The Last Victory

St. Matthew 9:18-26

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

St. Matthew 9:22  But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.”  And the woman was made well from that hour.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  We all know people who were always together: Laverne and Shirley, Simon and Garfunkel, Calvin and Hobbes, Penn and Teller, two good friends, a husband and a wife, two sisters, whatever.  If you see one, you see the other.

Well, in the Scriptures there are three things that are always found together; they are inseparable.  Where ever one is there the other two are as well.  And these three are sin, death and the devil.  These are the three great enemies of Jesus and His people.  Wherever one is there are the other two, this triad of evil, this team of wickedness.

Remember the Garden of Eden: first, in slithers the devil in the form of a serpent.  Then there is sin, the eating of the forbidden fruit.   And then the wages of Adam and Eve’s sin: death: “…for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17)  Sin, death and the devil.  If one walks through the door, you know the other two are close behind.  And really, these three mark our condition as human beings; we are conceived and born dying sinners who are under the thumb of the devil.

The Scriptures put these three enemies of ours side by side.  For example, sin and death: In Romans 6:23, St. Paul says, “The wages of sin is death.”  Then there’s death and the devil, as in Hebrews 2:14 where we have the devil described as “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”  Last, the devil and sin.  1 John 3:8 says, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”   So again: sin, death, and the devil.

And we must also note that there is no overcoming these enemies by our own authority or power or resources or efforts.  The best that Adam and Eve could have hoped for in the Garden was maybe to fend off the attack or somehow to resist the devil and avoid sin and death for a while.  But, of course, they failed miserably.  We, on the other hand, are utterly hopeless and helpless in our fight against all of these three great tyrants.  Who among us has ever defeated sin and lived a perfect and holy life?  Who among us has ever destroyed and disarmed the devil?  Who among us has ever overcome death?  As the saying goes, “Two things are certain: Death and taxes.”  But God’s Word declares that there are three certain things: death, and sin, and the devil.

So, sin, death and the devil are constant companions to all of us in this sin-sick and falling-apart-at-the-seams world.  But take heart, dear fellow redeemed, that when those enemies come and fight against us, Jesus comes to fight against them.  This is what Jesus comes to do: to fight sin and death and the devil.

We see it in all of His miracles.  Jesus is either casting out demons, (that’s overcoming the devil), or forgiving sins (that’s fighting against sin), or healing the sick and even raising the dead (that’s fighting against death).

We see it in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 9 where Jesus raised Jarius’ daughter from death.  Jarius was a ruler and supporter of the synagogue, and he came to Jesus and said to Him, “My daughter has just died.”  Now think of it: this man’s daughter has just died, and instead of staying by her side, instead of joining in the crowd of mourners, instead of comforting the rest of the family, he ran out the door looking for Jesus.  And when he found Jesus he said to Him, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” [Matthew 9:18]

Jairus’ own words confess that he believes that Jesus has and exercises authority over death.  And what did Jesus do?  He cut through the weeping crowds, He took the girl’s hand and, as Matthew 9:25 states, “the girl arose.”  Jesus came, and death gave in to Him.

It is good for us to pause here to consider what it means that Jesus can take the hand of a lifeless corpse and lift a person out of death.  We have these three enemies: sin, death and the devil.  And yet, Jesus picks them off one by one, overcoming them and destroying them.  This miracle before us is just one little victory in the war Jesus is fighting against hell.

When Jesus walked into the room it was full of weeping and wailing and mourning because the little girl had died.  Death had seemingly won the day; it was another victory of the enemy.  Death always wins in this life.  That’s why we bury people.  There’s no waking up; death wins.

But not with Jesus.  Wherever Jesus is, there is life.  And wherever Jesus overcomes death, He is also overcoming sin and the devil.  And this is a good thing, for while our three enemies are bundled in their assault against us, they are also bundled together in their defeat.  When one goes down, they all go down.

This all comes to a head in our Lord’s passion – His bitter suffering and death.  For it is on the cross, dear friends, that Jesus died for our sins.  There He tasted God’s full wrath for our transgressions and in our place.  There on the cross Jesus suffered our suffering that He might win for us the forgiveness of all of our sins.

And He has done exactly that: Jesus won forgiveness.  “It is finished,” He cried.  Sin is defeated; sin is overcome.  Sin is paid for…  And we know what comes next…

Remember that sin, death and the devil are bound together, and here on the cross they are bound together in a bundle of divine destruction.  Jesus won the victory over sin.   We know He will rise again, destroying death, and we know that the devil will be toppled from his thrown and cast down, for, as we confess in the Catechism, “where there is forgiveness of sins, there also is life and salvation.”  With Jesus there is always life in the place of death.  With Jesus there is always salvation and freedom in place of the devil.

In this life we are surrounded by death; it is as we sang in the Hymn of the Day: “In the midst of earthly life snares of death surround us.”   But Jesus has taken hold of us, He has forgiven our sins, He has set us free from the devil, and He has raised us from the fear of death, knowing that when He returns He will raise us as well from the grave and grant us eternal life before His face in the new heaven and the new earth.

That’s why there is a powerful moment in the liturgy of Christian Burial where, at the grave, we get to hear these words: “We now commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  For with Jesus, death is dead!  Life lives!

And through your holy Baptism, dear friends, you are given the full benefits of Christ’s death to sin as well as His resurrection to life from the grave.  That is most certainly true!

Dear fellow redeemed, we walk now by faith, not by sight.  We have the victory over our sins; we have the forgiveness of our sins by God-given faith and trust in Christ.  Indeed, we still see our sin and are frustrated by it.  But by God-given faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, He does not count them against us.

Indeed, we still see the devil all around us, causing trouble, tempting us to unbelief and despair, trying to lead us to other great shame and vice.  But we stand against Him, protected by the shield of faith which quenches all of his fiery darts.

It is true, we still see death.  We lose loved ones; we lose friends; we are surrounded by death.  And unless the Lord returns while we are alive, we will see death too.

But, dear fellow redeemed, by God-given faith we know more about death than what our eyes preach to us.  We no longer have to fear death because Jesus has defeated it for us.  And by virtue of our Baptism into Christ we have not only His death to sin but also His resurrection to life.  Yes, we know, just as sure as we know that our sins are forgiven, that our death will be a most blessed event.  It is a gain for us, a passing from death into life.

That, dear friends, is this comfort that our Lord Jesus delivers to us in today’s Gospel reading.  And it is this comfort that our Lord continues to deliver to you in His holy Supper.  For here is His broken body and shed blood delivered to you under the bread and wine.  And wherever His body and blood are, there is also the forgiveness of all of your sins.   And where there is the forgiveness of sins, there also is life and salvation.

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