Leaves are brown and falling. Cold air and snow have now arrived, and it keeps getting dark sooner and sooner. Before long it will be Thanksgiving and then before we know it cold December will be flying away into 2019. Our minds are preparing for a conclusion to the present.
So today The Church turns our attention towards the last things. In the next month we will think about the end of the world, when our Lord will come in power and great glory to raise all the dead and to judge all flesh. But before we hear about the last day we hear about death. We want to think about our own death but also about the antidote to death, Christ our Savior.
We weren’t supposed to die. The world was created without death. It was created without sickness or sin. Adam was far stronger and healthier than us. He was going to live forever. He would lack nothing. He’d never face cold or heat, hunger or thirst. Nothing would scare him, nothing would attack him. He was a real-life “Energizer Bunny,” except the real-life “Energizer Bunny” eventually wore out.
It took him a lot longer than it takes us, but wear out he did. It was his fault it happened too. He sinfully ate the sacrament of death. God His Creator told him not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t that the fruit was poisonous. For all we know it was a fruit you buy in the grocery store every week. That wasn’t the point. The point was God said, “Don’t do this.” It was a test, a simple test. There was so much food he didn’t need to eat it.
So why did he? The devil awakened desire in him. He tempted him. He got him to idolize that one fruit, to think he needed it more than anything else. It became more important to him than God’s Word was. At that moment he sinned. He sinned before he ate. The sin was desiring it. That’s what got him to eat it. He desired. He failed the test. He died. For he was no longer connected to his source of life, God his Father. Now he was connected to the source of death. So he died.
Our lives are shorter now. We are further and further away from that divine source of life, and the world is not the same either since the Flood. We are frail mortals in a way Adam could never imagine. Now we live with cancer and diseases nobody told him about. Our food and drink are not as pure as his was, and our weapons are far more powerful than anything he dreamed of either.
“Who knows when death may overtake me!” You know that all too well. Perhaps you lost a loved one suddenly. Perhaps you lost a loved one far too soon. We know from experience that it comes at any time, even in the womb. Have mercy, Lord! Jairus knew this well. His daughter was dead. So vibrant, so full of life one day, then sick and dead the next. How could this be? It made no sense. This just shouldn’t happen. But this synagogue ruler knew His Scriptures; He Who fulfils the Scriptures was near, and He has authority to raise the dead.
So he went to get Him. No matter the crying at home, that he should be trying to comfort his wife. He went to get the Comforter Himself. He went and got Him. No matter that another lady needed help from Him too. She only took a little time. She received His help and her bleeding stopped and she was saved by faith. For he too believed. He believed and he and his whole house was saved.
Jesus came to the house. She had not been dead long, but the funerary customs of the day were in full force. The professional mourners were there with their flutes and their wailing. They knew their job and they did it well, and they knew they were at the right place. The little girl was dead. They knew it. She just wasn’t asleep. She was dead.
But they didn’t know Life. He calls death a sleep, but He’s not in denial. That’s what they thought. They thought He didn’t know what He was talking about. But He does. For He is Life. He gave life to Adam and He gives life to all the world. He is the One Who will rise from the dead. He gave up His life only to take it up again. That gives Him authority to give it back to whomever He wishes. He wishes to end death forever on the last day. So death is a mere sleep. You’ll wake up from it just like you woke up and got out of bed this morning. On the last day you’ll wake up and get out of your casket-bed in your grave and live again as if you never were dead – only you’ll be far better than you are now.
This is because He has redeemed you with His Blood and forgiven your sins. That word redeemed means He has purchased you. Sin and death owned you. He bought you back with blood. They didn’t want to give you up, but they had no choice. He forced them to let you go. He destroyed their power when He rose from the dead.
To be sure, death tried to take Him. It tried to swallow God up. It tried to kill Life. It even thought it had done it. He was dead, in His grave. But He broke out. Death couldn’t handle God. Death was for sinners, and He committed no sin. So it had no right to Him. It had to give Him up. But He cracked its jaws wide open on the way out. It may still swallow, but it can’t hold anyone down anymore. When Jesus says so, you will walk right out alive and well again into eternal life.
Why is this? It is because you believe in Him. You enter eternal life by faith alone. You believe He has delivered your soul from death, your eyes from tears, and your feet from falling. You love Him because He has heard your voice and your supplication. You sing to the Lord and make a joyful noise to the Rock of your salvation, you worship and bow down and kneel before Him not just because He is the Lord your Maker but because He is your God and you are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. You see His Cross and recognize that His Death is your Life. You see that image of a dead Body and see everlasting life flowing out to you. You see that and see how your Savior won for you forgiveness of sins and everlasting life, how He delivers you from darkness and put you in His kingdom.
For Holy Baptism washed you into His Kingdom. It brought to you the Blood shed on the Cross and dissolved the devil’s shackles and washed you clean of sin. It made you a citizen of His kingdom, a child of God our Father. It gave you eternal life. For the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, came to you and wrote on you the Name of the Blessed Holy Trinity. He claimed you for God and told the devil to depart from you. You belong to Christ.
With Him is the fountain of life; in His light shall we see light. Christ Jesus is Death’s Conqueror. Remain with Him, believing in His Blood shed for you, and eternal life is yours. He will raise the dead. It does not matter what killed them or their age. He will raise them. Those who believe in Him will enter eternal life with Him. God grant that we be found in that band of the faithful who will feast with their Lord forever.