Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Romans 5:12
We hear from Paul's epistle why death has come into the world, from which can also be surmised that if sin had not come into the world, Adam's children would have reached heaven without death. Now all sorrowless people fear death, but this fear of death does not come upon them before death itself presses their breasts. If they feared death more, without a doubt they would begin to make repentance. As the fear of death is the first sign of awakening, then the fear of death should come to the sorrowless when they are in the best strength, so that they would attain penitence and make repentance before death comes. But this fear of death is far from the sorrowless when they are busy with the world. They do not have time then to think about death and eternity, they have much to do with the world. Only then do they begin to fear death when they feel that it does not help to resist death, and then they must say, "It is not for me." Some, say I, must then condemn themselves to hell and say, "Penitence is now too late." They busy themselves with the world so much and so long that the matter which should have happened first is left to the last. The sorrowless postpone their repentance from day to day and from year to year. They love the world so much that they cannot leave it before death comes and cuts the lifecord. And thus they postpone that matter to the last which they should have done first. They no doubt think that there is not so much urgency with the matter; death will not come immediately. No doubt I will be able to make repentance when death comes. Thus think those, no doubt, who feel that they are not exactly ready to die. Some confessors of dead faith, who have confirmed their consciences with that dead faith, think that they are already prepared to die, but finally when death comes, only then do they begin to doubt of their salvation. This is a sure characteristic of dead faith, that it leaves a person doubting of his salvation when all doubts should end. We know that living faith becomes always stronger, the closer a person comes to eternity. But dead faith, which is seemingly firm when death is not near, becomes weaker when death comes nearer, and finally such faith ends entirely, when contrarily living faith becomes so strong in death that a Christian can die with joy. What do the confessors of dead faith say to that, when death tries their faith so that they are left completely naked? All that stolen grace with which they acted manfully is stripped away, death robs them of their faith, there is no longer refuge in anything. Do not allow them to rob you of your faith, grace thief! Hide the stolen substance well so that the prosecuting attorney will not find it. Put that grace which you have stolen in the cellar so that death does not find it. Say to the Christians when they come to question and examine you, "I know that God is merciful. I trust upon the Saviour's grace, I believe that all sins are forgiven." — But death will come and rob you of your faith, grace thief! You have not received grace, but you have taken it for your own. Without true penitence you have begun to steal grace. Therefore death robs you of your faith and takes away that grace which you have stolen with your own permission. We have so many examples of the death of true Christians and of the death of grace thieves, that we need not be in ignorance of how grace thieves go to eternity with doubts, when death robs them of their faith and takes away their stolen grace, so they must go to eternity empty and naked. On the contrary, living faith gives a Christian boldness and joy in death so that their faith becomes always stronger the closer death comes, neither is death able to rob them of their faith although it yet tries! But death does not dare to rob them of their faith for they are assured of that, that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor height, nor powers, nor principalities can separate them from that love which is in Christ Jesus.
We must today consider how the Lord of life and death awakens from the dead those dead who die as youth in sin and sorrowlessness, and through that spiritual death cause their parents sorrow and bitterness of mind. So many times before we have spoken of that natural death, and fear of death has not come to sorrowless thereby. Therefore we must now speak of spiritual death so that fear of death would better come to the sorrowless when they hear where spiritual death has received its beginning, and what this death effects in eternity, from which may that merciful Lord Jesus protect all mortals so that they would not die eternally before Jesus meets them with the power of His grace. Hear, you heavenly Parent, the prayer of all sorrowful and weeping ones before earth is thrown upon the body. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 7:11-17
In today´s holy gospel it is given for us to know that Jesus awakened a youth from the dead, who was his mother's only son. This matter gives us an opportunity to speak of our mortality, first considering that spiritual death and showing how Jesus awakens the youth before earth is thrown upon the body. The First Consideration: Why had this youth died young? The Second Consideration: Why did the pallbearers stop when Jesus laid His hand on the bier. The Third Consideration: Why did the youth sit up and begin to speak when Jesus said, "Young man, arise!" We hope and pray that all youth can hear the Lord's voice before they die eternally since the old carcasses, which have lain dead since childhood, will not arise again before earth is thrown upon the body.
