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Trinity 24 – Matthew 9:18-26

by pastorjuhl ~ November 17th, 2012

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

            Media vita in morte sumus. Mitten wir im Leben sind. No matter what language you say it, the first words of today’s Chief Hymn say it all: In the very midst of life snares of death surround us. We are, as it were, walking corpses. Luther preferred the term “maggot sack” to describe his earthly body. Every day was another step closer to the grave, where the maggots would eat his flesh. Every step closer to the grave is also a step closer to resurrection from the grave. For a Christian, the grave is little more than a bed. You close your eyes in temporal death, and the next thing you know, you live. You are a new creation, made whole in Jesus Christ, the first-born from the dead. Jesus is our Hope from sickness and death.

Two women, one alive and the other dead, are in need of hope from Jesus. The woman alive in Matthew chapter nine suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years. It’s not hard to imagine something like this condition, for perhaps you have a medical condition that lingers with little help from medication and doctors. Twelve years is enough time to be hopeless about a cure.

For this woman, twelve years of frustration end with one sentence. If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. How did she know that merely touching Jesus’ tunic would cure her illness? Behold the wonder of faith that clings to the Word spoken to her. Somehow, somewhere, she heard Jesus and believed He could heal her ailment. Unlike the ruler, who knelt before Jesus and asked him to lay His hands on his daughter to raise her from the dead, this woman sneaks up on Christ from behind, so to speak.

It may seem tricky to sneak up on Jesus and touch His garment for healing. A better way would be to face Him head-on and ask for help. That’s polite, but her way shows that no matter how you approach our Lord, He is able to help. Maybe He even prefers a back-door request without words. Jesus knows exactly what she wants. She need not ask. He turns to her after she touches His garment and says take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. Faith led her to touch His garment. Faith in Christ as the Divine Healer of every disease, both in body and in soul, is our hope for healing.

It is easy to see this incident as being impolite or even underhanded. Nevertheless, it is more underhanded never to approach Christ with our petitions, whether it is for healing or for any other need. Much is made of many words spoken to God as if the right combination of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions, will impress Him so much that He has no choice to answer in the positive. It’s not wrong to pray long prayers, but it is also not wrong to sneak up on God and touch His garment. He loves to work in left-handed ways. After all, His only-begotten Son became Man in order to be the perfect offering for sin. Now THAT’S left-handed, sneaky crazy stuff!

Jesus is also our hope from death. Don’t forget that our Lord was on His way to resurrect the ruler’s daughter when the woman with the discharge of blood did her thing. The first words out of Christ’s mouth when He arrives at the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion was Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping. Here He goes again with that left-handed way doing things. Who would tell mourners at a funeral to leave because the girl whom they mourn is not dead? Only Jesus could say such a thing and mean it. The mourners laughed at Him. Jesus gets the last laugh.

He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. Here we see a picture of Judgment Day, when Jesus will speak to His beloved children who have fallen asleep in the sleep of death and speak them awake. This incident and all other instances of resurrection in Holy Scripture make fools laugh. There is no way that something as dead as a ruler’s daughter, or as dead as Lazarus, can stand up and live. But they do live, one with the grasp of a hand and the other with a word spoken toward the tomb.

Saint Paul says in today’s Epistle, [Give] thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Both women in today’s Holy Gospel reading are qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. One woman heard the Word from the Father and believed He could heal her by a mere touch of His clothing. The other had a father who believed Jesus could lay His Hand on her and she will live. Jesus did more than lay His Hand on her. He took her by the hand and raised her to life. He delivered her from the domain of darkness and transferred her back to life. She will die again, and so will her father. Both will live again in the resurrection. Both are partakers of the inheritance promised for them from the foundation of the world. This is their hope because of Jesus Christ.

This is your hope as well because of Jesus Christ. There is no guarantee that He will walk into your bedroom, take you by the hand, and heal you or your loved one from death. He is not present in the way that He was then in order for you to touch His garment and live. Nevertheless, there is hope in death and illness for you because of Jesus Christ. He will wake you up from the sleep of death on Judgment Day and change this lowly body, this maggot sack in which we reside where in the midst of life we are surrounded by death. He will wake you up and change your body into a body like His. You will wake up as if you wake up from a lazy Sunday afternoon nap. You are refreshed, alert, and renewed.

This hope is yours now, but not yet. The consummation of all things remains in the future. In the meantime, we have a foretaste of the feast to come in the Divine Service. Eating and drinking His true Body and true Blood prepares us for the never-ending Supper in Paradise, where the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world is face-to-face with His children, His redeemed.

The reality of death for a baptized Christian is that the grave is a bed and our rest there is a nap. The reality of illness for a baptized Christian is that full healing comes in Jesus Christ, Who will make our lowly bodies into glorious bodies. The prayer of today’s Chief Hymn is answered with an emphatic “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ. He will not leave us to the bitter pains of death. He comforts us in every need with the sure and certain hope of full healing and resurrection. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

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