Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle


Today is the Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle.  St. Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter and was from the Galilean village of Bethsaida.  Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist.  After John called Jesus “the Lamb of God,” Andrew became a follower of Jesus and also brought his brother to Jesus (John 1:35-42).  Andrew and Peter were then called by Jesus to be disciples while they were engaged in their work of being fishermen (Matthew 4:18-20).  Andrew became one of the twelve apostles chosen by Christ (Matthew 10:1-4).  According to Church tradition, Andrew was martyred when he was crucified on a cross in the form of an X.  St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Western Church Year, since the First Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest to the Feast of St Andrew.

Scripture reading:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter) (John 1:35-42). 

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple.  Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


(Treasury of Daily Prayer, 969; Concordia Publishing House)

Monday, November 29, 2021

Mark's thoughts: Why did He do it?


Why did he do it? Why did God create us with the ability to sin and fall?  Why did he do this, knowing that this is exactly what Adam and Eve would do?  It is a question that seventh and eighth graders immediately raise when they learn about the Fall and what it is has done to us.  The all-knowing God knows what Adam and Eve will do.  Yet he creates them with the ability to do it.

God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27). In this way we are different from the rest of creation and stand over it as God’s representative (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). We were created to be like God in ways that nothing else was.  We were created to know God as he wants to be known. We were created to live perfectly according to his will – his ordering of creation.  God told Adam, “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” (Genesis 2:16). By obeying this one command, Adam worshipped God in the faith that is God is God, and he was not. But God had also given the Adam the freedom to disobey and reject God.


Why did he do it?  Part of the answer must be found in what it means to be created in the image of God.  God could have created us as robot-like creatures who could never do anything other what we were programmed to do. But apparently, that is not what God wanted in the relationship with man.  Instead, he wanted man to live in faith and love towards him, and that status included the ability to reject God.


Yet the more important answer is that while God knew what Adam and Eve would do, he also knew what he would do in response to their sin.  He knew that he would act in the incarnation of the Son of God.  John begins his Gospel by writing: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). We learn that the Word – the Son of God – was with God in the beginning and all things were made through him (John 1:2-3).  Yet then John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).


The Son of God became flesh.  In the incarnation he became man, without ceasing to be God. God showed that he loved man so much that he was willing to enter creation itself and become man in order to save him. That is what was revealed on Christmas Eve as the baby Jesus was in the manger. St. Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).  Not only did the Son of God become man, but he did this to order die on the cross as the sacrifice that removed our sin. He came as the second Adam to undo what the first Adam had done.  Paul told the Romans, “For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous” (5:19).


Adam’s sin brought death.  In the incarnation, Jesus Christ was the second Adam who suffered death in order to defeat it.  Jesus, true God and true man, died and was buried. But on Easter God raised Jesus from the dead with a body transformed so that it can never die again. Paul told the Corinthians:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (15:20-23)

Jesus clearly demonstrated that his was a bodily resurrection. He said to the disciples, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).  Jesus rose as the One who is true God and true man, and he ascended as the One who is still true God and true man.  Seated at the right hand of God, Jesus has taken renewed humanity into the presence of God.

 On the Last Day, Jesus will return in glory as he raises our bodies. He “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). In doing so, he will have renewed our lives to be like what Adam’s was meant to be.

 Yet, things can never be exactly like they were in the beginning, because the incarnate Son of God will always be the incarnate Son of God. The One who gives us his true body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar will always have a human nature.  In the incarnation of the Son, God has revealed in a new and deeper way how much he values us as his creatures. In a profoundly new way God has demonstrated the depths of his love for us by giving his Son to suffer and die for us in the flesh. Did God know what Adam and Eve would do? Yes. But he also knew what he would do in the incarnation to save us. And through this action he has revealed these truths in new and amazing ways.














