Christ’s Comforting Compassion
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 7:13-15 “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And he who was dead sat up and began to speak, and He presented him to his mother.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… Death has a way of resolving everything, one way or another. The unfinished tasks are done, the building of friendships and relationships ends. What remains shows the life that was, and a glimpse of the life that will now be, in eternity, one way or another.
The early church document called the Didache was basically the hymnal of the Church from around 90 A.D. It intimates that there are two ways in this life and that “there is a great difference between the two ways.” Have you ever wondered how the way you choose each day connects with the way that will be yours after death? Or to put it another way, have you ever wondered what real choice you have in this life?
Today’s Holy Gospel teaches us that there are indeed two ways; we may call them, “The Comfortable Way” and the “Comforted Way.” On these two ways you will find every life ever lived, and a glimpse of that life in eternity one way or the other.
In today’s Gospel Christ bypasses His hometown of Nazareth. We could say that Nazareth is where people are following the Comfortable Way. They are comfortable in life, they seek no comfort from God – for their sins or their problems – and so they will receive no comfort from God. Jesus passes by these people on the Comfortable Way, just as He does today.
Instead, Jesus goes straight to Nain, a city where at the narrow city gate two processions meet. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is leading a large crowd of followers into the town. At the same time the dead body of a very young man – the only son of a widow – is being carried out in a coffin at the head of a very large funeral procession. Something has to give at the narrow city gate.
The widow is in tremendous grief. The enemy named sin and death has already claimed her husband; and now the same enemy has taken her only-begotten son – her only remaining flesh and blood – and her only remaining source of provision and livelihood. But then we read, When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” The He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And he who was dead sat up and began to speak, and He presented him to his mother.
Let all those false churches and falsely believing people who say that the Bible may not be entirely true, that some miracles may be myths, that Jesus may not be the true and only God – let them all fall down on their knees and repent and believe, for here Jesus shows Himself to be the very eternal Son of the living God. He speaks the word and forgives sins. He speaks the word and the dead are raised. He speaks the word and those who mourn are comforted.
And it all starts because Jesus sees the widow and has compassion on her. He feels for this widow in such a way that her suffering becomes His suffering, and so He must help. That is the same compassion that moved the Father to give up His Son and send Him to earth to be our Savior. That is the same compassion that moved the Son to give up His own flesh and blood on the cross, to be punished in the place of us sinners, and to conquer the enemy named sin and death by rising from the dead for us men and for our salvation. That is the same compassion that moved Jesus, after He raised the young man from the dead, not to keep that young man as a disciple, but to give him back to his mother – to serve her and care for her with compassion.
That is the way of being comforted, of receiving all things from Christ. That is the way that Christians walk. Now, to be sure, this way does bring us suffering. It means that we must care about the people that God brings into our lives; we must care about them in such a way that we must do something to help. And if you are a husband or wife, a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a friend or neighbor, you know that if you care about someone that way, then you are going to hurt. You will suffer when they suffer because of Christ’s compassion – His compassion for you, and His compassion for others in you.
But this way is the only real way, for it is rightly called the Comforted Way, the Way of Being Comforted. If you had been the widow of Nain and had asked anyone in the funeral procession if there was any hope for your son, the only answer you would have received would have been, “All you can do is bury him. There’s no hope. It’s useless.” And that is precisely the answer that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh gives us whenever we run into problems that are beyond our ability to fix. “All you can do is forget about it. There’s no hope. It’s useless.”
But here Christ shows that there is always hope! He, the eternal Son of God, can do anything, no matter how great or how small. He has created the world so that we might enjoy Him and His love for us. He has conquered sin and death for us so that we might live forever with Him in holiness and righteousness, first here through faith and then forever in heaven. He even kills death itself by His own death and resurrection. With Christ there is more than hope; there is certainty, confidence, peace, and life!
The people in the funeral procession of death are dead wrong! The procession stops and yields the right of way to the God of life, Jesus Christ. The way of being comforted means confidence – confidence in Christ that He will help us, that He will strengthen us, and that He will save us at just the right time and in just the right way. It means certainty that He is Lord and God, and that with Him all things are possible. It means peace, a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that only Christ can give, a peace that holds all Christians together. It means life – a glimpse of eternal life here and now and the sure and certain promise of its fulfillment in heaven.
But there is another way, the Comfortable Way, the way of those like the people in Nazareth whom Jesus passed by. This Comfortable way says, “I am in control; I don’t need anyone else; I can take care of myself; I won’t get involved in anyone else’s life; I have my self, my family, my car, my job, my things, and that is all that I need.”
But not only that, this way also often sees no need for the sustaining gifts of God in one’s life. This way does not want to confess sin. This way refrains from attending worship. This way says, “I don’t need to confess my sins to a pastor and say them out loud; God knows I am a sinner.” This way doesn’t want to live the Baptismal life of daily repentance, of daily drowning to sin and being renewed and resurrected. This way may view the Lord Supper as something to receive only when it feels like it instead of desperately and frequently desiring it because of daily sin. This way basically says, “I am comfortable. Don’t rock the boat. God can just leave me alone.”
But the way of Being Comforted is what the Lord offers you today and every day. This is the way of looking to God in Christ for everything. This is the way that receives Christ’s words of life even in the midst of death, like the widow grieving over her son. The Way of Being Comforted is the way of Christ’s compassion on all sinners, Christ’s deep and loving desire to give you all of Himself in every possible way.
That is the Way of being Comforted. It means compassion; the suffering of our family and friends and those around us is our suffering, and in Christ we can do something to help. It means confidence – confidence that Christ will also help and comfort and save us.
But most of all it means that Christ is always with us and is always coming to us in the ways He has provided to sustain us and see us through this life. We show compassion for others because His compassion has been poured out on us richly in His sin-defeating death and His death-defeating resurrection. And we are strengthened in our daily walk by His preached and spoken Word of life, by the blessings and forgiveness in Holy Baptism, by the spoken and delivered Holy Absolution, and by His real and true body-and-blood presence in the Lord’s Supper.
So, dear Christian, be comfortable no more, but constantly be comforted in Christ.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.