02. October 2022
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
There’s only one story in the Bible—death, and resurrection. There are many kinds of “deaths” and, therefore, many “resurrections.” Jesus battles with the world, your sin, and the devil’s lies for you. By His Spirit, you die to will to power, the pursuit of wealth, passions of the flesh, and the lies and deceits of this life. Finally, the “big-D” Death comes for every one of flesh and blood. And the “big-R” Resurrection comes for everyone on the last day, with those who believe in Jesus resurrected unto eternal life and those who deny Him unto eternal damnation.
Throughout the Bible, we hear all sorts of little deaths and resurrections. Noah and his family enter the ark while the earth dies, and they emerge with the world reborn. Elijah hides in the cave because he believes the faith has died, yet God gives him to emerge alive and with thousands at his side. Jonah is swallowed by the sea, only to spit out life on the shore. Those are some of the obvious, and it’s even more fun to dig and find the less obvious. Over and over, God in Christ rescues his people from death and raises them to new life. Over and over and over!
One truth revealed in these stories is that you can’t choose to die any more than you can live. “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). To walk apart from the Lord and giver of Life is to walk in death. Therefore Christ Jesus has come to you and rescued you from your self-inflicted prison of death. Just as He did for patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, so Jesus does for you. Each day you die to sins and trespasses, and each day He raises you to new life and holiness—all as His gift.
The Apostle testifies that before faith is given, we walked as those dead, “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Eph 4:18-19). That description doesn’t sound like living. It sounds like a slow slough into the pit.
But Jesus will be your God, and you will be His people. So, Jesus does what we, who are deaf, dumb, and blind, could never do. He comes with His life and rescues us from the little death of sin. He saves you by His Word attached to water. Baptism joins you to Christ Jesus for new birth, forgiven and made alive by the Spirit. Christ Jesus has delivered you from death. By His death, He has paid for the end of sin. He has sent us His Word, which we are awakened from this death to life.
As the Apostle testifies, “In Him you were … buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:11-14).
You have heard the voice of God in Jesus’ Word. He has rescued you from sin by forgiving you in His shed blood. That little death of sin has been defeated and overcome. You now live in the holiness of the forgiveness of sins, declared to you in Holy Absolution, proclaimed to you in preaching, revealed to you in the study of the Scriptures, and fed into you by the body and blood under bread and wine. Over and over, that death is defeated, and life is restored.
As Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Jesus has broken down the wall of separation, the eternal death of damnation. Because you are forgiven freely and fully in Jesus, the eternal punishment of sins has also been taken away. There is no need for years, decades, centuries, or millennia of purging, for Jesus has suffered them already.
By the faith given to you through the Word by the Spirit attached to water, you have already overcome. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). All your attempts to defeat this world, get the better of your sin, and even avoid death are pointless. You already have them in Jesus by His promise and hope. He is always at work to keep you safe and secure, delivering His victory to you in Divine Service.
So even now, you see that death is yet coming, just over the horizon. It is the last enemy to be defeated, after all. Jesus does not deliver believers from this death by exempting them from having natural life torn from them. Even those whom He temporarily resurrected, like His friend Lazarus, Jairus’s daughter, or the widow’s son at Nain, all returned to the grave. The only rare exceptions are Enoch and Elijah.
But instead, Jesus strengthens you in the hour of death with His Holy Spirit and Word so that you can depart with joy and consolation. By His Word of promise, the Christian is given to rest in peace, confident of the resurrection on the last day. For Christ’s Word is the Word of Life. Whoever has it will live even amid death, as Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
With all our little deaths dead, crucified with Christ Jesus—sin absolved, the world overcome, the tempter’s voice silenced—we now live raised to new life in the little resurrection—free and forgiven, holy and righteous, hopeful and trusting by the Word of the Gospel. And finally, we know that Jesus has already overcome our death and graves, too. “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). With the big-D Death defeated, the big-R Resurrection is yours!
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