Commemoration of Noah


Today we remember and give thanks for Noah.  Noah, the son of Lamech (Gen 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (8;20). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all.  Grant that we may be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, so that with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

(Treasury of Daily Prayer, 966; Concordia Publishing House)


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve - Deut 8:1-10


Thanksgiving Eve

                                                                            Deut 8:1-10




          The Old Testament lesson for Thanksgiving ends with a description of the good land that Israel is about to enter.  You will note that the first thing mentioned is that it is a land flowing with water.  There is a narrow fringe of land around that region of the Mediterranean Sea that can support agriculture, and so water is the key feature of a land that will prosper.

          Moses describes a land with abundant water, and it is only natural when he goes on to say that it is a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.  He says that it is a land in which the Israelites will eat bread without scarcity.

Based on this description, it is fitting that he ends our text by saying: “And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.”  The reason this text was chosen for Thanksgiving is immediately obvious. This is of course the time when we have a holiday that is focused on giving thanks.

          But while thanksgiving shows up at the end, the real theme of our text – and this section of Deuteronomy as a whole – is about remembering and forgetting. And because we have so much for which to give thanks, this is also a message that we need to hear.

          This portion of Deuteronomy contains the addresses that Moses gave to Israel as they were preparing to enter the promised land.  Because the nation had refused to enter the promised land after Yahweh brought them out of Egypt in the exodus, the Israelites had been condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  God had said that no one twenty year or older would enter into the land.  Instead, they would die in the wilderness.

          Now, that time of wandering had come to an end.  Only about a third of the people had been alive during the exodus.  Most of them had been born during the last forty years, and had no experience with what had happened.  So, Moses reviews Israel’s past experience and what Yahweh had done for them.  He does this with one purpose – he wants to prepare them to be faithful when they enter into the land of Canaan.

          This was a literally a matter of life or death.  Moses says at the beginning of our text: “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.”  Deuteronomy repeats again and again, that if Israel is faithful to Yahweh in the promised land, he will bless them and they will prosper. However, if they turn aside from his word and worship other gods, he will bring punishment upon them.  In fact, they will be taken away from the land.

          And so Moses calls upon Israel to remember.  He says, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”  The Israelites were to remember the past because the manner in which God had dealt with them illustrated how important it was to be faithful to Yahweh.

          Yahweh had provided for them.  But he had done so in a way that was intended to teach the people a lesson.  Moses says in our text: “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

          God was teaching them that he is the true source of life.  He had fed them with manna to teach them that man does not live by bread alone.  Yes, nourishment for the body was necessary. But what really mattered was recognizing God and his word as the ultimate source of life.  Only by listening to God could they live in relationship with him.  Only by listening to God could they remain his people who were blessed, and who prospered.

          The land they were entering was indeed a blessing. But the blessings of the land were also a temptation. In the verse just after our text, Moses goes on to say, “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 

and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

          The land and its blessings were a gift from God.  They were God confirming the covenant that he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God had chosen them. God had taken them into the covenant.  God had promised the land, and now he was about to fulfill that promise.  But the nation couldn’t allow the blessing to cause them to forget the Giver. Later in this chapter Moses adds: “And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.” 

          The way to avoid this is expressed in our text: “So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.” If the Israelites walked in Yahweh’s ways and feared him, then the blessings of God would indeed be a blessing.  They would not become circumstances in which they forgot about God, and turned to other false gods.

          On Thanksgiving we reflect upon the ways that God has richly blessed us.  The median household income in the world is just under $10,000. This means that fifty percent of world lives on less than that. A brief look at statistics quickly reveals that we are wealthier than billions of other people in the world. We know nothing about hunger or want. Instead, we are blessed with plenty, and our idea of hardship is that recently the selection available at the grocery store hasn’t always been what we are used to seeing. We enjoy luxuries that make our life easier and entertain us.

          These blessings become the source of sin in two ways.  On the one hand, we take them for granted, and don’t truly give thanks for them – except when prompted to remember by a massive meal of turkey, stuffing, and pie. On the other hand, more often, these blessings are too important to us. They become the focus of our attention. They are what matters most to us. They become the focus of our thoughts and conversation. They become the thing that gives us a sense of security and well-being.

