Saint Luke writes that the people said, "God has visited His people." They said this after Christ raised the young man at Nain.
Before I begin the main message of the sermon, it is important to clarify what is meant by the little word, "visit".
The word "visit" has come to mean something slightly different in modern English than it does in Holy Scripture. In modern use, to "visit" most often means to go see someone and spend time with them socially or as a guest.
The Scriptures speak of visiting as drawing near to someone, especially in the sense of doing works of mercy on their behalf. Scripture never describes visiting as stopping by for a chat to make someone feel good. That is an entirely modern concept.
When God visits, He brings His presence near to do His mighty work among people. This is not necessarily to bring them gifts of grace. God can also visit with His wrath and punishment. For instance, in our Catechism we should be familiar with the phrase, "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me." Here the word "visiting" is just about as opposite from a nice little social chat as you can get.
On occasions when we would expect the Scriptures to use the word "visit", they do not. Although we call Mary's stay with Elizabeth the Visitation, the text does not use any form of the word "visit" at all. When Jesus went to the house of Mary and Martha, the narrative never calls His stay a visit.
Also, the word "visit" is never used when pastors are given the duties of the holy ministry, nor did Jesus ever use the word "visit" when He instructed His disciples what they were to do. Although a pastor surely will go and see people in their homes or in other places for various reasons, visiting in itself is not specifically commanded. We may feel that it should be, but we can only judge by what Scripture says. We are not to hijack the ministry that Christ has established and make our own requirements for it, no matter what our traditions or feelings may be.
Yet visiting can be a beneficial thing. The Word calls visiting the sick and widows and orphans a good work. Again, we need to remember that our English use of the word is not the same as the Scriptural use. When a pastor visits, he is bringing the presence of God near in Word and Sacrament. That is the mighty work of God's visitation. We should magnify and yearn for this grace of God above all else.
With these things in mind, let us see what the text says about the Visitation of God to His people.
Christ came to the city of Nain and interrupted a funeral procession. He disrupted the proceedings by making them unnecessary. He robbed the people of the one thing they need for a funeral: a dead body.
Our Lord is the Reverser of death. The usual order as we see it is that we live, and then we die. But Christ says, "No, you were conceived and born dead, but I have made you alive," in other words, death, then life.
At Nain, Christ revealed this new order. He did not comfort the widow who lost her only son by saying, "He is in a better place." No, Christ is not satisfied with providing sanctuary for disembodied spirits while bodies lay in the ground. So He has become the Resurrection and the Life for us. He raises bodies, as this sneak preview at Nain shows us.
Only resurrection fully reverses the curse of death. Only God can provide resurrection. He does it through His mighty Word. He declares, "I say to you, arise!" and even a dead body must obey His voice.
So the people of Nain rightly said, "God has visited His people." God in human flesh had brought the resurrection Word to His beloved people.
Today, Chris visits you. His words of Gospel are no less powerful. He raises you also by every Gospel syllable in this house.
Your old Adam was born dead, and continues to be a stinking corpse of sin today. You need resurrection out of the grave that your sins have earned.
So God in the flesh visits you today and tells you, "Arise!" and His Word raises you. This is no mere spiritual resurrection. Christ is not satisfied with making your soul alive. No, He has planted the seed of immortality in you - spirit and body. Thus you shall be raised, even as He was raised.
This is true because He has conquered sin on the Cross. The death He died paid for all deaths. The Blood He shed has destroyed guilt for you. So the grave is not your rightful resting place. In God's eyes, you are immaculately holy, and deserve no death. The tomb cannot hold you for long any more than it could hold your dear Lord Jesus.
Resurrection is yours now in this holy Word. You only wait to see it revealed in its fullness on the Last Day.
This is the visitation of God to you. When He speaks His Word to you, remember that this is not the weak platitudes of a weak man. Pay no attention to the earthen vessel who speaks in the place of Christ. As some in Christ's day took offense at the form of a servant that He took, so many will take offense at the feeble under-shepherds who preach the Word. If you fixate upon me, then you will miss the incredible wonder of the treasure that God speaks. Every syllable of this Gospel is an outpouring of life out of death.
When the pastor sits in your house or next to your hospital bed, pay no attention to how sociable he seems or whether his mannerisms are pleasing to you. Instead, listen eagerly for the Visitation of God. When He speaks, all else pales in comparison.
This same God keep you in faith until His final visitation, when you hear Him in your grave: "I say to you, arise!"
In His Name. Amen.
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