School starts in 3 days. That means many different things for many different people. For some it means high school football or soccer. For others it means homework. For others it means 1 more year until college. But for the office staff it also means this: the beginning of the parade of children who don’t feel well and calls from homes that children are sick. They don’t like to be sick. They’re sad they can’t go out and play with their friends. It’s not good because they’ll have to play a valiant game of “catch-up” to get where they need to be in their studies. Besides, nobody likes to be miserable, especially a child!
That goes for us too. We don’t like to be sick. We all get sick. You might claim you never get sick, like Papa Bear, but you’re kidding yourself. There’s poison ivy and bee stings, the common cold and flu. To make it worse, there’s all sorts of diseases today, diseases that at least were unnamed if not unknown to our parents or grandparents. Doctors and scientists do all they can to defeat them and to defeat the aging process. People even try to defeat death. But they can’t. The Grim Reaper comes for you. He is taking his time, and he may even let you pretend to fend him off, but he is coming, and he will take what is his.
That’s why we have all our illnesses and diseases. They are not just random occasional nuisances. They are reminders that we are frail mortals. They remind us that we are dying. We don’t like that reminder, but it’s necessary. If we forget we’re dying, we might start to think we’re invincible. By that I mean this: we might forget to fear God. We might start to think we can do whatever we like, which would encourage us to start to commit all types of sins. God would remind us through illness that we are mortal, so we should fear His wrath and not do anything against Him. Then He would remind us to flee to Him for mercy in our time of need.
We need His mercy. Last week we learned that is the number 1 thing about sanctification. It’s all grounded in His mercy. Without it, you can’t be sanctified. If you deny you need His mercy, that’s unbelief hard at work. Only His mercy forgives your sins. Only His mercy gives you not just the will but the strength and ability to please God. Only His mercy can turn a sinner into a saint, a wretch into a blessed, a doer of evil into a doer of good. Only His mercy will make you completely holy on the last day.
That’s what sanctification is all about. It’s preparing you for the life everlasting. God prepares you during this life for the life to come. We sing a lot in church because we’ll sing a lot then. We feast with Christ now because we’ll feast with Him then. We beautify this place with flowers, light, and color because that place will be beautiful with flowers, divine light, and color. Jesus teaches us to lead a holy life now because that’s the life we will have there – a life without sin.
A life without sin – can you imagine that? Your mouth won’t sound like it was in the potty and your hands won’t feel filthy from bad things done to others. You’ll never even want to say or do bad things. You will be completely given over to doing good, to pleasing God, to loving all things. Hatred and doing sin will be the furthest things from your mind. That’s the life we’re preparing for. God wants you to want that life. So prepare for it, practice for it, do your homework on it. Remember: perfect practice makes perfect.
But what does that have to do with the body? You sin with your body. You do nothing apart from it. Your sins affect your body deeply. Sin is why we get sick. That is not to say that the illness you suffer is due to a sin. It is to say that sickness entered the world alongside death, and you know death entered the world because of sin. The life of sanctification is preparing you for a life without sin. Therefore it is preparing you for your body to be without sin throughout eternity.
He is preparing your body to live forever without sin. That’s resurrection talk. God didn’t made us to die. Death is not normal and natural. It is strange and foreign to humanity. We should not treat it as if it’s our goal or a great thing or just another part of life. It isn’t. It’s an enemy. For the Christian it is the release from this sinful world, but it is not the end. Our goal is the resurrection of the body. Our goal is the life everlasting. And on that day our bodies will be sinless. They will not be able to sin. They will not have any of the effects of sin. You won’t get sick or hurt. You’ll be healthier than you can imagine and better looking than the mirror will ever let you think now about yourself. What you shall be we cannot fully imagine here and now.
That’s why Jesus healed people. He didn’t just do it to be nice and friendly. He did it to show why He is come. He is come to save us. He is not just come to save us from sin. He can’t just save us from sin. If death is your punishment for sin, it has to disappear if He forgives sin. He came to free you from the bonds of sin and death. His ministry teaches us this. He teaches in both word and deed that He is going to rescue us from all the effects of sin.
This man in today’s Gospel certainly was affected. He couldn’t hear and could barely speak. We aren’t told why or if he was born that way, just that this was the way it was. So his loved ones brought him to Jesus. They wanted Jesus to just put His hand on him. Perhaps they didn’t ask for a healing, just a blessing, some sort of comfort that his suffering was not in vain. But they got everything they wanted. He was healed. He could speak correctly and he could hear. Jesus told him to be opened and he was.
Christ Jesus has said that word to you already. He has opened your ears to hear His Word and your lips to show forth His praise. He did that when you were baptized. So He will say “Be thou opened” to something else someday. He will say it to your grave. You can say it all day over your loved ones’ graves and nothing happens. He will say it on the last day and they will fly open and your loved ones and you will quickly join Him in the skies, alive and well, more alive and well than you and they have ever been. Jesus lives! and you shall too.
So, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord.” It is no mistake that the Church begins her daily prayers with these words. “Deliver me” – “Get me out of this sinful world and forgive me and ‘take me to that holy place, the home of joys supernal.’” “Help me” – “You alone give us the gift, the ability, to do You true and laudable service, so help me serve You faithfully in this life so I won’t be disqualified from receiving Your heavenly promises.” “Make haste” – “Lord God, keep Your promises; don’t leave me prey to evil!”
During this life God’s Holy Spirit is sanctifying us. He’s preparing us for the life to come, the life that will last forever that will never have any sin anywhere near it. Yes, your own body, your own flesh and blood will live forever without sin. You’ll never get sick, never get hurt, never die. So live for that die, the day of the resurrection of all flesh, the day our bodies will be purified. Prepare for it. Live like God’s children. Hear His Word. Proclaim His praise.