Don’t worry. Give thanks. Show mercy to others. Use what God has given you wisely. Produce the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of repentance. These are some of the themes we’ve heard sermons on over the last 10 weeks. The Church leads us to study sanctification during the Trinity Season. She wants us to see what our Lord desires of us. She has taught us what our Lord has done for us. Now she teaches us how to respond.
How are you doing at those things? That’s a lot of stuff to do! Don’t worry. Give thanks. Show mercy to others. Use what God has given you wisely. Produce the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of repentance. That’s not even close to everything He desires of us in the Ten Commandments. He wants us to be perfect! How are you doing?
Chances are you still worry. Perhaps it’s about an illness or about paying the next bill or getting the next paycheck. It’s a good bet we sometimes forget to tell God thank you, let alone others when they give us stuff. We often waste stuff, sometimes by accident; our garbage cans admit it. As for the fruits of the Spirit, we can’t always remember what they are, but we know we’ve gotten into fights and bad arguments, and that can’t be a fruit of repentance! And we definitely aren’t perfect. We are definitely sinners. We know it, we feel it, we recognize it, every day of our lives. Even when we want to be good, we aren’t. How should this make us feel?
It probably doesn’t make us feel good. It might even make us worry. It might cause us to decide just to go sin more. Why? We’re afraid God is mad at us. We think we better get to doing more and more good to make Him happy, or we just figure we might as well do whatever we want while we’re alive and just deal with punishment when it comes eventually, if it ever actually comes. The devil doesn’t care what we end up thinking, just as long as we reject God’s forgiveness and enter his hellish embrace. He wants us to die thinking: “God doesn’t love me, can’t love me, because I’m a sinner, because I sinned after believing Jesus loves me. I knew better. Therefore He can’t love me anymore. I deserve hell. I’ll get hell because I didn’t love Jesus enough.”
This poor woman must have been thinking like that. She was definitely worried. She had nobody to take care of her. How was she going to survive? Her husband was dead. Now her son was dead – her only child. Why had God let this happen to her? Had they sinned in some way? Was she particularly bad? Was she just not as good as everybody else so He wasn’t paying attention to her? Had she not been kind enough to others because she was afraid if poor her gave anybody anything she couldn’t survive anymore? Had she not trusted God enough and that’s why it happened?
Jesus’ answer to you is this: Don’t think like that. Don’t let the devil inject such thoughts into your heart. Don’t let him near you or let him trick you into unbelief and other great shame and vice. The devil is the one who wants you to be scared of God. Jesus does not want you to be scared of Him. He wants you to run up to Him, not away from Him. He does not hate you. He cannot hate you. He loves you with an undying love.
That’s what today’s Gospel teaches us. That poor woman thought she must have deserved God’s wrath. She knew it. She knew He must hate her if He let both her husband and son die. There was no doubt of it in her mind. But then God showed her that wasn’t the case. He came up to her. He said, “Weep not.” He grasped the bier and the pallbearers stopped dead in their tracks. He told the boy to rise and he immediately sat up and started talking as if nothing happened. Now she had comfort! God did love her. He didn’t take her family away from her to spite her. He gave her son back! He was caring for her! He didn’t forget her. He was with her.
The Only-begotten Son of God did not come to earth to give God a reason to condemn you. That would have been a waste of time and divine energy. He came down to earth because He loves you, because He wants to save you. He came precisely because He knows you can never live up to His Law. He wants us to be continually given to all good works, but we aren’t, not even close. He commands things we cannot do. He declares us sinners worthy of eternal death. But He does not leave us there. He determined to declare us saints worthy of eternal life.
That’s why He came. He came to die. He raised that boy to life and then He Himself died. He went up on a Cross and died. He was taken to a tomb and buried. On the third day He came back to life. He rose from the dead. His disciples were afraid when they saw Him. They thought He must be mad at Him for leaving Him in the garden, for denying Him, for letting them kill Him. Instead He said to them, “Peace be with you.”
“Peace be with you.” He said that to them and He says that to us sinners too. Do we deserve to hear Him say it? No we don’t. We know that well. We feel that because our sins weigh on us. We know what we deserve from God. The disciples knew they deserved to be punished for leaving their Lord to die such a horrific way. We deserve to be punished for our sins. We deserve hell for them. But Christ comes to us and says, “Peace be with you.”
Peace be with you. God is not angry with you because of your sins. He is not angry with you because you have sinned since you came to faith. His arms are stretched out to you in love. The arms of the Crucified still bear the marks of His holy Passion. He still remembers He died and rose for you. He still sees the marks of the nails on His hands and feet and of the sword in His side. You are engraved on Him. Your very name is written in His Book of Life with that hand still pierced for your salvation. Trust Him for salvation still, sinner that you are, and eternal life is yours!
What does this mean for you? It means He’s coming to your grave someday. He won’t interfere with your funeral procession, but the minister will speak the words of the resurrection over you. And though those standing round won’t see it then, be sure those words will bear fruit. The minister says you will rise from death, and he is telling the truth. His Master has ordered him to say such things. For He is returning to judge the quick and the dead. He is returning to raise all flesh. He is returning to raise you! He will say “Arise! Peace be with you!” to you and you will sit up and say to Him, “My Lord and my God! God has visited His people!”
God loves you. He does not reject you because of your sins. He does not hate you because you are not fully sanctified. On that day you will be fully sanctified. You will be holy, sinless, perfect. You will reflect His glory. Your sins will be gone and forgotten. You will be like Him. You will live forever. For God has bowed down His ear to you because you are poor and needy. He is good and ready to forgive and plenteous in mercy to all those who call on Him.