“He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose!” Trinity 24, 2023

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19. November 2023
Trinity 24
Matthew 9:18-26

 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went out into all that land.

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today, Jesus gives you two lovely examples of His authority over life and death. He is the Word that made all things. He is the Word that sustains all things. He is the Word that gives daily bread and delivers from evil, even death. So, the woman who had exhausted all worldly remedies is driven to Jesus for escape from sure death. Jairus, the ruler, is driven to Jesus for resurrection and life for his daughter. Only the one who gives and sustains life, Jesus, can deliver from sickness and death.

But as you notice, both the woman and the ruler are desperate. They have no hope. They throw caution, propriety, and reputation to the wind and throw up their Hail Mary, or rather, “ Lord, have mercy!” It’s only when there is no other hope that they seek hope beyond hope in Jesus. Such is the way of Christ, dying and rising. Without being put to death, either physically or of the ego, we live selfish, hopeless lives. We live as if we matter most. Without the daily crucifying and dying by the Law and the drowning of the old Adam in Baptism, how would we ever even know our need for life and resurrection by the Gospel? But such has been the way of the Word since Adam’s first rebellion. When we turn away from Jesus, He drives us further away until we cannot help but cry out, “Lord, save me! Restore me! Resurrect me!”

It is those who mistakenly think they can live apart from Jesus, His Word, and the life the Word gives who also think they have no need for healing, deliverance, and resurrection. The Sadducees were a sect of Jews who did not believe in life after death. Once, they tried to embarrass Jesus by asking him a double-pronged question about who in heaven would be the husband of a woman who had had several spouses in this world. Their question showed, said Jesus, that they understood neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. They failed to see that the only story in the Bible is death and resurrection. Jesus puts us to death with our pride, sins, and evil lusts, and Jesus raises us up to life again in His holiness, righteousness, and innocence, all by the power of His blood-bought forgiveness of sins. 

After the resurrection, we will live in a new age and a new manner of life, “like the angels” (1 Cor 15:44ff). This does not mean a change to humanity, sprouting wings, or any popular nonsense. No, we will be raised in our bodies but to live eternally. We will also be the same individuals in that life, with a being and a body. Paul calls it a “spiritual” body in distinction to our present bodies, again not some non-bodily existence but the body as it was always supposed to be. At present, we have a “physical” body, which means that it is animated by the life that God in creation bound together with the brain, the nerves, and the living substance of our limbs. But as this body was conceived in sin, this body is destined to die. But in the resurrection, God will restore us in the body, like the body of Jesus after His resurrection. Life in that new body is akin to the very life of Christ. He is “a life-giving spirit” who “gives life to whom He will” (John 5:21)

And eternal life is something that begins already in this world. It is hidden in all those who believe in Christ. Christ dwells within them with his life-giving spirit. As early as in our baptism, we have put on Christ and grown together with him so that we might also share a resurrection like that with him. Therefore, Christ, on the one hand, can say that he who believes shall obtain eternal life. On the other hand, he can say, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). And, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

When the Scriptures speak of eternal life, it is called a life hidden with Christ in God. It can be likened to a great treasure hidden in an earthen vessel. Our attention is focused on eternal life in all its fullness and glory. But in the meantime, it is a life that Christ gives us even now through his Word and Spirit. We live each day drowned and raised, crucified and resurrected in Christ Jesus, living without fear of judgment with the sure confidence of the resurrection. We long for the life to come while living the life of faith and love here. Life now and life eternal are given by Jesus in His Word.

Thus, these two forms of eternal life are bound together: you must possess the hidden life of faith to finally become a partaker in the full revelation of the glory of the resurrection. As we approach the end of the church year, we learn that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. To appear there without a portion in the life of Christ, Jesus says, is to be raised unto judgment and not unto life. Therefore, it is true here and in eternity: “He who has the Son has life.” 

Like the woman with the flow of blood or the ruler Jairus, Jesus will move all things in heaven and earth that you are driven to Him daily for life and life eternal. He drives you away from false words that give death to His Word, which gives life. He drives you away from your own self-conceived notions of value and identity to find your worth and name in your Baptism. He drives you away from trust in your work and wealth, to His work of salvation given in His body and by His shed blood. As Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69). Live in Him now; that is, live in faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection, which is your death and resurrection to eternity.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin