17 October 2018

The Life-Giving Word of the Good Physician

What is it that ails you?  What infirmities afflict your body?  What burdens weigh upon your mind and your heart, your emotions, and your spirit?

The one who is healthy and well has no need of a physician.  So, if you want to pretend that you are doing just fine, that your heart, mind, body, and soul are healthy and strong, then you may as well not be here.  This is a hospital for sinners, where the Good Physician heals what truly ails you.

The truth is that you are dying.  From your conception and birth, you are dying.  Your body is mortal and wearing out.  Your mind and heart are as frail and finite as your flesh.  And your soul and spirit are subject to the assaults and accusations of the devil, afflicted by the fear of death.

You are sick to the core of your being, and you are dying from the inside-out, on account of sin.  You have inherited the curse of sin and death from your parents, all the way back to Adam & Eve; and you have contributed to that legacy by your own persistent sins of thought, word, and deed.

Some of your sins bring their own consequences directly upon you, and it is foolish as well as wrong to persist in such sins.  But sin brings death because every sin is a turning away from the one true God and a reliance on that which is perishing and impotent to save you.  In all your sins you turn away from the only Author and Giver of life, and so it is that you are always dying.

You live at all only by the grace of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  You live solely by His mercy, because He feeds you and clothes you with divine charity.  He gives you breath, He gives you life, and He sustains you.  And in spite of all that, you chase after death by continuing to sin.

For all of that, the Lord Jesus is your Good Physician of soul and body.  And that He might heal you inside and out, He sends doctors to care for you with a Medicine that only He can provide.

He sends to you a pastor, a bishop and physician of your soul.  A Seelsorger, as our Lutheran fathers liked to say, who comes to you and cares for you with the Medicine of the Gospel.  Words and Water, Bread and Wine, that is all your senses are able to perceive on the surface.  But the Words of Christ are the power and authority of God, unto repentance, faith, forgiveness, and life.

The Lord Jesus has sent you Pastor Luke, an Evangelist, a preacher of the Word and a minister of the means of grace, whom we remember on this day.  St. Paul calls him “the beloved physician,” and so we suppose that he was a medical doctor.  There are some hints along those lines in his Gospel, the sort of comments that a doctor might well make.  But St. Luke is a better physician in the record of the Holy Gospel than he was of the body.  All of the people he treated died.  But all who hear and receive the Gospel he has written by the Spirit of Christ shall never die but live.

St. Luke has done extraordinarily what every pastor does ordinarily.  He has published the Word of Christ and His Apostles for the healing of the nations.  He has done so for the world, but your pastors, to this day, preach and proclaim that same Holy Gospel, that same Word of Christ, here to you in this place.  And it is by that Word of the Gospel that you are healed in soul and body.

Your sins are all forgiven, every one of them.  And though your body still languishes in this life on earth — and though your body will die, sooner or later, if the Lord does not return in glory before that day and that hour — though your body wastes away, and your body and mind are both afflicted by the consequences of sin and the fallenness of creation — yet, none of this will have the last word concerning you.  Not concerning your soul, and not concerning your body, either.

Whatever may wrack your body now, it will be done away with, and your body will be perfect in the Resurrection of all flesh.  No more aches and pains.  No more fatigue and tiredness.  No more poor eyesight or loss of hearing.  No more sore tummies, or hurting backs, or tired feet.  No more coughs or colds.  All of those infirmities shall be gone, because your sin is taken away by Jesus.

To that end, if you would hear and receive the healing Word of Jesus — if you would not die but live — go to where He sends His messengers, because He sends His messengers before His face to every place where He Himself goes.  He sends them to speak His Word with His authority.

If you look for Jesus somewhere else than where He has sent His messengers, you will not find Him.  But He finds you by sending His men to you, His pastors, His good physicians, His Lukes, His Matthews, Marks, and Johns, His Richards and Davids.  So does He seek you out to save you.

There are plenty of alternatives to the Ministry of the Gospel, lots of  things competing for your attention and allegiance, all around you in the world.  But no matter how appealing they may be, alternatives to the Gospel are no real medicine at all.  None of them will be able to save you.  It is only the pastors of Christ, the servants of His Word, who have the right sort of medicine for that which truly kills you.  The Gospel, that is what saves you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.

And yet, the Lord’s physicians of the soul don’t look like much.  Their own bodies and lives surely do not display any great health and strength.  They are rather like lambs among wolves, Jesus says.  They are sheep led to the slaughter.  They are sent out to be sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel.

The ministers of Christ are sacrificial lambs, like the Lord before them, because their entire lives are defined by the Gospel of His Sacrifice.  Not only what they preach and do, but their bodies and their lives are defined by the Cross of Christ the Crucified.  They are like the One who sends them.

So the world scoffs and laughs at those whom Jesus sends.  And yet, because they are like Him, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Medicine they bring in His Name and stead is a potent medicine indeed.  It is the power of His Cross and Resurrection from the dead.  It brings the forgiveness of all your sins.  It justifies you with the righteousness of God in Christ.  It sanctifies you with His Holy Spirit in body and soul, and raises you up unto everlasting Life.

How, then, will you hear and receive the physicians that Christ Jesus sends before His face to care for you in this place?  Will you receive them in peace, by repentance and faith in His Word?  Will you receive the preaching of His Word as the healing and life that it truly is, as the forgiveness of your sins, as the very presence of Christ among you?  Or will you reject His Word and preaching?

Hear and heed the Word of the Lord Jesus, and know that the Kingdom of God is here at hand in the preaching of Christ, whether you believe it or not.  The Kingdom of God is here with you tonight, because Christ is here.  He is here in His Word to you.  He preaches His Law to expose your sickness, so that He, the Good Physician, can heal you with His Gospel, the perfect Medicine.

He is not here to condemn you or destroy you.  He will not leave you dead on the operating table.  Trust this Doctor.  He knows what He is doing.  When He cuts you open and exposes all of those things that you don’t want to know about and don’t want to see, He does it so that He can heal you from the inside-out.  And when He speaks His Word, it is the Truth, which gives you real Life.

Consider this.  The Lord your God has taken a Body of flesh and blood like your own for Himself.  And He has sacrificed Himself for you, His Body and Blood on the Cross.  Yet, death could not hold on to Him or keep Him.  The gates of Hades could not prevail against Him.  He has burst open the tomb, He has risen from the dead, and He is all glorious, immortal and imperishable forever.

But even now He comes to you in the midst of your sin and death, in order to feed you with His Body and His Blood.  He gives Himself into your mortal body of flesh and blood, in order to confront the sickness of your sin and death and prevent them from defeating you.  So it is that, when the devil tries to lay hold of you, when sickness tries to ruin you, when death tries to swallow you up, they all meet up with the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, and they cannot win.

By and with His Word, the Lord Jesus anoints you with His Spirit, and He unites Himself to you — His Body and Blood united to yours — that you should live with Him forever in body and soul.

When you hear and receive the Word of St. Luke, you hear and receive the Word of this Doctor, Jesus.  And when you hear the preaching of that Word from your own pastors, it is Jesus you hear preaching to you, who forgives you, heals you, feeds you, and clothes you in His tender mercy.

All of this He does for you because He loves you.  The Kingdom of God is here with you in this place, on earth as it is in heaven, because the Creator and the King of the heavens and the earth loves you.  He is here to save you by and with the Word that He preaches to you.  He has come to forgive your sins, to cast out all your demons, to heal your diseases, and to give you His own Life.

Take and eat what He presents, His very Body.  Drink the Medicine of Immortality from His Cup, the New Testament in His Blood.  For in these Gifts there is health and strength and life forever.

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

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