Posts Tagged ‘Luke 7:11-17’

In the End 6-5-16

This sermon is based on Luke 7:11-17. In this story, Jesus raises the son of a widow from death, one of only 3 instances in the gospels. The miracle is done on one person, but is intended for another.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday was national donut day. It combined two of the things I love most…Friday, which I think is the greatest day of every week, and donuts, which are one of the world’s most perfect food. I was sitting in my office on Friday morning when a picture popped up on Facebook. My wife and kids were down in town enjoying donuts on national donut day…and I was in my office…with no donuts.

The thought went through my head…Man, if this was Star Trek, I’d have them beam me up a donut so I could have it…but unfortunately this isn’t Star Trek…and despite the marvelous advancements that we’ve made with various technologies, scientists have yet to create something capable of sending me a hot delicious donut from a distance.

But you know what…things really have come along way, technology-wise. The vast majority of us carry around a micro-computer in our pockets capable of a multitude of things (hold up phone) …need some info, ask Siri. Need to send and message to someone anywhere in the world…text them…need to capture a moment, snap a picture…need directions, its got gps…Oh and you can even make phone calls with it.

The various advances in technology effect pretty much every aspect of our lives…and perhaps the greatest place that we see this is within the advent of modern medicine. We have developed technology, medicines, techniques, and countless other things that have enhanced our quality of life…our overall health…and even our life expectancy.

But despite every advancement that our society has come up with…we could almost consider it all a futile effort…because in the end…all this stuff does is delay the inevitable…because no matter how hard we try…we can’t beat death. (pause)

In my 37 years, I’ve heard a lot of different people express a lot of different opinions and theories about it…but in the end…the story pretty much ends up the same way…it happens.

And it happens in today’s story…or more specifically, it has already happened when the story begins…Jesus comes walking up to the village of Nain with his full entourage of disciples and followers in tow…and before they even get into the town…right there at the gate, they meet another crowd…this one a funeral procession.

Now we don’t know a whole lot in the way of details here. About all we know…it’s a young man…the only son of a woman in the town…and she’s a widow…and that’s about it. (pause) Now here’s the thing…this is a brief story…only a few verses long…we’re not given a ton to go on with it…we don’t know anything about the people involved…and it seems that once this story is over, Jesus goes on about his business and we’re left with no indication of what might happen with the family in the aftermath.

Its so quick in fact…and we’re so disconnected from just what’s really going on that perhaps this story becomes one of those events that we can quickly gloss over and forget about…and honestly…doesn’t that type of thing happen quite a bit in our day to day lives?

How often do we encounter a situation sort of like this…but in passing? Perhaps driving down the road and meeting a funeral procession…or going past a cemetery seeing a gathering of people there for a committal…or hearing about the death of an individual on the news…and after a brief moment of acknowledgement, we go on about our business…mostly unaffected by the truth of the matter…that a life has ended. (pause)
But there’s a flip side to that story…and there are individuals who aren’t just passing by…they are finding themselves stuck in the midst of this reality…that a person that they love is gone…and there’s nothing they can do about it…except to experience the grief of loss…the pass of separation…and the wide range of emotions that comes along with it.

I’m guessing that the mother in the story today was in the midst of that reality. She’s faced death before…as many of us have…she is a widow so we know that at some point in her history she lost her husband…but now she stands in the midst of this funeral procession, shocked at the loss of her son.

It stands to reason, that this event is happening quite soon after the young man’s death occurred. It was normal for funerals to happen quite soon, often within a day…sometimes even the same day…and so this poor woman has had zero time to experience the shock of loss…and in truth, she was likely in shock…unaware of what to do, or say, or even think…and as such…she doesn’t really do much in this story.

When we think about different moments of scripture, when Jesus performs some sort of miracle…more often than not, someone approaches him…but not this time…the woman says nothing to him…no one does…he just happens to be in the right place at the right time…but this is vastly different from what we usually see…and even taking into account the small number of instances when Jesus raises someone from the dead, this is unique.

