. And I enjoy doing that. I don't lack the will to do it neither do I lack the power do it.”
8. It seems as if the dead in their graves sleep lighter than you do in your own bed. You know that it can happen that someone calls you ten times before you finally wake up. The dead, however, hear one word spoken by Christ and wake up again. You see it here and the same happens to Lazarus in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11: the resurrection of Lazarus.
9. That's why our Lord God does not call death death. We call it death, and it is death when we lie down dying and can't help ourselves anymore, but fore Christ it's just a light sleep, and even though Christ whispers, we can hear Him and wake up again.
10. The Lord Christ teaches us that even when pestilence or death sneak up on us, we only say, “Even if you're at your worst, what can you do to me? You surely have terrible teeth, you scare me with them because I don't want to die. But I won't look at your teeth, or at what you try doing to me by drawing your sword like the hangman (tranl.: that is the executioner) -- I will look at the Lord Christ and what He can do after you have killed me. He's not afraid of you; He doesn't care if you are violently angry or whatever else; He just says, “Death, I'm your death -- hell, I'm your pestilence. As you are able to kill my followers I am able to raise them up again and make them alive again.”
11. This is the kind of comfort with which the Lord wants to comfort us: His followers -even though they seem to be dead- are not dead but asleep. They sleep so lightly that Christ can wake them up again with one finger, yes, even with one word. It's not an honor to death that, even though he is at his worst, he is only able to put one to sleep so that Christ can come and wake that person up again with just one word spoken. The Lord Christ says in the Gospel of John Chapter 5, Verse 28 and 29, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
12. This comfort only His followers have: the Turks don't have it, the Jews don't have it, and our Catholics also don't have it. They all know that once they have to die, and that the judgment of God and hell exist. But what do they do? They don't put their hope in Christ, but run away from Him with their celebration of mass, their fasting, etc. They only think of Christ as a judge whose only desire is to condemn and judge. It's a terrible mistake, and it comes from the devil that they draw such an evil picture of Christ, they paint Him worse than death itself. That's why they are afraid of the Last Judgment and have a heavy and fearful heart.
13. Christ's followers, the true Christians, have no reason to be afraid of death. They know that on Judgment Day Christ will judge all who didn't follow Him during their lifetime and who didn't believe His Word. True Christians are able to say, “I believe in God's Word and I'm baptized and through Christ's resurrection I earned eternal life. So why should I be afraid. He's not my enemy, but my friend and advocate before the Father in heaven. Even though Judgment Day comes, or if I should die, I'm not afraid. The Lord Christ watches over Me when death comes and strangles me. Death might think it has killed me, but it didn't; it can't kill me, I only fell asleep, and I sleep such a sweet and light sleep that the Lord Christ only has to call me in a whisper and I get up for eternal life.”
14. So let's never be afraid of death and Judgment Day anymore. Christ didn't come to judge or condemn us. He comes to us as He came to this poor widow and her son. Just as He did with the son, He wants to raise us from death and straighten us up so that we can hear, talk, and see again. Already during their live times He visits all of those who believe on Him and bless them for eternity. The ones who don't believe in Him will be judged.
15. We need the Savior and we need to have faith in Him alone. The longer we believe Him, the stronger our faith should be; we loose our fear of death and of the Last Judgment Day. Whoever fears death follows old Adam and his flesh; he doesn't follow Christ anymore. One thing is for certain: Christ will come and raise us from the dead at Judgment Day. Therefore, the bodies of the true Christians only sleep in their grave until Christ comes, gently knocks on their grave, and asks them to get up! Then we will get up as if after a gentle, sweet sleep, and eternally live with the Lord Christ and be happy forever.
16. Again: a true follower of Christ should have a different heart and attitude than the Turks, Jews, or Catholics have: they are timid, afraid, and disheartened in their moments because they don't know how to get out of hell. It serves them right, though. Why don’t they pay attention and begin having faith into Christ who is a savior of all who believe but a judge to those who don't believe? Why don't they listen to the Gospel who teaches us that Christ came to comfort us, but instead they persecute and condemn the Gospel? Christ wants to be everyone's physician, helper, and savior against death and the devil. But they close their ears to that; they don't want to hear, or believe and look for other means or solutions of running away from death. Christ can't accept this, and has to be their judge though He would much rather be their savior. They live at enmity with him, though, and don't care for His kingdom. The unbelievers He has to judge, to the true Christians He is a friend and gives them peace and rest in all eternity.
17. Today's Gospel teaches us also to be compassionate with one another. Very often we hear the Lord calling us to lovingly serve one another. To be compassionate is something more: it's more like caring for other people’s needs and misery. Example: if my neighbor is poor and sick, I not only shall help him, but also feel his misery as I would my own. In the Gospel text today Jesus is like an unknown guest. As he notices the misery of the widow He moves right in just as if this would be His own son; He cries with her, comforts her, and helps her.
