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Trinity 16 – Luke 7:11-17

by pastorjuhl ~ October 13th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            One of the few events in life where good manners are still expected is at a funeral. Perhaps you do not rehearse what you will say to survivors of the deceased, but one thing that is best left unsaid is what Jesus tells the widow at Nain in today’s Gospel: Do not weep. It seems Jesus commits the worst mistake possible at a funeral. What a foolish thing to say! He should know better!

Jesus does know better. He is the Lord of the living, not of the dead. It should not surprise you that Jesus astounds the crowds of mourners by committing an even worse breach of etiquette by touching the open coffin and saying, Young man, I say to you, arise. If anyone, especially a pastor, would say such a thing to a body lying in an open or closed coffin, word would travel fast that the person doing so was perhaps not in his right mind. It is not possible to bring back to life someone from the dead. This statement is true for everyone except Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Jesus brings God’s glory in the face of death. This is not easy to see even for Christians. The raising of the widow’s son at Nain also foreshadows your resurrection from the dead on Judgment Day.

You are conditioned to see in death only misery and despair. These feelings are magnified when someone dies at a young age. No one is so strong that death sets him in the dust. No one is so seemingly indispensible that death breaks the gap that no one can fill. Even Christians are not exempt from such a sad event. Many of you know someone who has died in the summer of their life. Where the world sees death as a cause of wailing and complaint, or perhaps false consolation, grieving Christians see in death the glory of God.

Seeing the glory of God in death is almost impossible to understand. As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to mourn. Psalm 30, however, says, You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Only Jesus turns mourning into dancing. When Jesus says do not weep, He ascribes comfort for your afflicted heart. The Word of Life brings to mind the Truth of God’s Word concerning a Christian death. Death is not death for a Christian. Death is falling asleep in Jesus. The body of a believing Christian is sown in hope that all suffering in this time is not worth the glory that shall be revealed in us when this corruptible shall put on incorruptible. These familiar words from Saint Paul are spoken at a Christian burial to remind those who place their trust in Christ alone as the Victor over sin and death that the grave is a passageway to greater things yet to come.

No wonder those who know not the Lord Jesus marvel at Christian funerals. Christians usually leave a funeral in tears, but they are tears of joy. The world says about death, “Dead is dead. Lights out.” The Christian says about death, God has visited His people. Consider another widow’s son, the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings Chapter 17. Elijah provides mother and son with the promise of food in a drought. Then comes sickness to death for her son. It’s only natural that the woman blames Elijah for bringing death into the home. Elijah takes the son into the upper room where he was staying, lays him out on the bed, stretched himself three times over the boy’s body and cries out, O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him. Elijah’s prayer was answered. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.

If Elijah, second only to John the Baptist as the greatest prophet before Christ’s coming according to the flesh, raises a child from the dead by calling on the Lord’s help, what more can Jesus Christ do for you than raise up your body and the bodies of those who are His by faith?

Jesus has compassion on the widow of Nain when He tells her, Do not weep. His words to the widow are the same words to you when you mourn the loss of a loved one. The same compassion that touched Christ’s heart as He saw the grieving widow has driven Him to ultimate humiliation, death upon a cross for you. Jesus’ death overcomes death, blots out sin, which is the sting of death, and purchases life and salvation for children of wrath and death. He who visited His people sits at the right hand of God and will once again prove His power over death when He returns to judge the living and the dead. What glorious Truth! Christ’s return shall put an end to death forever!

Living in Christ day-by-day is a training ground for a blessed death. It may seem morbid to believe that books and hymns are written to prepare a Christian to die a blessed death. When you take a step back and consider what Christ has done to swallow up death forever, you should not be surprised at preparing yourself to die a Christian death. Composer Johann Sebastian Bach, a practicing Lutheran, wrote a hymn about death that the world would find quite bizarre. The piece is called “Come, Sweet Death, Come Blessed Rest!” The title does not lend itself to being a Top-40 smash. One listen to the text and you see why Christians consider death a mere repose. One listen to the text and you see why these words bring comfort to those who mourn.

1. Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! Come lead me to peace for I am weary of the world, oh come! I wait for you, come soon and lead me, close my eyes. Come, blessed rest! 2. Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! It is better in heaven, for there is all pleasure greater, therefore I am at all times prepared to say “Farewell,” I close my eyes. Come, blessed rest! 3. Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! Oh world, you torture chamber, oh! stay with your lamentations in this world of sorrow, it is heaven that I desire, death shall bring me there. Come, blessed rest! 4. Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! Oh, that I were but already there among the hosts of angels, out of this black world into the blue, starry firmament, up to heaven. Oh, blessed rest! 5. Come, sweet death, come blessed rest! I will now see Jesus and stand among the angels. It is henceforth completed, so, world, good night, my eyes are already closed. Come, blessed rest.


A wise preacher once said, “Theology is doxology. Theology must sing” (Blessed Martin Franzmann). What is hard to understand even for well-trained theologians is made easy to believe in hymns. Bach’s text may not be one of “the old familiar songs”, but it does confess something. Bach’s hymn confesses what Scripture says about death and resurrection. Bach’s hymn confesses Christ’s victory over sin and the grave. Bach, with those among our family and friends who have gone before us in the faith, will sing a new song of victory and eternal life on Judgment Day when Jesus says Arise! to those who have fallen asleep in Him. At the intersection of death and life, death must always give the right-of-way to life, because the Prince of Life Who died reigns immortal as Conqueror of the grave.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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