“All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” That’s what the Law does. It kills. It leaves us in tears. It ends in death. “All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”

One of our tasks at Immanuel Lutheran School is to kill our students: kill them with the Law, so they can truly hear the Gospel.

The Law, when we truly hear it, brings us to tears. And there is much in this fallen world that also brings us to tears. The parent who never gives you a chance. The student whose home life is bad. The spouse you wish you had – or wish you didn’t. Life in a fallen world is a life of tears. And “all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”

In the midst of death, failure, sin, and every sorrow, the Word of God does not tell us, “Cheer up! Find the resources within yourself to smile!” No, the Word of God delivered to the people through Ezra and Nehemiah is also for us: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

What were these people doing? What’s the context of Nehemiah? These people were there to rebuild the shattered walls of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem

In a metaphorical sense, we have a similar task. The walls of western civilization are collapsing. And with that collapse, so also the church is shattered, splintered, fragmented. Many of our parents themselves have a weak or nominal commitment to Christianity. The students entrusted to our care will go out into a world deeply hostile to everything we teach here at Immanuel.

Like the people who heard Ezra and Nehemiah, we are wall-builders. We stand amidst the crumbling walls of a once Christian society. We cannot repair everything. But for these children, and their families, we can begin to rebuild. Every day you are building up the walls of the city, every day you are shoring up the foundation. Each reiteration of the Commandments is a mixing of the mortar. Every confession of the Creed is another stone to fill in the breach, every prayer a cry to God to save this ruined city, this shattered Church, this fallen world.

The cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not just a doctrine we teach to children. It is not just the way we make a living. It’s the other way around: we give Jesus to our students and families because it’s all we ourselves have. We hear the Law and we are left weeping. We see the recklessness of a world gone mad and we are left weeping. But then we see Jesus Himself weeping at the tomb of His friend. We see Jesus hanging derelict upon the cross. We see Jesus triumphant from the grave. We hear Jesus inviting us to union with Him through Baptism. We know that what is coming is not lament but songs of joy. We know that resurrection is coming, the day when Christ Himself brings the rebuilt city, new Jerusalem where there is no night, no death, no tears.

We are preparing our children not for high school or careers but for death and resurrection; and before that, for service to their neighbors. So don’t be sad when the way is long. Don’t give up when a parent or a student is ready to give up on you and the world. Don’t give up, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” There is nothing more important than this task the LORD has given us. And through it all, His joy will be your strength.