- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: April 28 2020 April 28 2020
Friends in Christ,
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The Word of the Lord from Luke 7:11–17.
Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
Today's devotion comes from a sermon by Dr. Luther on Luke 7; the raising of the widow's son at Nain. It is classic Luther! Luther lived through a time where the threat of disease and death were ever-present. Life was cruel and short as various plagues ravaged Europe. The Luther household was not immune or untouched by the sting of death as Martin and Katy suffered the tragic loss of two of their six children; Elizabeth (1527) and Magdalena (1542). In the face of the general anxiety over death, Luther boldly proclaimed the victory over death the Christian has in Christ Jesus.
Luther writes; 1
[This is] a story we ought to remember, so that by it we might learn to exercise, strengthen, and confirm our faith. For the Lord... wants to teach all of us how powerless and insignificant death is. He pictures death that way so that we are not frightened by it but live confidently and patiently from day to day, untroubled by death, since in him we have a Lord who can readily deliver from death...
See how quickly and readily this women is helped, considering she had given up all hope of help. Her son has died and is even now being carried to the grave... With all hope gone, and everyone disheartened by the death of the son, our dear Lord comes, without healing medicines and speaks merely a word, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!" At once the dead man arises and is alive. By this Christ powerfully proves that in his sight there is no barrier between death and life; they are neither more nor less, one is like the other to him. So, to him it is all the same, whether we live or die. Though we die, with him we are not dead. The fact is that as far as he is concerned, death is merely a word; thus death is gone, and life has returned...
We should learn from today's Gospel lesson, namely the great power God will exert upon us through Christ on Judgment Day, when with one word he will call forth from the dead all people and bless the believers eternally. He will say Martin Luther, Arise! and it will be so, and immediately I shall stand there. Therefore, we must not doubt that Christ possesses both the power to do it, as he demonstrates here, and the will, earnestly desiring to do it. For here we have a prototype: The widow's son is dead, with all senses and hearing stopped; but as soon as Christ speaks to him, he hears. This is certainly an unusual, astonishing story. The one who does not hear, hears; the one who does not live, lives. And yet Christ does nothing more than open his mouth and tell him to arise. That one word is so powerful that death must yield, and life again returns...
Thus before our Lord God, death is not death but a sleep. For us, when we die it is and is termed death, but before God it is but a sleep and a very light sleep at that. Of this our dear Lord wants to convince us, so that we do not become frightened if pestilence, or death itself, approach, but learn to say, Death what is the worst you can do to us? You have frightening teeth, you bare them and you terrify me, and I do not die gladly. But I don't want to consider only what you can do, and how, as you, like the executioner, draw the sword; but I want to ponder and perceive how our Lord God will intervene, even though you strangle me. He does not fear you, nor is he awed by your raging and ravaging, but says, "Death, I shall be the death of you; grave, I shall be your destruction. "If you can kill my Christians, I can in turn throttle you and recall them to life.
This is the comfort which the Lord holds before us in today's Gospel as he defiantly confronts death, Death, you are terrifying my Christians to keep them from dying cheerfully, but beware, I shall terrify you in turn. You strangle them, but when you have done so, I shall in return destroy you... Death, boast all you want; those whom you have put to death are not dead to me; instead, they sleep, and they sleep so lightly that I am able to awaken them with my little finger...
Let us learn and mark this well so that we do not fear death or Judgment Day. For Christ is coming not to judge and damn us; he coming just as he comes here to the distressed widow and to her son, to console her and deliver her son from death, and to cause the son to sit up in his coffin, again to see, hear and speak... In the same way he wants to set things right for all, that we, awakened from death, can once again hear, see, speak and the like.
Death, as we meditated on last time, is cruel, heartless, cold and ugly - the last and ultimate enemy. But as Luther puts it so wonderfully, there is no barrier between death and life for our risen Lord Jesus. For Him death is "merely a word" that His voice and little finger alone will conquer. In this life death will eventually take all of us, but in Christ death cannot and will not hold us! On the Last Day Christ will simply speak the word and those who now rest and sleep in Him will rise - fully alive, fully human - to live in the splendor of the eternal God forever.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Almighty God, You gave Your Son over in death as the payment for the world's sin and by His resurrection from the dead He has swallowed up death forever. You are our light and our salvation, whom shall we fear? You hold the power and the victory over sin and death and we need not fear or be afraid of anything. Grant that Your people live confidently in the face all threats knowing that nothing in this life can separate them from You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit ever one God, world without end. Amen.
The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you. Amen
Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Martin Luther, “Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity” (1533) in Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, V.7, 31–34.
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.