We’ve come to the end of another church year. Next week, Lord willing, we’ll begin the season of Advent and prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child. Before we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, Jesus shows us that He is with us even to the end. He is with us as He has always been this church year and every church year. Jesus proves Himself as our faithful and merciful Savior.
Jesus never separates Himself from His people. He is there among them. Granted the Twelve were His intimate followers, yet Jesus is always available to help when there is a need. Today a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.
Note first of all how the ruler greets Jesus. He knelt before him. This man knows that Jesus is more than a man. He is the very Son of God in flesh. He believes Jesus is able to heal his daughter. Elsewhere we see Jesus healing by speaking a word. He need not be bodily present to heal. All it takes is a spoken word. Here, though, our Lord goes with the ruler to heal his daughter.
As Jesus is among the people and is willing to go to the ruler’s house, so He is among us not only in this house in the preached Word and in the gifts of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. He is also among us in our own homes every time we open the Scriptures to read God’s Word. Christ is in every word of Scripture. He is the Living Word made flesh. Every word in Scripture proclaims Jesus for your forgiveness and your eternal life. We, like the ruler in today’s Gospel, greet our Lord with respect fitting the King of Kings. We bow our heads to pray. We focus our ears and eyes to hear His Word proclaimed. We might even make the sign of the cross to remind us of our baptism at appropriate times in the liturgy. Jesus is present among us in His gifts, giving life and bringing joy.
Jesus is among us even when our Bibles are closed and we are living our callings in life. In illness He is our Great Physician. He hears our prayers, consoles us in His Word, and gives patience and hope for healing, even ultimate healing in the resurrection of the body. When loved ones died this past year, Jesus was there to bring comfort and hope. He dries our tears and scares away the horror of death in His sweet consolation. He was with us as we tended to our daily tasks at home, at school, and everywhere.
But do we believe that Jesus has been our faithful and merciful Savior this past church year? There are times when we have been angry with God. His goodness to us sometimes looks like frustration and setbacks. We think He puts roadblocks in our life to punish us. Maybe we think He enjoys watching us suffer. Our tongues are quick to speak evil of Him. We’re convinced He only wants to do us harm and never good.
The woman with a flow of blood for twelve years had every right to think that way. Yet she found a way to approach our Lord for healing. She says to herself, If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. She does, and she receives what she desires, even when our Lord’s back is turned to her.
That’s when Jesus loves to help. With the eyes of faith we see His back turned to us. We think He has no time for us. Still we reach out to Him in prayer. Still we come here to receive His loving care. Jesus doesn’t disappoint. Even when it seems like He is busy with someone else, Jesus has time for us. He turns to us as He did to the woman and says, Take heart; your faith has made you well.
Don’t think for a moment that your faith is your doing. Saint Paul reminds us faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Word implanted in you through the preaching of the Gospel creates trust in God for all things. Whether faith is as small as a mustard seed or as tall as a mountain, you have your heart’s desire in Christ. Sin is covered in Christ’s blood. His righteousness is your white garment of holiness and peace. You do not receive what you deserve. You receive instead the best of what God has for you: everlasting life because of Christ’s death and resurrection for you.
Jesus brings the dead back to life. Today we see it in the raising of the ruler’s daughter. The girl is not dead but sleeping. The crowd laughed at Jesus for saying such a foolish thing. Yet Jesus speaks the truth. Death is a nap. Jesus wakes her up from the nap. As He wakes her up, so He will do the same for you on Judgment Day. Your confidence lies in the certain hope that the dead in Christ shall rise, be changed, and live forever before the face of God. Our ultimate confidence lies in that joyful fact. You will live in the presence of God for eternity without sin, without pain, and without death.
The old church year ends and a new church year dawns. As it was in the past, so shall it be again this time. Jesus is with us as our faithful and merciful Savior. His ear is always open to our prayer. His comfort is always near. He’ll be here again next week, Lord willing, to forgive your sin and restore the joy of His salvation. He’ll be with you everywhere you go as His holy angels watch over you, protecting you from the evil foe. You can run, but you can’t hide from God. His love for you in Christ never fails. His forgiveness for you in Christ is always ready. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.