08 March 2008

The Resurrection and the Life

Your experience of bodily sickness and death, in yourself and in your loved ones, is the outward symptom and consequence of the inward, spiritual sickness and death of sin.

How do you view these things and react to them? What do you look for and hope for?

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He comes with healing and forgiveness to rescue from sickness, suffering, sin and death; and by His rescue to bring you (and all) to faith and life in Him.

This He does and accomplishes, for you and for all, by taking the sin of the world and all its burden, all its curse and consequence, upon Himself; and by voluntarily submitting Himself to death, laying down His body and life as a sacrifice of Atonement.

He does this in love for the world, and in love for you, personally and completely. He really does love you, notwithstanding your hurts and hardships — which He could spare you, but He doesn’t.

In your Baptism, He has taken you to be His dearly beloved friend. He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him — uniting Himself to you and sharing His life with you, by sharing His Cross and Resurrection with you. He has given you His Holy Spirit (for life and health and strength); and has made His God and Father your God and Father.

This is the Truth, and this is your Life, forever, even in the face of death and the grave. Even when you die, and when your loved ones die and are buried six feet under.

Do you believe this? What, then, shall be your hope and prayer and expectation?

Certainly, you should receive your life in this world as God’s good and gracious gift. It is not to be despised but treasured with thanksgiving. But do not cling to this world; do not make of it your god. Do not cling to your own life in this world, nor to your loved ones in this world, as though this mortal life in this vale of tears were your true home and inheritance.

No, but instead, the Cross that is laid upon you and your life in this world, here and now, is for the strengthening of your own faith and the benefit of your neighbor, often in ways that you do not understand. The Cross that you are given to bear will not finally end in death, but in life with God forever. Though it puts you to death, it brings you into life.

You may be tempted to say, "If only the Lord were here, then none of this would be happening to me!" But, in fact, the Lord Himself comes to the tomb by the way of the Cross. And He is with you by the way of the Cross. It is by His death that His divine glory is manifested: to the eyes of faith. Consider the Cross in your own life from that viewpoint of Christ the Crucified: in the light of His Resurrection and His forgiveness of your sins.

There was such a Cross laid upon Lazarus, too, whom Jesus loved. Not so much his sickness and death to begin with, but his return to this mortal life on earth! He was called back from peace and rest to the trials and tribulations of this world. And this was for the benefit of others — for his two sisters, surely, but also for the nation, for you, and for all — as a sign pointing to the Cross and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, that by this sign faith would be strengthened unto life.

Lazarus did not (and could not) bear that Cross by his own power, but by the Voice and Spirit of Christ Jesus, who called him forth out of the tomb by the power of His Word.

His Voice calls you, also. Not necessarily out of hardship, but from sin and death into life. In this, Christ Jesus brings you, body and soul, out of the grave into newness of life (though for now it is by faith and not by sight). His Gospel, His forgiveness of all your sins, His Absolution, removes the stone that traps you inside the tomb. He unbinds your body of the sin and unbelief that constrain you and prevent you from living. He removes the bandages that cover your eyes and blind you.

He has the power and authority to do all of this — the power of life over death, the authority of forgiveness — because He has laid down His own life in your place. No one took it from Him; He laid it down willingly in love. And He has taken it up again, to raise you with Himself.

Already, He daily raises you from the death of unbelief to the life of faith; from the death of sin to newness of life in Him, according to His Spirit. He does it by the Gospel, which forgives you.

Though your mortal body is wasting away and will eventually succumb to injury or sickness, and temporal death, you are all the while being renewed in the inward man by the life-giving Spirit of God in Christ Jesus.

And by that same Spirit, of Him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, your mortal body also shall be raised. Not to life again in this vale of tears, but to the glorious eternal life and the neverending freedom of the Son of God.

See here, He puts His own body and blood into you, into your hand and mouth, into your mortal flesh — the same body and blood with which He died for you and rose again.

So shall you rise and live, even though you die.

Hear His Voice — He is calling you. Come forth and eat, drink. He is here for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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