The First Consideration: Why had this youth died young? Lamentably, spiritual death falls upon not only old carcasses, but also on young ones who do not understand to watch out for their lives. Namely when sin or that spiritual sickness, which all children have contracted from their parents, begins to trouble them, they die very suddenly, and although medication is given to them both in confirmation school and in the Lord's Supper, the enemy takes them and gives them sleeping potion, through which the Word of God and other spiritual medications become powerless. The Word of: God and the Lord's Supper are used wrongly. From the Word of God this youth takes for himself substance for sorrowlessness, when he mixes that with natural inclinations and thinks that he is already a perfect Christian when he reads that much that he is confirmed. Many a youth also becomes angry with the teacher who will not confirm him with less study. When a youth goes to the Lord's supper for the first time, he also takes for himself substance of death from there, believing of himself that he is a complete Christian, since according to the esteem of the world he is a full man. Many a youth, therefore, goes to the Lord's Supper like Judas to whom the Lord gave the dipped sop, and after that dipped sop the devil entered into him. After that dipped sop, just then do they become very bold to be busy with the world; after that dipped sop he begins to drink liquor and to conduct business, to curse, to fight, to steal, to carry finery and to run after whores. Before, when he was still not confirmed, the people of the world said, "He is under age, he has not become an adult yet." But after the first time at the Lord's Supper, the people of the world say, "He has now become an adult, he is now suitable for a witness", and from this saying of the world the youth has taken that faith for himself that he is a Christian, since he has been allowed the Lord's Supper. What is the trouble now? When the youth by going to the Lord's Supper became a Christian, he began after that dipped sop to live boldly in the world. He cast the book under the bench; in its place he bought himself a pipe, a liquor flask, a broadcloth coat and cards. When Sunday came, he put on the broadcloth clothes and silk kerchief, washed himself clean on the outside though the heart remained unwashed, went to the village together with more of the same kind as himself, and began drinking liquor, playing cards and trying to act like a man, so that others too would see what a man he is who can drink, curse, and fight and play with whores. He did not think of that, that such a life is just the kind of life of the devil, which before the altar he promised to cease from, but he believed more upon the world which called him an adult person. From that he took assurance for himself that he is a complete Christian, and after the dipped sop the devil entered into him. He became much more bold than before to blaspheme God through his ungodly life. If his parents said some word of warning to him of that cursing, card-playing or fighting, he gave show-off words in answer, told them to shut their mouths. He did not account himself responsible to listen to his parents any more, since he had become an adult person. And the blind parents did not even stop him from that whiskey business, for they thought that the child must earn something for himself since there was no other means of livelihood. — Look, such a life has been here formerly, and the same kind of a life is even now in all these congregations, where both the young and the old lie dead. They take substance for their sorrowless life from the Word of God and from the Lord's Supper, and live in that faith that they are Christians although their life is just a heathenish life. Not one of them doubts of his salvation or thinks that much that sorrow will come after such a life. We have by this life depicted that spiritual death. It is, namely, known to all that the body bears the form of a living person: face, form, eyes, ears and all other members are like a living person usually is, nor is there any other difference between a living and a dead person except that a living person has life but a dead body does not have life. A living person's heart moves, but the heart of a dead body does not move; the living person has his eyes open, but the dead body does not; the living person speaks, but the dead body is mute; the living person hears God's Word, but the dead do not hear. Such now was the youth who was carried out dead. If Jesus had not succeeded in coming before the body was covered with earth, this body would certainly have decayed in the bosom of the earth and no one would have cared about him.
The Second Consideration: Why did the pallbearers stop when Jesus touched the bier? The pallbearers are in a spiritual sense those natural lusts and desires which bring that dead person to the grave. Namely, not one dead person is in his own control; the natural inclinations, lusts of the flesh, are those devil's angels which take him out into the world and force him to do such deeds. A natural person is not able, any more than a dead body, to move itself to some good thing, but the lusts and desires of the flesh take him here and there, sometimes into drinking, sometimes into greed, sometimes into adultery, sometimes into stealing, sometimes into fighting. A natural person cannot be without drinking when the lust of the flesh forces him; he cannot be without cursing when anger urges him to curse; he cannot be without stealing when the desire to steal is kindled. How can he avoid such deeds, since he is entirely under the control of the devil? He must do what his master commands. As a dead one who is carried where the pallbearers bring him, so also the natural person is taken by lusts and desires into the world,— and where do these pallbearers take him? Certainly not into life, but directly into hell they will take him.
But when Jesus comes and touches the bier, then the pallbearers stop. Every awakened person knows how his life was before, when he lay dead on the bier, and what kind his life has become afterward. Namely, when Jesus with the power of His grace touched the bier, the pallbearers had to stop, not for that reason that these pallbearers would not have carried his body into the grave if no hindrance had come, but they were frightened when Jesus touched the bier. With His hand Jesus began to press on the bier, and it was so heavy that the pallbearers became powerless. That Jesus touched the bier, in a spiritual sense signified that the Saviour with the power of His Word presses the soul of the spiritually dead person through sorrow and grief. And from that spiritual sorrow, the soul of the person becomes so heavy that the pallbearers, those evil lusts and desires which live in a person's flesh, are no longer able to carry this person's soul into the grave, or into hell. For surely these pallbearers wanted to bring this spiritually dead person into the grave, but Jesus presses on the bier with His hand so hard that the pallbearers are not able to move him. Through this pressing a person's soul becomes so heavy that the natural inclinations, fleshly lusts and desires ore no longer able to move him in that direction where they were taking him, namely to hell. Then when Jesus began to press the person's soul with His hand, or with the power of His Word, the pallbearers, or the lusts and desires of the flesh, became so powerless that they were no longer able to take him into drinking, or into cursing. The lusts and desires of the flesh lost their power through this pressing, namely by that sorrow and grief which came from this pressing of the Saviour. He whose eyes are open can certainly understand how and when the Saviour began to press him. However, David lamented that the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him. Nevertheless, this carcass cannot move yet, although the hand of the Lord presses him. It is only that much that the pallbearers, or lusts and desires of the flesh, which were taking him into destruction, are no longer able to bring him there, where they had intended.
