No Exception to the Rule
Friday of Easter 4
12 May 2017
An old friend of mine loves to point out the "exceptions to the rule" in the Bible. One of those are the patriarchs and saints of the Old Testament, such as Elijah (2Ki 2:1) and Enoch (Heb 11:5), who did not suffer death, but were taken directly to heaven. These events, while interesting and instructive to us about death's ultimate insignificance, are not in themselves predictive of our end. They are by definition exceptions. Elijah and Enoch were not, indeed cannot be, taken into heaven for the benefit of anyone else. These assumptions were a "one time offer." The rest of us bear the weight of Adam's fall. Death certainly waits for us, as it waited for Adam, Abraham, and David. There was no exception to the rule of death for them, even if they had been just as worthy of being taken to heaven without passing through death as Elijah and Enoch. They went to sleep with their fathers (1Ki 1:21). The rule is that in Adam all die. The exceptions do prove the rule.
 
For the Christian the certainty of death is also paralleled by the certainty of life beyond death. For us death is our end. So also life is our future. Perhaps, like me, you enjoy the music of G. F. Handel. I especially appreciate Handel's "As in Adam All Die," a powerful chorus from "Messiah." When my daughters were in high school they sang this chorus as part of a high school choir concert. I was delighted to hear these cherubic young voices echoing these powerful words of the Apostle Paul about death in Adam and life in Christ: " For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1Co 15:22). Having sung this same chorus in church choir at about their age, I reflected on the fact that like them, I reflected little upon death as a teen. Like these young people I thought I was the exception to the rule, or at least that death was so far off so that it could be ignored. My ignorance was shattered when a high school classmate and friend was killed while walking to work at the side of a secondary road by a car attempting to pass on the margin. As in Adam all die.
 
This calamity was just barely digestible because my friend was a confessing Christian who knew Jesus was his Lord and Savior. But the certainty of death should also comfort us Christians. Strange though it is to say, the resurrection of the flesh is just as likely as death. And that's extremely likely. There is no doubt that death is the last enemy; one that approaches us all, but an enemy that is able to be put into a category of finality. It is last, that is, subject to defeat. While the graveyard normally depresses us, it ought raise our spirits and give us courage. For just as surely as we die, so surely shall we in Christ all be made alive. And this is not mere exceptionalism. No, all who are in Christ will be in His resurrection unto life. The great mass of the resurrected will be from every nation, people, language, and tribe. Christ is the Head and we are the body. When He rises, we too must rise. That is no exception. It is the rule.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"Here St. Paul does not discuss the question whether several others rose from the dead and are in heaven with Christ. He speaks solely of Christ as of one Man. For he wants to present this article exclusively and purely according to its substance, making the one Man, Christ, the Origin and the Beginner of life, or of the resurrection. Therefore, whether several saints, for instance, Enoch and Elijah, ascended into heaven before Christ or whether several people were resurrected by Him or arose with Him is not the question under discussion here. Here we are not dealing de privata resurrectione, how one or two arose from the dead, but with the general resurrection and with the Head or the cause of the same, who is Christ. For it is of no importance to me whether several people rose under special circumstances. But it is very important to know that Christ rose and how or when we, too, are to arrive there, namely, that we shall be led from this vale of tears by Him and abide where He is.
 
"That is what he means when he adds these words. He brackets Christ with all of us who will arise, making Him the Head and the Beginning. He expresses it thus: 'each in his own order,' that is, one after the other; first Christ, then we (1Co 15:22-23). And with that he also strikes a blow at his factions who carried confusion into this article by all sorts of prattle. Some said that the resurrection had taken place long ago or that it should not be expected in the future. They said: 'Of course we hear you say that Christ has risen. From this fact you conclude that we, too, will arise. Well, when will this take place? Or who will rise first and who later? For we don't see anyone who has risen. not even Christ Himself.' In this way they made sport and a mockery of this article, as though there were nothing to it, or as though their resurrection had occurred only spiritually. To such Paul wants to make reply, saying: 'Indeed, my dear man, you expect this to be shoved under your very nose, so that you can gaze at it as a cow gazes at a new gate. The apostles did not see Christ rise either when He was hanging on the cross and was laid into the grave. They, too, had to await the time.' Thus we, too, must believe it today without seeing it, especially since we know that Christ has already risen as the head and the firstfruits. Meanwhile we must wait for the time when we, too, shall follow Him."

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 23
Jude 3-4, 14-25

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
 
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the resurrection and the life. Help me to believe even though I die, that yet shall I live. Help me to see that I might expend myself fully for the sake of Your church. For to die is to lose nothing, but only to be conformed to the shape of Your body which was raised. Send Your Holy Spirit that this confidence might be shared by me with those who are held in bondage to their fear of death that they might be freed by You. Amen.
 
For all those who are kept in bondage by their fear of death, that they might be freed by the life-giving Spirit through the word and sacraments ministry of the holy church
 
For families struggling to model Christ in a world increasingly dismissive of the benefits of a life-long commitment of husband and wife, that they would be upheld in their marriage vows by community and church
 
For all sanitation workers, that God the Lord would bless them in their service and give them honor in their calling
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias   Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017