“Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”
Awake, awake, put on strength, O Arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces, that pierced the dragon? Was it not You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, Who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; Everlasting Joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
“I, I am He Who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy?
And where is the wrath of the oppressor? He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall his bread be lacking. I am the Lord your God, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of My hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are My people.’”
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all Spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified you to share in the Inheritance of the saints in Light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
While [Jesus] was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with His disciples.
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.”
Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, He said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”
And they laughed at Him. But when the crowd had been put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.
*Transcript was edited for readability.
The text for today's sermon is the Gospel that was just read to you.
We have two pictures of faith, a man whose daughter had just died and a woman who suffered from a 12-year illness. She wouldn't speak to Christ face to face, content just to touch the fringe of His garment. He came in and knelt before Christ and made a clear request, my daughter's just died but come and lay your hand on her and she will live. This Jewish woman's disease made her ritually unclean so she'd been a religious and social outcast for 12 years, that's probably why she didn't dare speak to Christ or even ask him to touch her. The man, on the other hand, was a ruler, important in the community. He was bold she timid. He an insider she an outsider. But the differences between them are insignificant when you see what it is that they had in common; it was the same faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I can think of no word less properly understood than the word faith. You hear about people of faith, but too often faith becomes the part that you choose depending on your personal preference, which may change from day to day. For them, faith is created, formed, and strengthened by each person's deciding. If that's the case, if faith comes from yourself, then there can't be just one true faith.
Think about it, if faith is determined by each person, personally, it would mean that one person's faith is just as good as another. If faith is entirely personal, it would mean, it makes no difference who or what one worships. In fact, even devil worshipers will call themselves people of faith.
I remember when Linda and I were in Italy looking at some Roman statues, I overheard a tour guide answering this question: why are there seams on some statues between the neck and the head? And the guide said, well the Romans did it for economic reasons; if someone fell out of favor or power they didn't want to have to make a whole new statue, they just took off the old head and put on a new one. Tragically that's how many people look at faith, the head is interchangeable, the body is the same, you just have to decide on a head.
But you can't do that, at least a Christian can't. Christian faith is different from all other religions. That's because Christ Jesus, our head, is completely different from all others. Other religions teach a faith where God helps you to save yourself. Got a problem? Well, you do your best to overcome and faith will give you that just little boost that you need to help you achieve your goal. You and your co-pilot god, whoever that might be, fix what ails you by the two of you working together; god does his part and you do yours, and together, together you make it happen.
That's not how it is with Christ so that's not how it is with Christian faith. Christ is your complete Savior. You don't help Him do what He does. You don't take the primary responsibility and let Him help you towards your goal. In fact, God says you're utterly helpless, you're a beggar, you can have no confidence in yourself.
Now doctors had been unable to cure the religiously and socially outcast woman. But she knew Christ had power to heal her and that he was full of mercy. Her faith wasn't, I just have to add Christ to what I’ve already been doing, and that little extra, that little extra, now that’ll get her done. God's merciful nature will get me that little boost that I need.
Muslims call their god benevolent and merciful but they have no promise in their god's word that they'll go to heaven. So what good is there in believing in a merciful god if you can't trust that he will indeed have mercy upon you. Faith in Christ is trust that he will never deny you mercy. It's believing He’ll always keep his promise to those who trust in him. Christ said to the woman your faith has made you well, literally your faith has saved you.
But you really have to understand what Christ meant. Faith saves but not by what faith does. Faith doesn't do anything, then it wouldn't be faith. True faith, right faith, biblical faith, simply receives the gifts God and Christ graciously offers. You gotta get this, you got to get this if you're to rightly understand the Christian faith. Faith isn't like having some superpower at your disposal so that you can overcome the big problems and leap to victory over great obstacles. Christian faith, the faith which receives forgiveness and life from God is purely receptive. It doesn't do, it's done too. In other words, don't put faith in your faith, that's just self-confidence and it's what St. Peter expressed in his self-confident faith when he said to Christ, even though they will all fall away and if I have to die with you Lord, I will die with you, I will never deny you, and then he promptly went out and he denied Christ.
Faith that you need is indeed that faith which is not about looking to see how you feel about Christ and then saying to yourself, well I'm confident, I'm confident in my feelings about Christ. That's folly, that's boastful, that's arrogant, that's ignorance, a sinner needs a savior and that's where faith comes in. Faith doesn't look inside to feel a confidence in Christ. Right faith looks outside of itself to Christ Jesus, the one who alone can save you. Faith is in Christ not in self and faith is born from your necessity.
