This, Too, Shall Pass

Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 26:35 mark.

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

This, too, shall pass. Maybe you’ve encouraged someone with those words, or maybe you’ve been encouraged by them. In some difficult situation or struggle: this, too, shall pass. Of course, it’s not only the bad or difficult things and times that will pass. But also the good things and times. Because in this world, everything is passing away. In bad times, this, too, shall pass. In good times, this, too, shall pass, because we are not meant to be in a world of sin and death forever. As someone put it, either it will pass, or you will pass (Mark Lowry). Either way!

So it is for both the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man has good food and good clothes and a good bed. He enjoys his life and every day he eats, drinks, and is merry. He dies. Lazarus has sorrow and suffering and hunger. The dogs who lick his sores are his only comfort. Like the lost son, in his low estate, he longs to have even the crumbs from the rich man’s table. But even that is too much. He has been put there, laid there, at the rich man’s gates, so that the rich man has to pass by him whenever he goes out or comes in, but he does nothing. He was laid there. It is a passive action; in one sense, God has put him there for the rich man to help and feed. But he ignores both God and Lazarus.

And Lazarus is carried to the bosom of Abraham, to the side of Abraham, where he is comforted. The rich man—whom tradition has called Dives because that is the Latin for “rich”—dies and is buried—buried into Hades, where he is in torment. Both the riches and the poverty pass away. In hell, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to refresh him with just a little water, though that is far more than he was willing to do for Lazarus in life. But Abraham says, You had your reward while you were living. You had comforts and riches, while Lazarus had nothing. You kept it all for yourself, as if it would last forever—or what’s worse, you never gave it a thought at all. There, he was just outside your gate; here, there is a great chasm, over which no one can pass.

Well, then, the rich man says, at least send him to my brothers so that they will not come here. But Abraham says, they have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. No, Father Abraham, but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent. Now I tend to think this is a parable, but I don’t think the name Lazarus is a coincidence. Because, as John records for us, there was a man named Lazarus, and Jesus did bring him back from the dead, and those who had Moses and the Prophets—instead of believing in Jesus—tried to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus, because people were believing in Jesus. Not to mention, of course, that the one telling the story is on His way to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, and many at that time and since do not believe. Even the very evidence of resurrection will not be enough for those who do not believe the Word. If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, then they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.

This, too, shall pass. Whether the material blessings of God for this body and life, our daily bread, or the lack of them—it will all pass away, along with our lives, and eventually, with everything in this world of sin and death. So do not try to hang on to any of it. If you have material blessings, give thanks to God for His provision. And as you have opportunity, do good to those who are in need, especially those right at your gates. And so what if they misuse what you give? Have we never wasted or misused the good gifts of our God? Have we never wasted money, time, minutes and hours? Have we not used much on ourselves and little on others? Luther mentions this text in a Christmas Day sermon, and he says that many people think that if they were present at the first Christmas, they would not have let the infant Jesus stay in a manger, a feeding stall. But he says, why would you have helped Jesus, if you do not help those poor right in front of you? So do not fear if someone to whom you give something wastes it. It was given to you in the first place.

And if you have some lack, if you suffer, if you are sick or in pain; if you are in sorrow or grief, this, too, shall pass. Those who mourn will be comforted, Jesus says. The poor will have good things. Like Lazarus, you will be healed—even more, you will be raised from the dead. And all because you have had someone come to you from the dead. You have only the Word, but that is enough. The Son of God, who was rich, became poor for your sake, in order to make you rich. He gave up all His wealth, suffered, and died, in order to give it all to you. And He has; He does. He gathered you to Himself with the blood and water from His own suffering side. He, the risen one, feeds and comforts you with His own body and blood. He does give you daily bread, but He gives you far more. Even daily bread, in this age, passes away. But not the eternal body and blood of Jesus. Whatever you have or do not have, here Jesus gives you everything. Rich, poor, healthy, sick, whomever; He comes to you, weighed down by sin and guilt, and He comes to you outside the gates, where He suffers and dies for you. He does stay up in His heavenly mansion, enjoying the eternal riches of the Father for Himself. He comes down, binds up your wounds, feeds you, and gives you everything that is His!

There is no wealth, no fame, no good thing anywhere in this whole world that is better than what Jesus gives you here. That is because everything you could see or have now is passing away, probably sooner than you think. But Jesus and everything He has and is will never pass away, because He is risen from the dead. Recognize, as Jesus says in His Revelation, that you and I are poor, wretched, pitiable, and blind, whatever you may have in this world. And recognize that He is your wealth, your mercy, your sight, and your healing.

So give thanks at all times and places for the provision of God for your body and life. Give thanks as you serve your neighbor in need, whether that is in your daily vocation, or the poor and needy whom God puts in front of you. But give thanks all the more for the eternal bread from heaven, which Jesus gives you here. Not even death, which will take everything else from you, can take that wealth from you. Even if heaven and earth pass away, Jesus says, My Word will never pass away. It is for you now and into eternity.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 9/23/22

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