Beloved. Today’s Gospel is a rich and marvelous account. In the account just before it, Jesus had healed the servant of a Roman centurion. Jesus didn’t have to go to the servant to heal him; He healed the man from far away. Now, shortly after that, Jesus ups the ante. Jesus does not merely heal someone, He returns to life one that had already died—and not one freshly dead but one who was already being carried out of the city for burial. By this Jesus shows us exactly who He is—the very God Himself. It is only God who can give life. So, first by healing the centurion’s servant, Jesus shows His power over the corruption sin had brought into the world; He shows His power over the works of the devil who brought sin into the world. And now Jesus shows His power over what seems to be the most wretched and permanent effect of sin—death—and merely by His word: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
But for us now looking back at this miracle, we can see a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own resurrection. Here there is that funeral procession going out of town; with Jesus there was that death procession going to the place of crucifixion, where He would also be buried nearby. Here is a widow, whose son is dead; with Jesus, St. Mary His mother was also a widow and from the cross Jesus entrusts her care to St. John. Here where the widow’s son is brought back to life, we are reminded of St. Mary whose Son, Jesus, was brought back to life, never to die again.
And here we also see a foreshadowing of our own resurrection on the Last Day. Unless, Jesus returns first, death will have worked its horror and claimed us as its victim. But like here, death can only go so far. It is not ultimately the victor—Jesus is! At His simple word here, death was stopped in its tracks [Jesus] went up to the open coffin, touched it, and the pallbearers stopped. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. When Jesus meets death, death must give way to life. So also on the Last Day, by His word Jesus will call forth all the dead from their graves. Death will be undone; Jesus had conquered death by His resurrection on Easter morning. Today’s Gospel gives a foreshadow of that, showing Jesus has the power over death; and it points us forward to the resurrection/ our resurrection on the Last Day.
Our text today is taken from Isaiah 26, a chapter that also speaks of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting for our Lord’s dear Christians. Of the faithful, Isaiah prophesies a number of verses after our text : Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy.
There is an interesting connection here between our text and today’s Gospel. Notice in the Gospel we read: Jesus went on his way to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd were traveling with him. As he was approaching the town gate, there was a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother. The name of the town, “Nain”, means “beautiful meadow”—a very beautiful image—but there is a very ugly scene: a procession of death coming from it. Contrast that with what we hear in today’s text which describes a different city, the city of God, the Church: Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. The Lord calls His people into His city, the Church, where there is nothing but peace and joy in Him.
Our text begins: In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah. Remember that when the prophets use the term “in that day” it usually refers to the time of Jesus and of the NT Church. That’s what we have here: “in that day” refers to the NT times, the time in which we now live. And this song will be sung in the land of Judah, that is, by the Christian, by the believers who have been brought to faith and preserved in the faith by the power of the Lord.
So what is that song? How does it begin? Our text: We have a strong city; He sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. The Church, set up and established by Jesus, is our city. Notice salvation is her walls and bulwarks. That’s the salvation that Jesus won for us by His holy life and His innocent suffering and death. That’s the salvation that is shown by His glorious resurrection and ascension. The city of God, the Church, has walls that cannot be breached because her walls are the salvation of Jesus. That means that they are absolutely impenetrable because nothing can undo or bring to nothing Jesus’ work. No matter how great our sin, as long as we run to Jesus in faith, run into the strong city of God, whose walls are the salvation of Jesus, we are safe. As long as we are in this strong and holy city of the Church, established by Jesus, no enemy can enter and take away from us the blessings Jesus obtained and won for us. The Church is that strong city because it is not founded on us and our supposed holiness, on our ever changing thoughts and emotions, but on the work of Jesus, the God-man.
Just as walls protected the ancient cities from the enemies, the salvation firmly grounded on Jesus and His work protects us from sin, devil, and hell. But the thing is, we have to be inside the city for its walls to do us any good. Dear Christian, we must be in the strong city of the Church. That means that we must recognize and confess our sin and cling to Jesus as our only Savior from sin, death, devil and hell. That means that by faith we receive Jesus and His holy, perfect, righteousness. When we are, by faith in Jesus, within the strong city of the Church, we have solid protection because of His merits and intercessions. The devil and all his host can be arrayed against us but they can do us no harm. We’re safe in Jesus, in His Church.
