Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

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In every Gospel text you can always find Jesus. He is the central content of all the Scriptures, even when His name is not directly mentioned. It’s no surprise to encounter Jesus in the Gospel text, but it might be a surprise to learn that today, you too, are part of the story.
Jesus is on His way to a small little town called Nain. His disciples and a great crowd are with Him (Lk 7:11). No, you’re not in the story yet, but you’re about to be: As Jesus 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” (Lk 7:12). There you are, and this is the account of your salvation. No, you weren’t part of the crowd following Jesus, or one of the mourners at the funeral procession. You weren’t the mother, or even one of the pall bearers. Who does that leave? The guy in the coffin. That’s you. I told you you were in this story—the dead guy getting carried out to the grave.
This is true of every one of us. Jesus is headed in one direction down the path of eternal life and every blessing. A host of joyful saints is with Him. And where were we? From the moment of conception, we were headed in the opposite direction. As sinners who must die, every moment of our lives was part of a slow, relentless march to the grave. No human effort could change this. There was no rescue or help against this for any creature. We brought this death with us, carrying and dragging it along from our mother’s womb. The best that our family or friends could do is to walk alongside mourning, or perhaps, help carry the coffin. And soon enough, each one of them would find a place in that coffin. Death reigned over us all and there was none who could oppose him, save one.
This is where the story of your salvation took an undeserved turn. That poor, miserable procession of death unexpectedly collided with the glorious, joyous procession of the Lord Jesus. He is the only one who does not come out of the city with the dead. He is not like the others who return home from the grave, only to wait until they themselves are carried out. While all of humanity is being carried along in the tide of death, Jesus alone steps into the current and takes His stand against it.
With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.
First Jesus comforts the poor widow who has nothing but death in her heart and tells her to stop weeping. Imagine going to funeral and saying that to a grieving mother. Every one goes through the line, “I’m sorry for your loss.” “I’m sorry for your loss.” And Jesus comes through, “Stop crying!” No one but Jesus would dare! And now we get to the good part: the moment of your salvation. Jesus steps up to the coffin, lays hold of it and says, “Young man, I say to you arise” (Lk 7:14).
Tell me, what part did you play in this? Did you send Jesus an invite to your funeral? Did you make a choice to be resurrected? Was there perhaps still a spark of life and faith within your heart? Did you wiggle your little finger? No. You did none of these things. You didn’t choose Jesus; you didn’t invite him; you didn’t muster your energy and reach out to Him as He walked by. You were dead in sins and trespasses. You did nothing; chose nothing; believed nothing. Your lifeless body was being carried to its grave, with no expectation for the future but hell and eternal punishment. But then Jesus showed up, without warning, without invitation, without permission, and does what only He can do: He ruined another funeral.
That’s what Jesus does. He ruined His own funeral. Imagine the celebration in hell that got cut abruptly short on Easter morning. And now Jesus goes around ruining other people’s funerals. The devil’s pallbearers were rejoicing as they carried off another victim of sin and death, but suddenly Jesus stood in the way, and they were forced to stop in their tracks.
“Young man, I say to you, arise.” You and I can say all sorts of things that don’t come to pass. But when Jesus speaks, even death must give up its prey. The Lord of Life stopped your funeral procession and said, “I say to you, arise!” And you did. That’s the story of your salvation. That’s exactly how it happened. What did you do? Nothing. You were just there for the ride, so to speak. One moment you were dead in sins and trespasses, headed to the grave, and the next moment, you were made alive in Christ Jesus.
This story literally happened. The widow’s son was raised. Jesus said, “Arise!” and the young man did. It literally happened for you too, though the words Jesus said to you were these: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And at these words, the dead man sat up. In a single moment God interrupted the somber procession of death that no power on earth could have stopped, and gave you new life. And then what happens? You follow Jesus, of course. What else could you do?
He interrupted your death and unexpectedly put you on the road to eternal life. There is nothing else to be done but to follow Him. I wonder what they did with the casket? Perhaps it lay abandoned on the side of the road. Though, truth be told, that young man would have grown old and needed it again. You see, what Jesus gave you is greater than what the young man received that day. His body was raised for a few more years, and then he died again, and they carried him out once more. But Jesus has given you eternal life.
Yes, they will carry you out one day—unless Christ returns first. But Jesus promises, “He who believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live. For I myself will raise him up on the last day.” Believing these words, we joyfully follow Jesus, knowing that he leads us, not to the grave—even though it is before us—but through the grave into paradise. We know that those words that were spoken to that young man 2,000 years ago, the same words that were spoken to you at your baptism, will once again sound in your ears. On the Last Day, Jesus will touch your grave once again, saying, “Young man, I say to you arise.” And then you and every believer in Christ will join that joyful throng as we follow Jesus through the gates of the heavenly city. Amen.
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