          In our text Yahweh warns Israel about the danger of false gods. Thanksgiving confronts us with our false gods that exist in the area of wealth and material blessings.  It leads us to confess this sin, and to give thanks for the greatest blessing we have ever received – the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The apostle John said in his first letter, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

          By his grace, God has called us to faith in the crucified and risen Lord through his Spirit.  Because of Christ, we are forgiven in God’s eyes. We belong to him.  As John said, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

          Christ’s Spirit leads us to focus on the Giver rather than the gifts.  He leads us to see that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  When we do this, we can be truly thankful for the many blessings we receive from God. We take note of them rather than taking them for granted. We give thanks for them.

          Life lived on the basis of God’s greatest blessing – Jesus Christ – leads us to view those blessings differently. They become the means by which we can share God’s love with others.  They become the means by which we are a blessing to others.  John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

          In our text tonight, Moses urges Israel to remember God and what he has done.  Just as God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, so God has redeemed us from sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We remember that God is the source of life – that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.  When we remember these things, then we are truly thankful for the blessings in our life as blessings that come from God. When we receive the blessings in this way, then we also see them as the means by which God uses us to bless others.











Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Commemoration of Clement of Rome, Pastor


Today we remember and give thanks for Clement of Rome, Pastor.  Clement (ca. A.D. 35–100) is remembered for having established the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He also insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church’s worship and outreach. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world” (1 Clement 6:31). Prior to suffering a martyr’s death by drowning, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for God’s redeemed people, serving as an inspiration to future generations to continue to build the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, Your servant Clement of Rome called the Church in Corinth to repentance and faith to unite them in Christian love.  Grant that Your Church may be anchored in Your truth by the presence of the Holy Spirit and kept blameless in Your service until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year - 1Thess 5:1-11

                                                                                       Last Sunday

                                                                                1 Thess 5:1-11



          We have entered into that time of year when darkness arrives early. At 5:00 p.m. it is already basically nighttime. It is no longer possible to do anything outside after dinner because you can’t see what you are doing – much to the chagrin of my wife who has things that she still wants to plant in her flower beds.  In general, driving is more difficult at night, and this becomes even more of an issue as we age and our eyes don’t work as well.  The darkness makes everything feel later than it really is.  The early arrival of darkness puts a damper on everything.  It is not uncommon for this to make people feel a little down.  In fact, in some people it causes a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

          In our text this morning, St. Paul contrasts day and night; light and darkness.  These are metaphors he uses to describe the spiritual condition of people.  He does so in order to talk about the return of Jesus Christ.  There are those who are ready, and those who are not.  He knows the Thessalonians are ready, and so urges them to live like people who are.  The apostle’s words this morning remind us that we need to be ready – both in our expectation of the Lord’s return, and in the way we live because we are people who know the salvation Jesus Christ has won for us.

          Paul begins our text by writing, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  The apostle has no doubt that the Thessalonians know that the risen and ascended Lord Jesus will return on the Last Day. They know that it will be sudden and unexpected.

          The Thessalonians were so aware about the Lord’s return, that Paul has just had to address a question that troubled them: What would happen to the Christians who had died before Jesus’ return?  It may seem strange that this would arise, but as the Book of Acts tells us, Paul’s time in Thessalonica had been cut short by action from Jews who opposed the Gospel.  He had not had as much opportunity t instruct them as he would have liked, and so this aspect of Christian teaching had not been fully understood by all.  And remember, the Greco-Roman world had no belief in the resurrection of the body.  Instead, they viewed the body as something that the person’s spirit needed to escape. So it’s not surprising that some Thessalonians were having trouble understanding.

          At the end of the previous chapter Paul has said, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”  The apostle assured the Thessalonians that the resurrection of Jesus had meaning for the Christians who had died.  He wrote, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”  Then those still living would also meet the Lord, and so Paul said, “we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

          Now, in our text, Paul continues talking about the return of the Lord as he affirms what the Thessalonians do know.  He writes, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

          The apostle uses a metaphor that goes back to Jesus himself.  The sudden and unexpected character of the Lord’s return is compared to the thief who comes in the night.  No one expects the thief to show up during the night.  It is shocking and surprising – think about how we have felt on the occasions when our church has been broken into during the night. 

