28 June 2015

To Worship the Lord Your God in the Flesh

No one has taken a whip to her back, but a string of doctors have taken all her money without helping.  In fact, she has grown worse under their care.

Twelve years of bleeding from the inside out.  The curse of sin upon the first Woman has been multiplied in this daughter of Eve.  Her life is in the blood, but it won’t stop flowing out of her, slipping away.  And so she is left anemic and drained, low on energy, and tired in every way.

How many of her clothes has she had to scrub clean or discard in all that time?  How often has she broken down and sobbed in discouragement?  We do not know such details, but imagine yourself in her place, and consider the metaphorical whips that have fallen upon you over the years.

To pile insult onto injury, her burden is embarrassing, so that she is ashamed and wants to hide herself away from any attention.  Indeed, the Law of God is clear concerning her condition and its consequences.  She is unclean.  She is not to go out into public.  She is not even to be in church.

And yet, you have heard the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was rich but for our sake became poor, so that, by His poverty, you and that woman and all of us might become rich.  Don’t imagine dollar signs here, but do look to Him for salvation, for life and health and strength and every good thing.  For here is the great Physician of body and soul, who does in fact make house calls.  He has come to help.  He will not take all your money and leave you still bleeding, but He pours Himself out for you, and gives Himself to you, in order to fill you up with His own Life.

Therefore, worship and adore Him: With your heart by faith; and with your lips by confessing Him and calling on His Name; and with your body, also, since your body shall be raised to eternal life.

To “worship” is to bow, to genuflect or kneel, to fall at the feet of Jesus, the Lord, and prostrate yourself before Him.  Such outward bodily “worship” will avail you nothing without faith, but where your heart bows before Him, there your mind and mouth and hands and feet and your whole body will follow suit.  Don’t worry, Jesus isn’t keeping score, and neither am I.  Don’t try to score each other, either.  But do worship the Lord Jesus and lay hold of Him where He is found.

What He has accomplished for you, in and with His Body and His Blood, He gives to you in the means of grace, in the Ministry of the Gospel, which you receive with your body.  Your ears hear His Word.  Your eyes see the sign of His Cross set before you, and they see the administration of His Holy Sacraments.  Your body has been washed with the water included in His command and combined with His Word in Holy Baptism.  And so do you eat His Body and drink His Blood with your mouth, with your lips and tongue and teeth and throat.

To receive these good gifts of Christ Jesus with your body, in faith, is to worship Him most surely. In this way, by these means, you seek Him out, and lay yourself before Him, and call upon His Name in the hope and expectation that He will hear you and help you.

That is what Jairus did.  For he was a leader of the local synagogue, and he knew the Scriptures, the Word and promises of God, and evidently recognized that Word made flesh in Christ Jesus.  In faith and hope he approached Jesus and fell at His feet.  He worshiped Him with his body, and with prayer and petition for his little daughter who was at the point of death.

Now she was only twelve years old, which seems a tender age at which to die.  You moms and dads, picture one of your daughters — or one of your sons, for that matter — wasting away before your eyes and dying.  If there’s anything worse than dealing with your own frailty, weakness, and mortality, it is the anguish and sorrow of watching your own child suffer and die, and realizing how utterly helpless and powerless you are to save her (or him).

By the grace of God you pray, as Jairus prayed, that Jesus would come and help.  And do you see how bodily all of this is?  Jairus prays, not only with his mouth, but with his body prostrate at the feet of Jesus.  He implores the Lord to come, to lay His hands on the little girl so that she will get well and live.  He’s pleading for her salvation, that is what his words imply, but his immediate concern and prayer are for her bodily health and well-being.  He wants her to go to heaven in the resurrection of the righteous, but right now he does not want her to die.  He loves his little girl and does not want to lose her.  So Jairus goes to Jesus and confesses that He is the Lord, the Author and Giver of Life, and that His flesh — the touch of His hand — is strong and powerful to save.

The Lord Jesus responds right away by going with Jairus, just as He also hears and answers all your prayers.  Indeed, He is God’s Answer and Amen to your prayers.  Before you have called, and while you are yet speaking, the Father in heaven has given this same Son, Jesus Christ, for you and for your children.  He has had mercy and compassion upon you, and He comes to save you.

But then there is this interruption, this intrusion and delay.  Pushing through the crowd, like trying to swim your way upstream, having appealed to the Lord and secured His promise of help, you’re anxious to get home, to see some results, to experience the blessed relief and the great joy of an answered prayer.  It’s your turn.  Your need is so great and the time is so short.  Yet, Jesus stops and turns and waits upon another.  He turns His body and His attention to someone else, and you are left waiting until it is seemingly too late, while not yours but your neighbor’s prayer is granted.

The woman has it right, of course, in knowing and believing that Jesus is the answer to her need, according to what she had heard about Him.  That Word and promise is all that she has, so that is where she puts her faith.  Her prayer is not with her voice but in the reaching out of her hand.  She lays hold of Jesus in faith by laying hold of His cloak, His garments.  For He is the merciful and great High Priest, and the hem of His garment is bound up with the Word of God.  That is how the Lord God works: He attaches His Word and His promises to external things which you can touch and take hold of.  That is where faith looks for Him, and finds Him, and receives Him.

