daily biblical sermons


HE WHO BELIEVES HAS ETERNAL LIFE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, Tenth Sunday of the Year, June 05, 2016
1 Kings 17:17-24, Psalm 29, Galatians 1:11-19, Luke 7:11-17


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.' And the dead man sat up, and began to speak, and he gave him to his mother" (Luke 7:14-15).


This is the account of Jesus raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain. Jesus has power over life and death. He has the power to raise the dead, as we see here and in the raising of Lazarus.


Raising the dead is one of the signs that Jesus points to as showing that he is the Messiah, the one who is to come. When the disciples of John the Baptist asked him, "‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?' ... He answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me'" (Luke 7:20, 22-23).


Jesus uses his power to raise the dead out of mercy and compassion, in this case out of compassion for a widow who was weeping at the funeral of her young son, her only son. So as a deed of mercy towards her, he raises up her son.


We also are to perform deeds of mercy to help those in need, but the main thing we are to do is what the apostles did, preach to people the good news of God's salvation in Jesus Christ. We are to preach Christ's death and resurrection as his great saving act that causes all who accept this message with faith to be raised from the death of sin, guilt, and alienation from God to a new and redeemed life in Christ with a sure hope of rising from the dead in glorified bodies on the last day and living forever with Christ in heavenly joy and peace, with all their sins forgiven and their guilt removed.


Is this preaching not to raise people from the dead? Is this not to say to someone who is dead in his sins and in a hopeless depression for turning away from God and violating his commandments, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Ephesians 5:14)? Is this not to say to such people, "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8)?


This is our ministry of mercy, to give people with empty, starving souls the bread of life, the word of God that will raise them from the dead if only they open their hearts and believe in Christ's act of salvation, his death and resurrection. This is the primary means used by the apostles to raise people from the dead, already in this life.


It is Christ's death and resurrection that raises the dead, and it is our ministry as his followers to preach this life-giving mystery to all we can reach. If people listen, repent, and believe, they will rise from the dead, even now, this very day, and on the last day with glorified bodies, like that of Christ after his resurrection.


St. Paul says, "You, who were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Colossians 2:13). In Christ, God raises from the dead those who repent and believe in him. "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-6).


This is what Christ does for us. He raises us out of our passions and sins and gives us a new life, a life in which we participate already, ahead of time, in the blessings of the resurrection of the dead on the last day.


We should therefore live in a completely new way, seeking the things that are above, not those that are below. "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4).


So you see, we have been raised already from the dead to a new life in Christ if we believe and trust in him for our salvation, and then we still hope for the full future glorification of our bodies when Christ will come again in all his glory on the last day. And this is the ministry that we now have, the ministry of apostolic preaching, where we preach the saving mystery of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection for our salvation.


Christ died for our sins to make full and just reparation for them so that all who believe in him, repent, and confess their sins with a firm purpose of amendment will receive the forgiveness of all their sins and will be declared righteous by God, with Christ's own righteousness reckoned to them (Romans 4:22-24). Is this not to raise the dead? Jesus and the apostles could physically raise the dead; but even that was a sign of this deeper spiritual salvation that Christ came to bring us, namely being justly absolved of all our sins and being raised to a new life through our faith in him.


This, then, is our ministry - to raise the dead - to preach Christ's death and resurrection in order to raise people, who are lost in sin and despair, out of the death of their guilt and depression to a new life in Christ. Only Christ's death has the power to do this, for it alone makes just reparation for our sins before God, and this reparation is applied to us when we put our faith and trust in him.


Christ's resurrection then completes his death, showing that his death was accepted by God and has succeeded in its purpose of vicariously suffering what we should have suffered for our sins, thus paying for us our debt to God for our sins and so setting us free if we put our faith in him. Hence St. Paul says, Christ "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25). That is, he was put to death to make reparation for our sins, and was raised up, indicating the success of his death, so that God could declare righteous those who believe in him.


Having been born again in Christ (John 3:3) and raised up by him from sin to a new life, participating thereby already in the blessings of his resurrection, we now look forward to the fullness of life with God in heaven and to our final resurrection in glory, when Christ comes again.


None of this happens by our own power or by the power of our human nature. It is a gift of God to those who are saved by their faith in Christ. It is the power of Christ that does this for his elect. We are completely dependent on him to receive this gift. Only Christ's death saves us. And only his death gives us a new life, saved from our sins. And finally, only Christ's death, through our faith in him, enables us to live forever with him in the light and to rise up again in glorified bodies on the last day.


"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). "For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life" (John 6:47). "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (John 3:36). "God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:11-12). "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).


Christ, through his death and resurrection, is the one who gives us eternal life, which begins now in rising from the death of sin, guilt, and alienation from God to a new life in Christ, and ends in the glorification of our bodies on the last day.

 

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