Trinity 24, 2015

 

The Epistle. Colossians 1:3-12

The Gospel. Matthew 9:18-26

+

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

We have arrived at the last Sunday of the Christian Calendar Year. 

 

Next week we pray a new prayer for a New Year by asking God to stir up our wills within us so that we may bring forth the fruit of good works.

 

Today, however, the prayer has more of a tone of closure.  And this closure can be seen in two senses.

 

First, we can see it as a closing of the year. 

 

 

Absolve thy people, O LORD, from their offences…..that we may be delivered from the bands of sin….which by our frailty we have committed. 

 

And in light of a New Year coming next week, it prepares us for the beginning of a new cycle of sin, contrition, and forgiveness and restoration…. getting us going again.

 

This is an appropriate prayer for any Christian at any time.  But we can also see it as a prayer done when our life is done.

 

Absolve thy people O LORD, that we may be delivered from the bands of sin….which by our frailty we have committed….also has a tone of the eternal.

 

Upon death, the Christian is released from the bands of sin which he has committed through his frailty……and is received into the presence of the Lord Himself. 

 

We are reminded that frailty is not the cause of our sin, but sin is a result of our frailty. 

 

Pauls’ Epistle to the Colossians today opens with thanksgiving and prayer….including that same theme we find in the Collect of both temporal and eternal elements to it.

 

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”

 

Notice Paul uses thanksgiving instead of congratulations.  He is always reminding his readers that whatever is accomplished in us is from God and not from ourselves.

 

We give thanks to God for what we are, not ourselves.

 

 

Paul says he has heard of their faith in Christ and their love for one another…. and instead of congratulating them on such strong faith, he thanks God for their faith….always knowing from whom the gifts from.

 

He goes on at the end of this section to say: “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.”

 

Three things here are to be noted….all intertwined.

God the Father has qualified us to share in His inheritance.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness.

He has transferred us to the Kingdom of His Son Jesus Christ.

 

We have understood these things and have gone over them many times before.

 

We were not born this way.  We were born alienated from God according to Paul.  We were not qualified for any kind of inheritance.  Our sin disqualified us in all ways.

 

But God in His love moved to change this condition.  God has adopted us by an unmerited election.

 

He did not look down the corridors of time to see how good and worthy we would be.  Looking to the future is not what God does.  He is now and ever shall be…. always present.  He was and is, and is to come.

 

From the foundations of the world, He knew us….and He…. out of His hidden will, has loved us and made us what we are today.

 

He has qualified us by sealing us by His Spirit through the waters of baptism and spiritual regeneration. 

 

He has made us to be one with all of the saints who have gone before us and now dwell in unapproachable light.

 

Consequently, we have been delivered from the domain of darkness. Wherever God’s grace is absent, darkness reigns.

 

We resided in darkness until we were brought to His light.  We remain in darkness until He brings us to His own glorious light.

 

Isaiah prophesied of this very thing when he said: “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

   but the Lord will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.”[1]

 

It is a heavy and sobering picture painted. 

And yet understanding it makes us all the more appreciate our redemption.

 

We were in darkness, but we were also referred to as darkness.  And the whole world is called darkness.  And we were held captive under that darkness until the light that is Christ set us free.

 

We read of this in the first chapter of John’s Gospel about Christ: “In Him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5 ESV)

 

And then the third point: We have been transferred to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son.  We have been transferred from darkness to light…from death to life….from damnation to salvation.

 

Christ is the love of the Father.  And when we are in Him as we are here today, we are loved by the Father through the Son.

 

On the Mount of Transfiguration, God spoke out of the cloud…. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.”

These are true statements about us and worthy to be received. 

Qualified.

Tranferred.

Delivered.

 

Past tense in one sense.  Future in another.  Declarations about our current status and promises of a future position…a future status.

 

And our Gospel gives us a similar message this morning in a different way.  In this passage we have a woman healed and a girl restored to life.

 

This passage or account is recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospels….Matthew, Mark and Luke.

 

Mark and Luke have a few extra facts in their accounts.

 

 

For example, this man is not just a ruler but a ruler of the synagogue.  So he is a man of high rank.  He is not a Rabbi but he is in charge of the services….reading selections.

 

This man comes and kneels before Jesus and pleads with Him…he worships Him…that He would lay His hand on his daughter….who has just died…stating that he is sure that if Jesus would come and touch her, she would live again.

 

While on His way, and the crowds were pressing in on Jesus from all sides, a woman who had a 12 year problem of a discharge of blood came up behind Him and touched the hem of His garment.

 

Her faith was in His power.  She did not….. like the ruler, stop Him and request help.  She didn't disturb Jesus at all.  She just came up and touched the hem of His garment.

 

 

 

 

As we know from this account, both the woman’s blood problem stopped immediately and as Jesus entered the ruler’s house, He raised the little girl to life.

 

Both of these miracles have, among other things, something to teach us about Jesus, ourselves, and our eternal salvation in Him.

 

We can see the woman as the one who represents our present condition.  That all that is required of us is the put our faith in Christ.

 

It is much of the time a weak faith.  It is a trembling faith….a wavering faith.  A faith that only touches the edges of Jesus’ garments. But we are told that this is enough to count as faith.

 

And as we put our trust and faith in Christ, our immediate healing occurs as well.  We are healed of our sin, transferred out of darkness and transferred into light.

 

 

We still have a life ahead of repeated sin and struggle.  We still live a life that struggles to hold on to the Gospel at times….because of fear or disbelief. 

 

But the faith of this woman shows us the faith we must have in order to be healed as well.  Not necessarily of physical things but of spiritual.

 

Her faith had made her well.  Jesus knew that power had gone out of Him when she touched Him….even though there was a crowd all around him pushing and pressing.  Her faith was spiritual and was powerful enough to cut through all of the jostling and cause Jesus to stop and address her.

 

Take heart, your faith had made you well.

 

And then we get to the next part of the story.  Jesus had not forgotten the little girl who had died.

 

His mind is not distracted from His mission. 

He arrives at the house.  He moves through the crowd, the mourning and the musicans. 

And He tells the people this:  ’Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him.”

 

But what does this mean for us?  This girl was not sleeping, she was dead.  What did Jesus mean?

 

Ryle: “How wonderful that sight must have been! Who that has ever seen the dead, can forget the stillness, the silence, the coldness, when the breath has left the body? Who can forget the awful feeling, that a mighty change has taken place, and a mighty gulf been placed between ourselves and the departed? But behold! our Lord goes to the chamber where the dead lies, and calls the spirit back to its earthly tabernacle. The pulse once more beats. The eyes once more see. The breath once more comes and goes.”[2]

 

By human earthly standards, the little girl was dead.By heavenly standards, she was only asleep because she was about to be awakened.

This is resurrection language!....resurrection imagery…  We need to hear this, because it applies just as much to us as it did to that little girl….and her father…and all who were standing around.

 

Paul says: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 ESV)

 

He also says in 1 Corinthians 15:

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

     

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 ESV)

 

Those who have fallen asleep in Christ will rise again. 

Those who have put their faith in Christ in this life will only sleep…..and will rise again. 

 

It is death.  It is real.

And it comes to all of us.  But if we have put our faith in Christ, it can be considered only sleep….because we will rise again as well.

 

So as we close out this year with these final lessons, we have a summarization of the Christian life both here and in eternity.

 

Let us reflect this day on these things and look forward to a New Year and a renewed understanding of our life in Christ.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Is 60:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Ryle, J. C. (1860). Expository Thoughts on Matthew (pp. 89–90). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.