          The return of the Lord is something that will happen suddenly and irreversibly.  People will think all is well.  “Peace and security” was a phrase that was heard in the Greco-Roman world. It is no different in our own day as people are busy enjoying all the good things in life.  But just as labor pains show up unexpectedly, and when they do there is no stopping what is going to follow, so the return of Jesus will be unexpected – and Paul says that sudden destruction will come, and people will not escape.

          Now the first question our text raises for us is whether the return of Jesus Christ is in our thoughts.  It was for the Thessalonians. It was for Paul.  Do we regularly pray, “Come Lord Jesus!”?  We should, for the return of Christ will bring the final salvation that we desire.  The return of Christ will bring the consummation of his saving work, and anything less than this means that we are still in the “not yet.”

          Make no mistake, the return of Christ will be a day of wrath. But like the Thessalonians, as baptized Christians you are ready for that day.  Paul says in our text, “But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

          You are children of the light and of the day because God has called you by the Gospel.  The apostle told the Thessalonians at the beginning of this letter, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”  God has called you as well, and we see it in the way you have received the Gospel.  Paul says in this letter, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”  You too have received the word as the Word of God, and it is at work in you.

          The return of Christ will be a day of God’s wrath against all who sin.  However, because of Jesus Christ, it will not be a day of wrath for you.  Paul says in the first chapter that the Thessalonians had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Or as Paul says in our text, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”

          Jesus Christ died on the cross to rescue you from the wrath of God.  He did this by receiving God’s wrath against your sin through his suffering and death. Dead and buried in a tomb, God then raised him from the dead on the third day. Forty days later, the exalted Lord ascended into heaven.  Christ’s resurrection life has defeated death. And when he returns on the Last Day, he will give your body a share in this resurrection.

          The second question our text raises is whether we are living in a way that reflects this truth.  Paul says in our text “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

Those around you who do not believe in Jesus Christ are asleep. They are in the dark.  Spiritually, they are “sleep walking” through life. They are not awake to the truth.  They are not aware that the day of wrath is coming – that Jesus Christ will return in glory and judgment.

You however, know all of these things.  You are children of the light, children of the day.  The apostle says that we are to be sober – or “self-controlled” as it can also be translated.  In the previous chapter Paul has just discussed an important aspect of this when he said, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”  We live in the knowledge of what God has done for us in Christ. We live in the knowledge that Christ will return unexpectedly – like a thief in the night. This must guide how we live.  After all, do you want our Lord to return, and find you looking at “that” on your phone?

Instead, we need to “put on the breastplate of faith and love.”  Faith in Christ, and love for our neighbor produced by faith provide protection against the ways the devil seeks to attack us.  Faith in Christ is sustained by receiving the Means of Grace – by reading God’s Word at home and by coming to receive the Gospel gifts present in the Divine Service.  Where this faith is nourished, Christ’s Spirit will cause us to act in love as we follow Christ’s example. This is life that is sober and self-controlled – life that does not draw us back into the darkenss.

          Finally, Paul tells us to put on “for a helmet the hope of salvation.”  Our hope is the salvation that will be ours. But remember, Paul mentions this as he speaks about the return of Christ.  Hope is one of the most powerful forces that exists. Where people have hope they can work and endure in incredible ways. 

Our hope is based on the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  Because he has done these things, we know that he will return just as he has promised – just as his apostle declares this morning.  Just as hope of the coming Christmas break keeps a college student going at the end of the semester, so our hope of the return of Jesus Christ keeps us going with strength and perseverance.  It does because the risen Lord will return. We have the hope of salvation because as Paul says: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”










Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity - Mt 9:18-26

                                                                                      Trinity 24

                                                                                Mt 9:18-26



          Two for one.  Now that should get your attention.  When you are at the grocery store and see the little sign that indicates you can get two of an item for the price of one, it makes you think.  If it is something that you need or will use, you may grab a couple of them, because after all, who can pass up a two for one?