18. This is a good example of love and how it should be seen in a believer's life. That's what happens when people truly are believers -- love and compassion will follow. Don't do as evil and spoiled people do, even among us there are who have a heart of wood or stone. They laugh about their neighbor when they see him suffering. It even hurts them to see someone else have some money, even if it is only a penny. Not so with Christians: they should have mercy and compassion on those who are in need. They should be happy to see others well off. As Paul commands us to cry with suffering people and to laugh with the happy, and not to be as unmoved as wood or stone, happy to see others suffer, not wanting anyone else to own anything of value.
19. We see that mercy and compassion are twofold: just as emergency or need is also twofold --one part is physical the other part is spiritual. If someone suffers a physical need, you ought to go there and help wherever you can, render good advice, and lend a helping hand to the poor who can't help themselves.
20. Spiritual needs exists where people suffer in their souls. I see a young person: he's growing up, but he doesn't want to listen to the sermon even despises it; he can't pray and is indecent, disobedient, and full of vice --what shall we do with him? If you admonish him he won't listen, if you talk seriously with him it goes in one ear and out the other -- there's only one treatment left for him: you have to use the rod on his back. This way you show mercy to him because you help him against sin and vice. If a soul is full of vice as his is, that's a lot more dangerous then having a sickly body. You owe it to him to show mercy to him by first talking to him, and if that doesn't help, using the rod or the stick on him.
21. You say, oh no, it's terrible to beat him with the rod. Do you have a better idea? If everything else fails, you have use the rod and strike his back. Sometimes physicians have to cut off someone's leg or arm in order to keep this person alive and rescue him from death. It's the same with this young man. This kind of punishment is necessary to rescue one or the other from the devil and his followers. Isn't it true: if you should fall into the river, you would thank me for rescuing you even if I have pulled you out by the hair and it hurt you very much. See, as you are willing to suffer in order to have your physical body rescued, so someone should be willing to suffer in order to have his soul rescued from the devil, and even more so.
22. It's an act mercy which God will reward if we let evil children and servants feel the rod on their backs. This is a spiritual salve against this disease of the soul that is called acting disobedient toward your father or mother or master or mistress. Believe me, I say it again; it is an act of mercy when you use your rod on such people's backs.
23. This kind of mercy should be displayed by the father and mother towards their children and their farm hands; also, it should be used by the superiors in government,etc. Don't become lazy or complacent showing this kind of mercy. Some have become lazy, I'm sorry to admit. Whoever thinks he is merciful by not using the rod is in fact merciless towards his neighbor, and therefore will feel God's wrath. Again, the physical need can be really great: someone falls into the water or into the fire --immediately you run to pull him out; you are not afraid of hurting him by pulling him by his hair, etc. So why are you so afraid to rescue him when you see his soul in danger of eternal damnation? That's why it's important to use hard words and to use the rod if everything else fails to rescue him from the devil's nets, from disobedience.
24. So listen, and look at Christ's example here and learn what it means to be merciful: it is a virtue. It means to have compassion with your neighbor. Again, there are two kinds of needs people have: one is spiritual, the other one is physical. If your neighbor is sick and poor, etc. and you help him in his need: that's called compassion, and if you do so you serve God and He is pleased; He will reward you for it. The spiritual need is sin. There is disobedience, laziness, bad words and deeds. To be compassionate there means to talk sternly with the offender, if he refuses to change to use the rod. If he still doesn't want to listen -- the hangman will take care of him. The hangman is a merciful preacher; particularly the evil guys who won't straighten up, and even pull others into their crimes, will get to know him. To use the sword on them means to be merciful to the good.
25. So you see, even though beheading and hanging is absolutely terrible, it is an act of mercy. Because if this would not happen no one could sit down and eat his supper in peace, there would always be a threat from these gangsters around. Therefore, learn to be compassionate in whatever office or rank you are.
26. These were the two lessons from today’s Gospel text. One lessons is about faith: that we should not be afraid even though the times are evil, and particularly not when we see that our time to die has come. Especially then we should remind ourselves that we have a helper in the Lord Christ who's Word is almighty. That's why we shall not despair. Looking to people might cause you despair because they can't help you against death, he's too mighty. However, in God and in His Son Jesus, we shall be brave. What we can't be --He is; what we can't do --He can do. If we can't help ourselves -- He can, and He even loves to help us, as we see in displayed in today's lesson. When someone has a heart which confidently trusts in the Lord Jesus, he walks in the right way before God. The others, who despair, and are disheartened are at enmity with Him and don't think much of Him, otherwise He would be their comfort. The other lesson is that we, as Christ did, shall feel sorry for and care for other people's needs. May our dear God give us in His grace and mercy that we learn to do so, and also to praise Him for His goodness, as we see the pious people doing in today's Gospel text. Amen.