Trinity 16 September 24, 2023 Luke 7:11-17 Death and Crying V.13 And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Dear friends in Christ, sadly tragic deaths abound. Here are some news headlines from just this past week: “Soap star Billy Miller dead at 43,” “A Young Indian student dead,” “Investigation into 13 year old bully victim’s tragic death,” “Man crushed to death by thousands of cheese wheels (UK),” “14 year old girl dies at private sports camp,” and the list could go on and on and on. Behind each of these stories is a person who died what we would call an “untimely” death, therefore making it very tragic. Each death leaves behind many people, both family and friends, broken at their sudden loss–given to deep grief and sorrow. They remind us, quite emphatically, of the Scriptural truth (1 Cor. 15:26), that “The Last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is indeed an enemy. Such is the case in our Gospel text today as Jesus comes upon a very sad situation just outside the tiny village of Nain. A young man, the only son of his mother who was a widow, has died. He is being carried in a great funeral procession to the burial grounds. She is weeping–wailing in great lament and sorrow–such is her terrible grief at the death of her only son. The crowd weeps with her at this tragic circumstance. 2 Indeed, death is usually accompanied by tears. For death brings separation–death brings heartache–death brings sorrow and loneliness and a host of other evils into our lives. Death and crying appear to go hand in hand. Though we sometimes talk about and treat death as a “friend”--one that ends suffering and pain–yet this is a subtle lie of the devil. For the Scriptures declare that death is the aberration of God’s good creation that He intended for life with Him. After all, what did God say to Adam and Eve after He created them? Genesis 1:28 declares, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’…” It was SIN that would bring death and mar God’s wonderful work, as He warned Adam in Genesis 2:16, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” And when we stop to really think about it, we can see that death is actually the great enemy and no friend whatsoever. For, if we had the choice, would we not rather have our deceased friends and family members back with us, hearty and whole, free of pain and suffering, alive and well, rather than dead and gone and separated from us? Would we not rather have our grandparents, parents, friends, spouses, and children back with us? Of course we would! So, while death can end suffering in this broken world, yet it remains the great enemy. Else, why would we 3 cry, even when it is a supposedly “good” death by all metrics? One that has ended suffering? One that we would not even consider “tragic?” Yet, still we cry. For death hurts. Again, the widow at Nain serves as a great example of the pain caused by death. Her son’s death was certainly a tragedy. Without her husband who had previously died, she is now bereft of her only means of support in the ancient world–her only son. Not only that–he was her child–her baby!--and as callous as we sometimes are toward death–most people agree that no parent should have to outlive their children–that this is a particularly painful evil to endure. Yet, where Jesus walks life abounds! Upon taking in this incredibly painful and difficult situation, our Lord acts. His compassion is stirred–His insides are roiling at the injustice of death–the pain it causes–the heartbreak it produces in His people whom He created for life and joy! He approaches the widow who is weeping and wailing in deepest grief and despair and He simply says, “Do not weep.” While she no doubt blinks in surprise at this seemingly absurd statement (for who more than her would have a right to weep at such a time?!), Jesus calmly walks over to the litter bearing her dead son and then speaks, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the young man got up and began to speak, proving he was alive again, and Jesus gave him to his mother incredible! Unbelievable! Miraculous! Indeed. Yet this is precisely what Jesus has come to do, beloved. He has come to bring an end to death. Not just for the widow’s son, but for us all. His deep compassion toward us moved Him to take on our flesh and to suffer death for us, so that by rising again He could destroy death by destroying its power–sin. As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” As sinners who have broken God’s Law, death is the natural consequence, as God first warned Adam. For “the wages of sin is death.” Yet here in Luke’s Gospel, we see the inbreaking of Jesus’ power over sin, death, and the grave. For now, as Christ has risen from the dead, so too shall this ancient saying come true (1 Cor. 54b-55), “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Indeed, with a word the living God made flesh speaks and undoes death–breaks its hold–as easily as one would wake a sleeping child! This is why Christians now cry differently when death occurs. We don’t weep and wail as those with no hope. As St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:13), “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep [dead], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Do we Christians grieve–yes! Do we mourn–of course! Do we cry–undoubtedly! But NOT as those 5 who have no hope. For our God has died and risen again and He promises life to all who believe in Him. You may recall those beautiful words that Jesus spoke to Martha just before He raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (John 11:25-26), “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” These words are so special and profound that they are now ensconced in our funeral liturgy. For these words remind us that those who die believing in Jesus still live–and will live forever and fully on the Last Day when Christ returns to raise the dead unto eternal life with Him. You have this promise sealed unto you in your Baptism, dear friends. For Paul writes in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with Him [Jesus] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” These words also form a part of our funeral liturgy. And well that they do! For they remind us that in Baptism we put on Christ and His righteousness. We have been washed clean of all sin–for in Baptism Jesus’ death for sin on the cross has become ours–and so has His resurrection from the dead! God be praised! All who believe and are baptized shall be saved! 6 This is true for you and me and all who believe. Jesus’ resurrection means our final end will not be one composed of suffering and death, but rather joy and life. For as St. John declares in his final revelation (Rev. 21:4), God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This is His sure and certain promise to you and me and all people. Our Lord God is the Lord of life! Death has no dominion over Him nor upon any whom He has claimed as His own dear children and heirs. Your Baptism confirms you belong to Him. So, you need not fear death as your great enemy. It has been soundly defeated by your Lord Jesus for you. For your “God has visited His people!” He has visited you in mercy via His Word and Sacrament to give you His peace, joy, and life through the forgiveness of all of your sins that He earned with His own suffering and death on the cross. Death and crying may go hand in hand for now, but there will come a day–the Last Day when our Lord Jesus returns–when death will be forever undone and all weeping will cease, to be forever replaced with joy and laughter. You have His Word on it. And His Word to you is, “I say to you, arise.” Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.