          Well this morning, our Gospel lesson offers a two for one – and you don’t even have to scan your shopper’s card.  We have in our Gospel lesson, not one, but two miracles that Jesus performed.  While the grocery store may do this all the time, it is very unusual in Matthew’s Gospel.  In both miracles we see that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who brings God’s reign that defeats illness and death.  And in both, we see how faith trusts in the Lord.

          Our text begins with the phrase, “While he was saying these things to them.”  Jesus has just been questioned by the disciples of John the Baptist about why, unlike them and the Pharisees, the disciples of Jesus don’t fast.  Jesus answered by saying they don’t fast right now because Jesus is with them.  Our Lord explains this further by saying that in him, something new has arrived.  He says, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

          Jesus declared that in his person, something new was present. He was the promised Messiah – the descendant of King David.  But he was more than just a man.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, he was the Son of God in this world.  As true God and true man, he had come to bring God’s kingdom – his reign – into this fallen world.  In our text, we see two examples of this.  Yet we will find that these miracles point us to a deeper truth about how our Lord has accomplished this for us all.

          We learn that a ruler came and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”  The man’s daughter had died. But he believed that Jesus could heal even this – that he could return her to life by touching her.  It’s important to recognize that what he was asking Jesus to do went against the Old Testament law.  To touch a dead body brought ritual uncleanness. But in Jesus, something new was present, and no doubt the man had heard of how Jesus touched people and healed them – even people like lepers who also brought uncleanness to all who came into contact with them.

          Jesus and his disciples followed the father to his daughter. But there was another person in the crowd who believed that merely touching Jesus could bring healing.  Like the dead girl, she too was unclean according to the Old Testament law.  We learn that a women who had been suffering from a discharge of blood for twelve years, had come to Jesus.  She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment for she thought, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

          The uterine bleeding made the woman unclean.  Perhaps for this reason she came up from behind Jesus and only touched his garment. But our Lord knew what she had done – and he knew her faith.  He turned and said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well,” and instantly the woman was healed. She had come to Jesus in faith, and that faith received the blessing of healing.

          The healing of the woman had paused the journey, but it had not changed the destination.  Matthew tells us that when Jesus came to the ruler’s house, he saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion.  This was a typical scene of mourning in first century Palestine.  The commotion probably involved both family and friends, and also professional mourners who provided appropriate wailing and funeral dirges.

          When Jesus saw this, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” The crowd laughed at Jesus.  It was absurd.  It was ludicrous. The girl had most certainly died. And she was dead.

They laughed at Jesus, and the world still laughs at those who believe in Jesus.  The world laughs at you for being here this morning.  The world mocks you because you believe that Jesus is the way – the only way – to eternal life. The world scorns you because you believe Jesus’ word – the word delivered through his apostles – that declares the truth in world that believes there is no such thing as the truth.

The question is how we respond to this.  Do we remain silent so as not to draw the world’s attention?  Does the world’s attitude make it easier to do something else on Sunday morning?  Does the world’s laughter and rejection wear on us in a way that lessens our committment to Christ and living according to his word?

Jesus’ response to the laughter was to put them all outside. He kicked them out.  And then he did what he had come there to do. Matthew reports, “he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.”  Jesus touched the girl’s dead body because in Jesus something new was present – something that fulfilled the Law of Moses, and yet was not limited by it. And in doing so he returned the girl to life.  Her death had been nothing more than a brief sleep, because Jesus had brought God’s saving reign to her. 

          This morning we get two for one. We have two miracles in one text.  Both of them involve individuals who were unclean.  Both include individuals who are identified as “daughter.”  Both are about healing what sin does to bodies as it produces illness and death.

          On the one hand, these are clear examples of Jesus’ power.  Jesus is the Son of God – the Messiah sent by the Father who brings his end time reign.  He is present to turn back the forces of Satan and sin – to reverse what they have done to the world.  In his person the kingdom God – the reign of God – entered into our world.

