024.JPG

God Raises You from the Dead

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Commemoration of Cyprian of Carthage, Pastor and Martyr

September 16, 2018

Luke 7:11–17

Happy Easter! We’re about six months out from the actual day we celebrate Easter, but it’s always appropriate to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord. Since 325 adthe Christian Church has been celebrating as the actual festival of the resurrection of our Lord, are you ready for this?, the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. So the Sunday after the full moon on or after the first day of spring. Everything else in the Church Year revolves around that celebration each year of the day our Lord rose from the dead. 

As the apostle Paul says in First Corinthians, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Everything hinges upon this fact, that Jesus who was dead in a tomb came alive again.

It makes a lot of sense then that the first Christians, those gathering together after Jesus ascended into heaven, which was forty days after He rose, began worshiping on the first day of the week. They with all Jews, including Jesus, had held to the Third Commandment of remembering the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. God designated the last day of the week, the seventh day, Saturday, as the day of rest and the day worship. Why suddenly were the first Christians switching to the first day of the week, Sunday? It is the day our Lord rose from the dead. He, as the Scriptures teach, is the true Sabbath rest, and He is our spiritual rest only because He lives and is not still lying in His grave. 

So Happy Easter! The celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord is designated in the Church Calendar on a certain day, but each Sunday is first and foremost a celebration of our Lord conquering the grave by rising from it. The second half of the Church Year is long, six months long, and each Sunday in this season seems to be the same old thing, starting with the First Sunday after Trinity and going all the way to over twenty Sundays after Trinity. This season reflects the often ordinariness of our daily life as we live out being disciples of Christ in simple service to others, through work, helping, giving our time, using our abilities, giving offerings. All of this is possible because of what happened on the first day of the week after Jesus died on the cross. He rose from the grave, He lives, and therefore we live.

That sounds simple and sensible. But what does it actually mean? How does it actually work? Jesus has risen from the dead and that means you live, but how does it happen? God raises you from the dead. How you live is by virtue of Jesus living, having risen from the dead. How He actually gives you life is by raising youfrom the dead.

What happened to the boy in the Old Testament reading after he died? He was raised from the dead. What did Elijah the prophet do? He prayed to God. God is the one who raised the boy from death. The prophet was the agent through which it happened, God was the power by which it happened. If someone is raised from death it is God who is the one who does it. Elijah knew he couldn’t do it, he had no power over death. But he knew God could do it, He has power over death. So he prayed to God for this miracle.

In the Gospel reading a young man had died but this time the person who was there was greater than a prophet. Our Lord was there and He offered no prayer but simply spoke. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Elijah could not raise a child from the dead, only God could. In the Gospel reading we see that is the case. Jesus is God and raised the young man from death by His own power. He spoke to him and he sat up and began to speak.

A boy was raised to life by God, a young man was raised to life by God, and you are raised to life by God. Two thousand years after Jesus spoke to that man, He speaks to you. Two thousand years after He Himself rose from the dead, He raises you from the dead. This is what God does. God had told Adam that if he and Eve were to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they would die. When they did, they were indeed dead. They still breathed. They still made their way around the Garden of Eden. But they were cut off from the life they had been given by God. They were separated from His good and gracious will and grace.

They tried to hide themselves from Him, knowing that they were dead. But He raised them from the dead. He forgave them. He promised them salvation through His own Son. God lives forever and in His Son we have this eternal life. This point cannot be overstated, Adam and Eve fell into sin and were now dead. Inside they were full of corruption and hatred of God. When God raised them from this death, which is eternal death, He created in them a new heart, a new mind, a new will. In other words, He gave them new life. He raised them from the dead.

You were born in sin. Yes, your heart is pumping blood through your veins; your lungs are taking in the air for you to breathe. You live, but you are dead in your sins. Inside is what is dead as a corpse. You have no life in you, you are separated from God forever. Adam and Eve needed to be raised from the dead and you need the same thing. What Jesus did for that young man was give him more days on this planet. But what He is showing you in this resurrection from the dead is the power He has in raising you from the dead. You are a corpse in your sin. You can no more live eternally with God than could you raise yourself from your grave if you died and were buried.

But as Jesus spoke to that dead man and raised him to life, He speaks to you and raises you to life. How could that young man who was dead hear the words of Jesus and respond to Him? It is by the power of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Elijah had no such power. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, has the power. He exercises His power in Baptism. This how He raises you from the dead.

You were born in sin and so are dead in sin, but are raised to new life in Baptism. When Adam and Eve sinned they still breathed. What couldn’t be seen was the death inside them. When a person is Baptized they look exactly the same as before. You can’t tell a difference between their being dead in sin and the new life they now have. This is why the apostle Paul speaks as he does in the Epistle reading, that you are strengthened in your inner being. This new life given you, you being raised from the dead, cannot be seen. It is in your inner being, it is new life and it is eternal life. 

What is in your heart was dead but now is alive. Where you sought to take advantage of others, you seek their welfare. Where you coveted your neighbor’s house or wife, you now give thanks that God has blessed him and you seek to help him to improve the things that are his. Where you thought about all the other ways you could make valuable use of this time on Sunday morning, you now rejoice to enter the House of the Lord to celebrate His resurrection as well as your own. Where you spoke in disgust of your leaders in government you now give thanks to God for them and ask Him to bless and guide them to govern according to His will.

No, your life doesn’t always look like this. You still fall into those old sins. You still rebel against God’s good and gracious will, thinking you know better. As long as you live and breathe on this earth as Adam and Eve did, you are still in your sinful flesh, still dead in your sins. But as long as you live and breathe your Lord, the one who died for you and who was raised from His death, raises you from the death of your sinful flesh. As you were Baptized into new life you live in that new life. As you were brought into His death and resurrection in your Baptism, He brings His body and blood into you, into your mouth and your inner being with all of His forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.

SDG