There are only two other instances…the daughter of Jairus and Lazarus…and in both instances, loved ones of the individual approached Jesus…but not…this time. (pause) This time…Jesus just…steps in. First off, he tells the woman not to cry…and then, he simply says the words….young man…be raised…and…it…happens. (pause)

Amazing right? Jesus raises the dead man to life simply by speaking the words and telling him to be raised…and then he gives him back to his mother…the crowds are astonished…and he walks away…and honestly we don’t even hear about him walking away…the story just sort of ends at this point…and that’s true in all three instances of Jesus raising someone from death. It happens and the story just sort of stops.

There doesn’t seem to be much focus, hardly any even on the life after death…in fact each story, this one included…seems to focus more on the death itself…and I found myself wondering just why that is…wouldn’t you expect that the gospel…the Bible…this Holy Word of God that contains the promises made for us that God is doing something about this flawed reality that we live in…wouldn’t you expect it to focus on the good part…the part where the woman gets her son back…where death is beaten and we see life after that? (pause)
As difficult as it might be to consider…the Bible…this story of what God is up to…this good news of Jesus Christ, actually seems to give more focus to the reality of death than to the rare instances when Jesus literally does something about it…and maybe that’s a hard pill to swallow.

But its true…and as I thought about that…I found myself reliving pretty much every conversation I’ve had with a family or an individual who is in the midst of grief…and while every single situation is different, I’ve often times heard the question of why…or how did this happen…especially when the person who was lost is young, and the circumstances are tragic.

I’ve seen individuals who were utterly lost in the pain of loss…just as the mother was in the story today…and the difficult thing about this…is that those families…those individuals didn’t get a random rabbi walking up in the midst of the funeral to bring their loved one back to life…and I’ve seen the anger and the pain…and I’ve even heard someone ask the question “where was my miracle?” (pause)

More often than not, when we are faced with situations like this, and yet we are facing it from the outside looking in…we feel like we have to say something to make the person feel better…but in truth, there is nothing that we can say…because there are questions with no answers…there are realities with no explanations…and the lack of sense is what strikes us as so difficult.

And because we don’t know where to turn…or who to blame…and we can’t make sense…its been my experience that the individual often turns the questions and the blame towards God…and the questions come out…Why would you take them? Or why didn’t you step in on this…and while I believe that God has very broad shoulders and will take it when we holler out those emotions His way…I also believe that we need to remember that God does not cause these things to happen…and in fact…God has compassion on those who are experiencing it…just as Jesus had compassion on this woman who was probably too far in shock to even realize he was standing there.

Make no mistake…God is not a fan of death…and while it is a part of this reality, I believe that God mourns it…so much so, that God has ultimately done something about it because he loves us far more than we realize.

Just as we experience death as a separation from those that we care about…death also causes a separation between God and humanity…something that ultimately God WOULD NOT…stand for…and so, in Jesus Christ…in his life…and his death…and ultimately his resurrection God HAS already done something about the reality of death.  It is not gone…but it is overcome….and Jesus ultimately took the cross to show us that there is NO length that God will not go to for those that He loves. (pause)

I’ve often wondered just who was the recipient of the miracle in today’s story. We could argue that it was the man who Jesus raised from dead…and there is a certain truth to that…but Jesus acts out of compassion for the mother…and in the end, he gives her son back to her…the miracle enacted upon one was intended for another.

Jesus himself is a miracle…God in human form…because isn’t that something that is impossible? That God would become human? And even more than that…that God would die? And yet this has happened…and the ultimate display of God’s miraculous power was raising Jesus from the dead…taking away the power of death over our eternal existence…but that wasn’t done for Jesus…it was done for us. (pause)

That’s the good news of Jesus Christ…that God has done this for us…but in the here and now, we still feel the effects of sin and pain and loss and death…that’s a hard fact of our reality…and so in the midst of this, we must cling to the hope that we receive in the promises of God…that nothing can cancel out those promises…and so in these moments of pain and struggle, sometimes we have to remind ourselves…and sometimes we need to remind one another of this…that I AM convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor ruler, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

We feel the pain of loss…but the promises of God remind us that on the other side of death, he meets us and holds us in His arms…made possible because of what Christ has done….In the end…the miracle of Christ…is intended for you. Amen