Just before Luther died he said what faith is, we are all beggars this is true. Look at this ruler, he was accustomed to be treated as an important man, a dignitary. But what does this dignified and important man do, he knelt before Christ. St. mark says he fell at Christ's feet and begged him. So when he asked Christ to come and lay his hand on his daughter and she will live, he was no ruler commanding that his will be done, he was begging.
Faith, true faith is born when you realize that you have no power. True faith always looks to Christ. The heavenly Father said, listen to him, the Holy Spirit through the sacred scriptures guide you into the whole truth about Christ. Faith looks to him because the first thing you need from God is to be delivered from your sin and its consequences, and it's Christ alone, who by his bloody sacrifice, delivers you.
So, faith, Christian faith, is born in surrender. It's the opposite of self-confidence. Faith doesn't want God to pat you on the back and say that well, you're just basically a good person. Faith knows that it needs salvation, not attaboys. As we sing, nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Faith’s confidence and security is in Christ who shed his blood for you and this means faith clings to his word and says, when he says what he says, it believes what Christ says.
He told the woman that her faith had saved her and at that very moment she was healed. Christ said the girl is not dead but sleeping and so at that very moment she lived again, though she died, her heart had stopped, her breath was stilled, when Christ said the girl is not dead, but sleeping, his word brought her from death to life. This is the simple powerful truth that right faith brings to your heart and mind. That right faith doesn't go by what it sees or it feels or it wants, it goes by what Christ has promised. Without His promise there can be no real faith, only delusion, personal desire, and personal opinion. Christian's must be on their guard against false faith, which replaces humble trust with self-confidence.
Faith is a serious business, it is a matter of life and the death, which may come with no warning. The people in that Los Angeles bar last week were alive and well and then suddenly with no warning a maniac entered and then they were dead. Fanatical murderers, or a childhood illness, dead is dead. When physical death arrives you have no power against it.
When Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players in the crowd making the commotion, he said, go away for the girl is not dead but sleeping. Now everybody in that house knew that the girl hadn’t been sleeping, she was dead, and so what did they do, they laughed at Christ. But unexpectedly, the life entered the room. Christ the life met death and he took his power. Those with their hearts set on death laughed, they knew dead when they saw it, so having witnessed death, having embraced it with their flutes and their commotion of mourning, they laughed at the idea of life. But Christ the life gets the last word.
Right faith knows Christ the life will never change. You must reckon with your fickleness and you must repent because self-confidence runs hot and cold; one day absolutely certain in God's holy word, rejoicing in the victory that Christ won over sin and death and the devil, but the next day God's Word seems unreal and your heart can be doubtful and you can become afraid to die. You flicker like a candle to the wind but Christ the object of faith remains constant and true.
With the woman and the man who looked in faith to Christ's mercy, you must deny your feelings and see what they saw and have faithful courage. Hebrews chapter 12, We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. So you may not grow weary or faint-hearted.
Faith which endures and remains constant is focused on Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. In Holy Baptism, he put his death and life upon you. In His supper you're given to eat and to drink his holy death and to receive his everlasting life. In Christ, every enemy who assaults your faith is defeated. In hymn 422 we begged, on my heart imprint Your image, blessed Jesus, King of grace, that life’s riches, cares, and pleasures never may Your work erase; Let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me, is my life, my hopes foundation, and my glory and salvation.
In Jesus precious name,
Hymn of the day:
IN THE VERY MIDST OF LIFE (LSB 755)
How blest is the congregation that knows and sings well this hymn of comfort! Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote this hymn for use at funerals. It is based on the Latin Media vita in morte sumus (Amid life we are surrounded by death). This hymn is one of many that were sung as mourners walked from the Church to the cemetery (meaning, resting place). That does not mean funerals are the only times it is to be sung for it deals not only with death, but sin and its consequences throughout earthly life. When sin and the snares of death surround the Christian the cry is to Him Who is Holy, Holy, Holy, that is, to the Father and the + Son and the Holy Spirit, our Baptismal Lord. Whether Christians face death, hell, or any other trial this Triune God is the only One Who has mercy on them.
The tune is by the first Lutheran kantor, Johann Walter (1496-1570); it is based upon the chant which accompanies the original Latin text (Media vita…). This hymn is no dirge, but a bold and boisterous confession of faith in Jesus Christ. The whole hymn is forceful, but the voices are raised most at the recurring Trisagion (Thrice Holy) at the end of each stanza. (Kantor Lock for Logia Online)
November verses to remember:
November 4 – Romans 1:16 – “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”
November 11 – Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
November 18 – Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
November 25 – John 14:6 – “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.”