The Third Consideration: Why did the body begin to speak when Jesus cried out, "Young man, arise!"?
We well know that a spiritually dead corpse cannot speak at all. Only that slime of dead faith which drips from his mouth is taken by the sorcerer into a vessel, mixed with dragon's blood, and given with liquor to the youth so that through this sorcery he probably will be persuaded into fleshly love. But as soon as Jesus cries out, "Young man, arise!", this spiritually dead body rises up and begins to speak. It is not mentioned in the gospel what this young man said when he was awakened from the dead, but we only surmise that he spoke of that grace of the Saviour through which he had received the spirit, although he had lain dead for a long time. Of the Saviour's great power and grace, all youth speak who have been awakened from spiritual death through this great power. But they, who lie in spiritual death arc mute. And how can the dead speak before Jesus gives them life? That also is in our gospel, that fear came to all when they saw the dead youth become awakened and heard him speak of the Saviour's grace. The same kind of fear comes even now to some when they hear youth who have been awakened speaking of the great effects of the Saviour's grace. They become dumbfounded and wonder, "What delirium could this now be?" But all of those who have seen with their eyes that great change which has happened in this youth who was awakened; how he, who before this time lay dead and knew nothing about this spiritual atmosphere, was also deaf and mute in this spiritual death, nor could he speak anything of those matters which pertain to Christianity, has now been awakened from the dead through the power of the Savior, sits up and speaks of the grace of God. This youth, who the pallbearers or the deathly destructive lusts and desires were bringing into the bottomless grave, now follows his parent home. That sorrowing parent, who became very sorrowful because of her son's death, can now rejoice over the awakening from the dead and the spiritual life of her only son. From this also comes a great fear to all those who have with their eyes seen the dead youth awakened, and joy comes to all those who have wept because of the death of this youth. But the pallbearers received nothing for their trouble when their intentions came to naught. They were not able to carry this body into the grave when Jesus touched the bier; they were not able to take his soul to hell when Jesus awakened him. The pallbearers received nothing for their trouble, although they had intended to carry this youth into that grave from which no one can escape. They must now look at that youth with shame, and who knows, they even look askance upon him who became alive in this way.
You youth! Arise from spiritual death! You have died young through sin, and through that spiritual death you have caused your parents sorrow and bitterness of mind, although those parents who themselves have long since died cannot weep over your death. But those parents, who themselves are alive, they pity their misfortune since they have to become so unfortunate that they must lose their children through spiritual death into hell, from which there is no hope that they will arise. Many a parent must weep and cry out as David, when he heard that his son Absalom had died in his sorrowlessness, then he wept and cried out, "Oh my son Absalom, would that I had died for thee!" And who is that Christian parent who does not cry out as David when they also must suffer even that severe misfortune, that their children die in sorrowlessness, through which the parent loses all hope that he could see his child in the kingdom of heaven. Not one parent is so hard and so hardened that he would wish that his child would become unfortunate in time and in eternity, but Christian parents especially pray to God that they could see their children in the kingdom of heaven. What a bitter sorrow comes to parents when their children die in sorrowlessness! And, nevertheless, the sorrowless children cause this sorrow and bitterness of mind to their parents. If the parents had that hope and assurance that those youth who have died young were in the kingdom of heaven in the refuge of the heavenly Parent and in the bosom of the true Father, then the body of the child would be so light for the parent to bear, that he could also thank for that, that God took them away from misfortune and temptations of the world before the evil days. But woe to that unfortunate father and mother who must with sorrow and bitterness of mind carry out the dead body of their only child, who died in sorrowlessness before God's preceeding grace could effect in him some kind of a change for the enlightening of his soul. Then must the sorrowful parent cry out like David, "Oh my son, would that I had died for thee!"
Behold now, you youth, what bitter sorrow came to the parents over the unfortunate death of this young man who died in sorrowlessness! Behold, you youth, who live in sorrowlessness as Absalom, how pleasant it would be for your parents if God´s proceeding grace would receive that much room in your hearts, that you could have a blessed death, so that the sorrowful parents would have that hope that they could see their children in the kingdom of Heaven. You have already caused your parents sorrow and bitterness of mind through your disobedience. You have already badly repaid their trouble and mocked their tears with your hardness of hearing and light-mindedness. Today or tomorrow death will come and will snatch you away from your sorrowlessness! Then the parents will begin to sigh heavily upon your grave and say like David, "Woe, woe, my son! Would that I had died for thee." But the tears of the parent are no longer able to redeem the sorrowless child's soul from hell. The tears of the heavenly Parent are not able to redeem from hell the souls of those who mock His tears with their ungodly life! Awaken therefore, you dead youth, and arise from the grave before the grave is covered with earth. Amen.