We have a strong city; He sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Here is also the picture of permanence. There is never a time or person for whom Jesus did not die. There will never be a time where there won’t be a Church for the sinner to run to. There will never be a time when the devil and his all his hellish host will overcome and destroy the Church. In fact, Jesus promises the opposite [Mt. 16.18]: I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, that is, the devil and all of hell cannot stop the advance of the Church, cannot stop the Church from plundering hell/ by word and sacrament rescuing souls in the devil’s grasp and bringing them into the strong city of the Church and out of his reach and clutches.
The Church, the strong city of God, is permanent because the foundation and walls of the Church that Jesus established endure forever because His work and its fruit endure forever. There will never be a time when Jesus’ work—His life, death and resurrection—lose their power and we are no longer forgiven our sin and are no longer God’s children and heirs of heaven. His work has power/ efficacy forever. That’s the foundation and wall that cannot be breached and are permanent.
And the Church, the strong city of God, is not just for us now in this life but She continues on into all eternity. The Church on earth becomes the Church in heaven; the Church militant becomes the Church triumphant.
Our text: Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. The glorious thing is that the city of God, the Church, offers us righteousness; it calls us into righteousness. That’s the draw of the Church and her saving word—it offers to us sinners the forgiveness of sin and the perfect righteousness of Jesus. The thing is, left on our own, we have no righteousness; we would have only sin and heaven would be shut to us with only hell and damnation awaiting us. But by His holy Law, God brings us to recognize our sin and our lack of righteousness so that we would despair and long for forgiveness and righteousness. And then with His holy Gospel word, the Good News about Jesus, He offers and gives us the forgiveness of sin and the perfect holiness of Jesus. Here the Holy Spirit creates and preserves faith to receive that forgiveness. And, dear Christian, to us who in this Spirit-worked faith want to be righteous before God by Jesus’ righteousness, we hear: Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. This holy and strong city, the Church, with its walls of salvation that keeps out all enemies has her gates open to us, dear Christian, that we may go in.
The only way that we can/ do enter the gates into the Church/ the city of God is by being righteousness, a righteousness that is the result of faith, faith that receives Jesus’ perfect righteousness. And the amazing thing is that our—the righteous nation that keeps faith–faithfulness is preserved by a life of faith, namely by believing in and trusting in our Lord’s promises. As we are faithfully in our Lord’s word hearing it and believing it, faith is fed and deepened; as we receive the holy absolution for our sins, faith is gladdened and strengthened; as we receive Jesus and His body and blood in the holy Sacrament, faith is made more sure and comforted. In other words, all that we do in a life of faith to put ourselves in contact with God’s holy word and sacrament—as we keep faith— and believe it, the Lord is using to keep us righteous, i.e. keep us in the faith. We, dear Christian, are the righteous nation that keeps faith, as we preserve and hold fast to and treasure the faithful things, namely, God’s promises to us in Jesus.
As we enter that city of God, the Church, which has salvation as [her] walls and bulwarks, what great peace we have! Our text: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Dear Christian, as we, that righteous nation that keeps faith, rest in the Lord/ as our minds rest in Him we abide firm and constant, we are preserved in His perfect peace. He keeps us in His perfect peace: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You. The mind and heart that rest on the Lord, on His word and promise, on His work for us, are kept in perfect peace precisely because they rest on God, the eternal and unchangeable Rock, whose word and promise and work stand forever sure. When through the pastor He tells us our sins are forgiven, we need not doubt; when He baptizes us and tells us that we are His dear children and heirs of heaven, it is true no matter what; when He gives us His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sin, we need never doubt how this can be, instead we welcome Him as He unites Himself with us. Here is God’s glorious reward of grace: as we in Spirit-worked faith trust in Him, He rewards us with a double measure of peace, with perfect peace. That perfect peace of heart and mind is a gift from the Lord and has its origin in faith and hope in the Lord.
This is no “blind faith”. The faith of the Christian is certain and sure because it rests upon a sure and certain God and His sure and certain word and work. Again our text: Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Because God and His word is an eternal rock, faith can firmly and eternally rest upon it. If we love peace and desire a quiet heart, let us trust in the Lord and hear His word from which hope and faith arise. Hear His holy word/ read His holy word, and ponder it in the quiet of your heart. In that word He not only offers but He gives you the fruit of Jesus’ work. Our hearts are only truly at rest as they rest in the Lord, His word, His work, His promise. Do you want that rest and peace of heart and conscience? Then go to the Lord and rely on Him. By faith enter/ keep entering into His strong city of peace, the Church. It was established by Jesus. There is your salvation and there is your peace. INJ Amen.