In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
And along comes a man of God. In one case a prophet in another the very Son of God—the only begotten son of the Father, and according to flesh, the only son of His mother. He someone we know is destined to die. So the parallels between Our Lord and these dead sons hit us clearly. And in His compassion what does this One, who is living but is destined to die, do for the one who is living but her life is over?
He gives her new life by restoring her son, her only son, her hope, her pride, her joy. What a blessing! A new lease on life is given to her. Hope for future. A way forward. This is salvation! This is life from grave! This is redemption. A life bought back from what would hold it in bondage.
New life for these mothers. New life for their sons. And did notice how many times Elijah stretched himself upon the boy? Three times. The number of the Trinity, the number always connected in Scripture with our God’s saving actions. For in truth it not just some generic sense of God which saves you, but faith in the God who eternally exists in three persons: the Father who created and sustains you, the Son who has gone to cross to redeem you from your sin, and the Holy Spirit who delivers your salvation to you in the means of grace.
And what is the response of those who witness these resurrection miracles? Certainly fear. For when in the presence of power that can only flow from God Himself, it causes you to ponder your worthiness to be in His presence. It causes you to ponder your sin and to realize you can not stand in the presence of the Holy and mighty God except by grace.
But the widow Elijah was staying with also responded in faith, saying, “Now I know that God is with you, and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth!” You see, miracles serve to point us to what God says. Their purpose is to confirm the truthfulness of God’s saving Word, the reality of His graciousness toward us on account of His Son.
And if you witness anything miraculous that is truly of the Lord it will not merely make you go, “WOW!” It will cause great fear in you. It will cause at first confusion and bewilderment because of the sudden knowledge of Our Lord’s awesome holiness and power. In essence it will cause you to repent! And it will point you to the Gospel. For if such miraculous events do not, they may not in fact be from our Lord. Either they may not be that miraculous or supernatural, or they may be from another source. For the miracles of Our Lord from His mercy are blessings given not merely to relieve of pain or restore health, but to strengthen your faith and witness to Our Lord and His gracious salvation.
So the people who saw Our Lord’s miracle were afraid, but they also confessed two things. First they said, “A great prophet has arisen,” which is to say, “The Word of the Lord in your mouth is true!” They recognized the source of the power, but for those good Jews who knew the Old Testament Scriptures, whom were they also comparing Our Lord too?! To Elijah, the greatest of prophets, certainly in mighty acts and miracles. And the parallels here between Elijah and our Lord are too striking, too obvious. He is like Elijah a prophet great in word and deed!
But more than that they also recognized that in Him, through Him, God was visiting His people. He was coming down to help them, bringing life and immortality to light. For He is our champion against Satan, that great scoundrel who has stolen our life, joy and eternity, leaving humanity glum, miserable, joyless, and perpetually afraid of what may happen tomorrow. You see it everywhere you look. We are careful, fearful people. Hoarding our money for that rainy day that may never come; hoarding our love hoping it will keep us from ever feeling pain, but robbing us of our children, spouses and friends; hoarding our time merely so that we might have enough time to sit in front of the boob-tube doing what? Shutting our brains off so that we don’t have to think about our duties, our fears, our failures. But Christ our Lord has come to visit His people and bestow His gifts of life, salvation, forgiveness, His immeasurable love and esteem. We need not be afraid of His rejection for in His Son it is all yes! In our Baptisms we are His, not to be stolen from Him by Satan’s wiles and temptations, nor even the shameful times we have given in again and again to those repetitive sins that shame you and make you want to give up, but Our Lord strengthens you both to resist, but also to come to Him again for forgiveness every time you fall.
These are the gifts He bestows on us when He visits us with His grace in the Divine Service. Here there are crowds gathered to witness His miracles. Just as there were crowds both in that town, and also following this miracle worker and preacher. And the news of what Our Lord did spread, just as it will spread from this place that you came this morning dead in sin and the fear of death, and left awakened, arisen, forgiven.
This news must spread for this world is full of death and the fear of death. The fear of God’s ultimate rejection of us grips this world. We try avoid it, we don’t want to hear God’s Law, many don’t even want to hear the Gospel because it implies a problem with us. We are deathly afraid of death. It is a topic no one knows how to deal with anymore.
So we distract ourselves with television, computers, toys, camps, chemicals that cause us to forget, thrill seeking experiences in an attempt to remember what it is to be alive. And how depressed are the people in your life? I’m not talking clinical, medical depression which afflict so many of us, that drugs are needed for, I’m talking this fear that pervades our culture, this meaninglessness that accompanies the rejection and neglect of vocations in which you serve your neighbour and the rejection of your God who created you.
Our world is sick. We all know it. But instead of going to the great physician for the medicine of immortality we look for placebos, pills we can pop, simple pleasures, amusements that might fix it without having to dig down and face facts: that we are sinful, we are broken. The real problem is in me, not out there. To be sure, you have been hurt, shamed, sullied by sin of others done to you. But sin is in you too. Only a spiritual cure can cleanse you spiritually and give you peace physically.
That solution is Jesus Christ and His cross. His body and blood given you by the Holy Spirit through the hands of the pastor. This medicine brings the death of Jesus which devours sin and sucks up shame, eats it all up like a black hole, leaving nothing but the light of His grace, cleansing you of all that sullies you, all that taints you. Blotting it out with the cleansing agent of the blood of the God-man.
This world with its attacks, physical and spiritual upon you, that seek to rob you, cause you to lose heart and live as though you are dead long before you die, can not overcome you. For when you were baptized Christ Jesus took up residence. He strengthens you from His eternal store of grace and mercy. He roots Himself within you so that He is made the sure foundation of your faith. He pours out His love upon you in Holy Absolution and places in your mouth Himself so that you might comprehend just how deep, high, wide, and utterly impossible His love is to around or away from. When you are in Him, all is right with the world for His love for you which took Him to the cross is eternal, without beginning without end.
This love has always been. You may remember the moment you first knew of it, but it has always been there whether you knew of it or not. And It prepares eternity for you. It will raise you up physically on the last day. These miraculous resurrections are merely portents of the things to come. You think He provides for those widows in their here and now through their resurrected sons? How much more will He provide for us today through His Son? How much more will our eternity be so completely overflowing, superabundantly filled unstoppably with that love which has caused His own Son to die for you so that you might be His?
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
---Pastor David Haberstock