Yet one could ask: So what? What does that mean for me?  After all, I don’t have Jesus here to heal my cancer.  I don’t have Jesus here to cure my COPD, or my diabetes, or whatever other physical ailment brings hardship to my life.

          But what Mattew tells us about Jesus’ miracles in the previous chapter shows us that these miracles are part of something even bigger.  They are part of something, that frankly appears to be the opposite of mighty healing and raising the dead. And yet, they are part of something has crucial meaning for every single one of us.

          In chapter eight, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law who was suffering from a fever. Then Matthew tells us: “That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 

This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’”

          The words from Isaiah that Matthew quotes are from Isaiah chapter 53.  This is the chapter that describes the suffering Servant.  The apostle connects Jesus’ healing ministry with his work to bring the forgiveness of sins.  Sin is, of course, the source of all illness and death.  Jesus’ miracles show that he is the Servant of the Lord who has come to take our illnesses and bear our diseases. Each miracle is part of this saving work of Christ.

          But because Jesus is the suffering Servant, each miracle points forward to the ultimate miracle by which Christ has done this – his death on the cross. Jesus is the One of whom Isaiah wrote: “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

          Jesus Christ accomplished the great work of taking away our sin by dying on the cross.  There he bore our sin and received God’s judgment against it in our place.  That is how he took our illnesses and bore our diseases.  The cross did not look mighty.  It did not look powerful. Instead, it looked like weakness and utter failure.

          But on Easter, God raised Jesus from the dead. And in the resurrection of Jesus we now understand what the cross was really all about.  Through the cross Jesus has taken away all our sins, and through his resurrection he has defeated death. In his resurrection he has conquered every physical disease and affliction – he has overcome everything caused by sin.

          Through the work of the Holy Spirt in baptism, you have been joined to the death and resurrection of Christ. His death has become your death by which your sins are forgiven. His resurrection is already at work in you now because the Spirit in you is the One who raised Jesus. Because you have been baptized into the death of the risen Lord, and been made a new creation in Christ, you will certainly also share in his resurrection on the Last Day.

          Does this mean you will be cured of your cancer, diabetes, or whatever else ails you?  No, not necessarily? Does it mean that you will escape death?  Unless our Lord returns first, the answer to that one is absolutely no.  But it does mean that already now you are a saint - you are holy in God’s eyes because of what Jesus Christ has done for you.  You are forgiven because Jesus has taken away all of your sins. You are God’s dearly loved child.

          It means that when it comes to your relationship to God, death cannot take anything away.  In fact, as we heard last Sunday when we observed All Saints’ Day, it means being with God in the absence of pain, sickness, and tears.  It means something better than what we now know.  In Christ the defeated enemy death has become the gateway to freedom from this fallen world.

          It means that for our bodily life, death is no more threatening than a nap.  People go to sleep, and they wake up.  You die and your body is buried.  But the Lord Jesus will raise it up on the Last Day, and like waking up from a nap your body will be transformed and restored for you to live as the person God intended - as body and soul – forever.

          We know this is true – we have the assurance that is true – because we have faith in Jesus Christ. This gift of the Spirit is a way of knowing that moves us beyond the limitations of fallen reason.  It is a way of knowing that moves us beyond the spiritual blindness caused by our fallen nature.

          In our text, the father came to Jesus in faith.  His daughter had died, but contrary everything we normally experience, he believed that Jesus’ touch could raise his daughter. The women approached Jesus with the certainty that if she only touched the edge of his clothing, she would be healed. And so our Lord said to her, ““Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

          The way of salvation is the way of faith in the crucified and risen Lord. This faith trusts that because of Jesus we are forgiven and justified – we are ready to be with God.  This faith trusts that God’s love for us in Christ is true no matter what we are experiencing.  We know it is, because Jesus rose from the dead.  This faith trusts that death is no more threatening than sleep. To die is to be with Christ, and the Lord will raise our body on the Last Day so that we will live a bodily existence in the new creation. By faith we have salvation now, and by faith we look with joyful expectation to the end of the not yet when our Lord returns in glory.