You also lay hold of Him in faith according to His Word: in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the bread and wine which are His Body and His Blood in the Holy Communion.  And power goes out from His Holy Body to the one who lays hold of Him by faith.  The crowd presses upon Him, but it is by faith in His Word that you discern and receive the Life that is in Him.

That is how it was for the woman in this Gospel, and so also for you.  Immediately, the flow of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed.  After twelve long years, she was suddenly no longer broken and dying, but made whole and clean and filled with Life.  Because Jesus has borne our griefs and carried all our sorrows in His Body, and He has poured out His Blood for all of us.  He was whipped for our transgressions, and by His scourging we are healed.

Faith receives that healing, that forgiveness, life, and salvation in the means of grace, in the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  It is here for you to have and to hold, so that you also may have peace and joy.

Which is all well and good for that woman, whom Jesus tenderly addresses as a “daughter.”  But what about the synagogue official’s little girl?  What about his daughter?  And what about you and your children and your hurts and desperate needs?

They came to Jairus with the news, like the dreaded phone call in the middle of the night.  It’s too late.  It’s all over.  “Your daughter has died.”  End of story.  “Why trouble the Teacher anymore?”

And yet, the Teacher has something more to say.  Even now, He teaches you: “Do not be afraid any longer.  Only believe.”  Sounds like Jairus was afraid at that point, as you can well imagine, just as you are afraid and tempted to despair.  But the story does not turn on what Jairus was thinking or feeling, or doing or saying.  Everything moves with Jesus.  He is the One who speaks and acts.

The woman with the twelve-year flow of blood went looking for Him and found Him where His Word said that He would be.  You also seek Him where He may be found.  And you call on Him, for yourself and for your neighbor, as Jairus besought Him in the first place for his little daughter.

By comparison, that twelve-year-old girl does absolutely nothing for herself in this case.  We are told nothing of her faith.  Besides, she’s already dead when Jesus shows up.  Do not suppose that her family, friends, and doctors have made some kind of medical mistake in thinking that she has died.  The Word of Jesus, that “the child has not died, but is asleep,” is not a second opinion or a different diagnosis, but a powerful Word of Life that makes all things new.

Of course the world regards the Word of Jesus as ridiculous.  So the people go from a wailing commotion to hysterical laughter, from devilish despair to the mockery of unbelief.

But for all of that, the Lord Jesus enters in and casts out doubt and fear and blasphemy and sin.  He takes hold of that little girl, and He calls her to “Get up!”  He speaks the Resurrection Word, and as surely as the death of Jesus swallows up death forever, so surely do His flesh and His Word raise up the dead in His own rising.  Immediately the girls gets up and begins to walk.  She lives.

You live, too, because the same Lord Jesus has done the very same thing for you.  Others have prayed and interceded for you, surely, but even when everyone else in the world has been silenced, Jesus enters in and saves you.  He comes into your room of death, and He takes you by the hand, in order to raise you up from death to life.

He has done it in your Baptism: by the hand and mouth of your pastor, with the water and the Word.  He does the same thing with His Word of Absolution: His forgiveness says to you, “Get up, and go in peace.”  Not only are you healed of your deepest affliction, but you are brought back from the dead.  Today, if you hear His voice, do not be afraid anymore, but only believe.

Wait upon the Lord, for He will help you.  If He delays in answering your prayers, He has not forgotten you.  If He causes grief, He will also have compassion.  He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons and daughters of men, and He will not reject forever.  His steadfast love never ceases, but His mercies are new every morning.  He forgives you all your sins, and He will save you from all evil.  He is faithful, and He will do it.

It is good and right for you to seek Him out, to lay hold of Him in His means of grace, to avail yourself of His Gospel, and to worship Him with heart and mind, body and soul.  But rest assured that His faithfulness is greater than yours.  Therefore He has borne the yoke for you, that you might be set free by His hard labor and by His patient obedience.  In silence before His accusers, He has waited upon His Father to vindicate Him and to deliver Him out of death for your justification.  He has given His cheek to the smiters and put His mouth in the dust, that you might have hope, even when it all seems so very hopeless.

In truth, as God has raised this same Lord Jesus from the dead, you have a sure and certain hope in Him.  Therefore, hang on to Him for dear life.  Grab hold of His garments here, in the preaching of His Word and in His Sacrament, and don’t let go.  Do so in the confidence that He holds on to you.  For the One who took you by the hand and raised you up through the waters of your Baptism, here also gives you something to eat.  He feeds you with His Body, and His Blood still flows for you, poured out from His Cup, that you might be filled with the power of His indestructible Life.

That fact stands fast and remains forever, even in the face of suffering, sickness, sin, and death.  For He has called you His daughter, His son, and He shall not let you go.  No one shall ever snatch you out of His hand.  If you can imagine the loving care and concern of Jairus for his daughter, so much greater is the love and compassion of the Lord your God for you, His own dear child.

In the death of Jesus Christ for you, your death is but a peaceful sleep and Sabbath rest.  And in His Resurrection from the dead, you also are made well, and you live in soul and body forever.

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

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