There is a giant mosaic on the wall of the south classroom building at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The mosaic pictures Christ the King, triumphant on His heavenly throne as ruler over His Father’s creation. A German theologian visiting the campus a few years ago was shown the mosaic. He was taken aback by one prominent thing missing in the mosaic: Jesus’ wounds. How can Jesus be King of Kings and Lord of Lords without His wounds? When Jesus returns, as the Advent hymn “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” proclaims, all, especially those who despise Him, shall “gaze…on His glorious scars”.
I suppose you could put the best construction on the matter and say the lack of wounds on Christ is an artistic choice. Yet as long as death is in the world, attempts are made to scare away its terrors. Death doesn’t care how or when it takes its victims. Death cannot be warded off by piety and virtue. You can try to prop up a death by thinking about all the nice things the deceased did. Yet when judgment comes, all human righteousness will be like filthy rags. The only righteousness that matters in judgment is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of death.
Jesus is shown as the Conqueror of death when He raises the widow’s only son at Nain. You can see this moment coming when you look elsewhere in the Gospels. Jesus says to Martha about Lazarus’ death: I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. He tells the Jews who are ready to stone Him: Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. He also says in the “bread of life” discourse: Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Jesus not only talks the talk, He walks the walk. Consider not only Lazarus, but also Jairus’ daughter, and today the widow’s son at Nain. The account of the miracle at Nain is a picture of Judgment Day. A large contingent with the widow and with Jesus meets at the town gate. The procession of death and the procession of life come face to face.
Jesus says two things. First He says to the widow, do not weep. Our Lord’s words sound like a funeral faux pas. You want someone to cry. Grieving is good. Yes, a grieving Christian believes death is slumber. Yet the sting of sin remains. Death is the wage sin pays out. You can’t help but grieve at not being able to see or hear or hug or kiss the dead person like you did when he or she was alive. You wish you could move heaven and earth to have one more day with that person.
It looks as if Jesus is adding insult to injury with His words. No man has ever spoken and dealt with death as Jesus speaks and deals with death. Saint Paul explains how Jesus deals with death when he quotes Isaiah and Hosea to the Corinthians: He will swallow up death forever and O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Even the hymn writer Otto von Schwerin gets it in his hymn, “Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense” when we sing in stanza seven: “Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave/And at death no longer tremble;/He, the Lord, who came to save/Will at last His own assemble,/They will go their Lord to meet,/Treading death beneath their feet.”
What an image! Death blinks first. You see it play out at Nain. Jesus has His entourage. Death has its entourage. A widow, already knowing the scorn of the gloomy grave with the loss of her husband, now has the double indignity of losing her only son. No wonder there’s a tremendous crowd that goes with her, following those who bear the body of her son. What sounds like an insult, do not weep, is actually a proclamation of how we look at death. Yes, there are tears at a loss, but the grave has no power over a Christian.
The grave has no power over the widow’s son. Jesus came up and touched the bier (another funeral faux pas that will really anger the Jews), and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I sat to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, God and man, the One Who blots out sin, is our Savior from sin, hell, and death. What happens to the widow’s son will happen to you. Your name belongs where Jesus says young man. Put your name there. Jesus made it possible for you to have your name go there. Everyone who believes in Him certainly will rise from the dead. It may not be according to Miss Manners for us to laugh to scorn the gloomy grave, but that’s the sentiment behind what Jesus does for you in His death and resurrection.
Christ’s death redeems you from sin. He becomes sin for you. He puts His righteousness on you. He becomes what He was not. You become what you were not. The price for your redemption is the blood of the innocent Lamb of God. Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection. He will speak your name and you will come bounding forth from the tomb as from a nap. You will receive a glorious body, free from sin and every imperfection seen in this life. “Now no more can death appall,/Now no more the grave enthrall;/You have opened paradise,/And Your saints in You shall rise./Alleluia!”
My Uncle Loren never liked to say goodbye. When it was time to go, he would say, “Meeting adjourned. See you at the next meeting.” The last time I saw him alive, his last words to me were, “See you at the next meeting.” That’s a great confession of how we look at death.
For a Christian, there is another meeting. That meeting is when Jesus meets the world on Judgment Day. Death and life will contend one last time like it did outside the gates of Nain. Though the accuser is busy flinging your sins in your face, his attempts ultimately fail. Your only plea is to the blood and righteousness of Jesus, the Firstborn from the dead. He is your life, your death, and your gain. Jesus alone has taken on death and brought immortality to life. The widow and her son saw it that day. You believe it now. You will see it with your own eyes soon.