After the Fall, Man’s response to sin is fleeting—a half measure.
When the serpent deceived Eve, and she ate—when Adam listened to the voice of his wife, and he ate: “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (cf. Genesis 3:7).
Fig leaves don’t last, and neither do Man’s attempts to cover sin.
Then, God intervenes.
He speaks to the serpent, promising to crush its head. He speaks to the woman and to the man, informing them of what life will be like now that sin had entered the world. And then: “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Animal skins last, but notice—God didn’t make them out of nothing, like He did the rest of Creation. He made them garments—of skins—from skins—from one of the animals.
This first bloodshed and first sacrifice foreshadows the day when the Seed of the woman crushes the serpent’s head as He sheds His blood and covers the sin and wretchedness of Man—not in a fleeting way and not a half measure but once and for all.
Man would make the bad thing go away.
Out of sight is out of mind, but that’s not peace.
God forgives the iniquity and remembers the sin no more (cf. Isaiah 43:25), and what God does lasts.
In the 1928 folk song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” the hobo’s idea of paradise is a great example of Man’s attempt to ignore sin without having it forgiven.
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains / All the cops have wooden legs / And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth / And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs…
“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, / The jails are made of tin / And you can walk right out again, / As soon as you are in / There ain’t no short-handled shovels, / No axes, saws or picks, / I’ma goin’ to stay / Where you sleep all day, / Where they hung the jerk / That invented work / In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”
That’s the hobo’s idea of paradise, but he aims too low.
Paradise wouldn’t have cops, because no one would want to break the law—ever.
That sounds great as it is, but imagine not wanting to speed while driving. Imagine not being in a rush or pressed for time. Imagine rejoicing in what is—not would was or might be if…
Bulldogs wouldn’t have to have rubber teeth, because we would have no fear of animals, and they would have no fear or dread of us.
Paradise wouldn’t have jails.
We won’t want to sin against God and get away with it—we’ll serve God gladly and rejoice in the Lord always.
The hobo aims too low—just like Adam and Eve.
But that’s all that Man understands—temporal solutions to everlasting problems.
Now, I say all of that so I can say this:
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus raises the only son of a widow and gave him back to his mother.
In 2016, this was the Gospel lesson appointed for the day after my brother died—and so—it’s important for me, the other son of my mother, to do with this miracle as I ought for all of the miracles, to teach what Jesus is saying—as well as what He’s not.
What Jesus is promising—as well as what He’s not.
Miracles are not promises for what to expect in your daily life.
What mother doesn’t want to see and hear and feel her child again?
But this miracle is not a promise that Jesus will stop our funeral processions on the way.
Experience has taught us this.
But a mother’s grief is ignorant of the world and knows only her child.
You need to know—the grieving mother needs to know—that this miracle isn’t wonderful because God gave this one son back to this one mother.
This miracle is wonderful because God has power over death—Jesus is the Christ, the promised Seed, who will be bruised—and in being bruised, He will crush the head of that ancient serpent, the devil.
Man is always looking for a temporal solution to everlasting problems.
Receiving her boy back to her is still a temporal solution. He might die again. He did die again—maybe even before her.
We know Jesus knew this woman. “He knows all people and needs no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knows what is in man” (cf. John 2:24-25).
“When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7:13).
He’s not saying, “Stop crying, you ridiculous, emotional woman.”
I’ve heard people say, at funerals, “You’ll get over it. It’s okay. Give it time.” Jesus isn’t saying that.
He’s saying, “I will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (cf. Revelation 21:4).
Not because of temporal solutions thought up by man, but because of eternal solutions put in place and proclaimed by God.
The comfort of this miracle is that “[Jesus] came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak” (Luke 7:14-15).
With simple words, “Young man, I say to you, arise,” Jesus makes the enemy, Death, look foolish, not fearsome.
That’s your God.
“He’s by our side upon the plain / With His good gifts and Spirit. / And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, / Though these all be gone, / Our vict’ry has been won; / The Kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656:4).
One little word fells the devil and calls forth life where there was just death.
That’s your God.
He touched the bier.
The death shroud.
Our phrase is to say that He wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty, but it’s more than that.
Jesus says, “No one takes [my life] from me. I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (cf. John 10:18).
For this charge and responsibility, for this task and time, for this purpose Jesus has come to this hour (cf. John 12:27).
To stop the procession of death where it is.
To say to death, “Thus far have you gone, but no further.”
That’s your God.
Who laid down His life on the cross—and took it up again on the Third Day.
That’s Your God, the Seed of the Woman, the Child of Eve, the Lord, who crushed the head of the serpent, and with His blood and sacrifice covers the sin and wretchedness of Man—not in a fleeting way, not as a half measure, but once and for all.
In Christ, God forgives the iniquity and remembers the sin no more.
In Christ, Death is swallowed up by death, and on the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
Mother and child included.
This is most certainly true.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 16 Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt