Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus with children. We have heard of His love for them. In Mark 10, the Gospel reads when the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is administered, He took children into His arms and blessed them. He told His disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to children such as these.
We hear throughout Scripture the Lord’s love for children. For instance, in 1 Kings 17 the prophet Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead. In Luke 7, the Lord raised the son of the widow from Nain. Elijah prayed that God would restore the boy. The Lord commanded the lad to rise. God was praised both times. The widow at Zerephath said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God.” 1 Kings 17:24b. The crowds said of Jesus, “A great prophet has risen among us!” Luke 7:16b. The widow said to Elijah, “The word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 1 Kings 17:24c. And the crowds said of Jesus, “God has visited His people!” Luke 7:16c.
The same thing happened in both readings: a dead boy was brought back to life. Another thing happened in both readings: the word of the Lord in the mouths of the prophets was truth. Elijah spoke the truth, as God gave him the words to use, and Jesus spoke the truth, for He is God and thus cannot lie. This also is true: God has visited His people. He visited the widows at Zerephath and Nain, raising their sons from the dead. In the liturgy, He visits us, coming to us in His Word and Sacraments.
There is one basic truth about life that we all know: it is next to impossible to awaken something that’s already dead. There are instances of people being brought back to life after being declared clinically dead, but usually, when a person’s body dies, it stays dead.
But despite our best efforts, we cannot do what God can do: restore human life. There’s a reason why we can’t bring our loved ones — or anyone else — back to life. They are dead physically, and we are dead spiritually. Apart from God, our souls are as dead as those bodies now laid to rest. We are spiritually dead — dead in our trespasses and sins.
That’s why Jesus visits you and brings you into His house, where you are His guest and where He gives you His gifts. He visits you in His Word. As He said to the widow, He also says to you, “Do not weep,” for He has compassion on you. Do not weep, for your sins are forgiven. Your heavenly Father has forgiven you for the sake of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and He has given you the promise of eternal life.
You see, fellow redeemed, Jesus visits you by way of the cross of Calvary. The crucified Lord hung on the cross, not visited — but abandoned — by His Father. God the Father abandoned His Son so that the risen Jesus would come and visit you. Jesus visited and redeemed us, His people. First He came in the Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and living among us, as one of us, yet without sin. He visited the Jordan to become baptized by John, “to fulfill all righteousness,” as He said, willingly placing Himself under the Law and fulfilling it for us.
He next visited the cross, where He died for you. There on the cross Jesus was the beaten, bloodied sacrificial Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world, where He won your forgiveness, given to you in His Word and Sacraments. He visits you at His altar, where you taste His forgiveness upon your lips, where you taste and see that the Lord is good.
He also visits you from the lectern and the pulpit, where the Word of the Lord in the mouths of His prophets, His pastors, is truth. God’s Word is true, for Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, giving His Word and Sacraments their power.
The risen Christ has visited you and touched the casket of your sin-filled body and says, “… I say to you, arise.” By His Word you are risen in Christ, made alive by His resurrection, made alive again at our Baptism, in Holy Absolution, in His read and proclaimed Word, and in the Lord’s Supper, that you would live with Jesus in heaven forever.
Mark Schlamann is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Tooele.