Grace, mercy, and peace be
upon you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This morning there are two
accounts of only begotten sons of widows who are raised to life. Now
in the first one, the widow of Zarephath, she brings to mind what we
sang in the hymn just now when she says to Elijah, “You have come
to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”
Not that Elijah caused his death, of course, but that his death was
a big reminder of his sin obviously, but more her sin. Not because she
sinned that did he die, but because sin gave birth to sin. And his death
because he inherited sin from his mother, yes indeed.
In the last several months,
about the last 10 months, we’ve had an inordinate amount of our brothers
and sisters here at St. Paul be called to glory. And as we sang, and
as we witness, and as this woman says, “We have been confronted
with death again and again.” And it reminds us of our own mortality…the
fragility of life. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Proclaim
what you believe, and live as such.
In the account of the woman
at Zarephath, the resurrection of that son fulfilled prophecy about
the Messiah to come because in Christ in the second of the two accounts
of sole begotten sons of widows did the second one raise from the dead
by also the fulfillment of the prophecy. For it was prophesied about
the Messiah to not only heal those who are lame, bring sight to blind,
and hearing to those who are deaf, but to bring life to those who are
dead. Very interesting indeed.
There are two great crowds
that come together in that city of Nain. The text says there is a great
crowd following Jesus toward Nain, along with His disciples. The second,
which is called a considerable crowd according to the text, is coming
from Nain with the body of the only begotten son of that widow, carried
upon the shoulders.
These two great crowds come
together to witness this great miracle of resurrection before their
very eyes. Now there are some interesting aspects of this miracle. First,
this woman, we think, does not have faith in Christ. She doesn’t ask
of Christ anything. She is just taking her only begotten son out to
the graveyard to be buried.
And when these two crowds come
together, Jesus stops the procession…of which everybody’s attention
must have been thinking, What now? What are You doing? Who are You?
But Jesus’ reputation was in and around all of that region because of
other miracles He had already performed in that region. The one previously
mentioned before this text is the healing of the centurion’s servant
by saying a word, and by the faith in that word did that centurion go
home and find his servant alive.
Here another word is spoken
as He stops the bier and all that is going along with that dead man’s
family members and townsfolk. He sees this woman and her son, the only
begotten son of a widow, and His compassion pours from His bowels, literally.
Undeserved mercy is evoked by this situation to the Lord of life.
Now Jesus talks about this
compassion later in two distinct parables in Luke’s accounts, one of
them being the parable of the prodigal son. The compassion of the father
toward the prodigal son. That is compassion. One who has been spurned,
one who has been hurt, and still loves and forgives. It’s the kind of
compassion Christ had upon this woman in her situation…upon us all
for that matter.
The other account of such compassion
is when the Samaritan comes upon the man half dead, beaten to a pulp,
and picks him up, and puts him on his donkey, and takes him to a town,
pays the innkeeper money to take care of him, and will come back and
pay the balance of that bill when he returns. Undeserved mercy.
So Jesus had compassion on
this woman. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Then proclaim
what you believe, and live as such, because here in this text does God
raise the dead with words. “Be raised up,” He says, and the
boy sits up in that coffin. Can you imagine if you were bearing that
coffin on your shoulders, and it now which was lifeless moves with life?
That which was dead and stiff and still and cold now brings warmth and
movement and sound! This is a miracle indeed and a fulfillment of Scripture.
Earlier when Jesus began His
ministry, He did proclaim Himself to all who were listening in the synagogue
as He read the text from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the sovereign Lord
is upon Me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for
the captives and release for the prisoners.” He sits down amongst
all His peers in that synagogue and gently says, “Today this Scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
When those two crowds came
together was Scripture fulfilled again in the resurrection of this young
man by word spoken from the Lord of life, Life incarnate Himself…Jesus.
Sadly, we don’t know if faith ever came to that woman, or to those townsfolk,
or for that matter to this son who was raised from the dead. Scripture
doesn’t tell us that.
Scripture is very clear about
all the crowds that followed Jesus. Not all of them…in fact, most
of them…did not believe even though they witnessed it with their very
eyes. Even though they saw it and heard it, and as those who carried
that casket felt it move in their arms and hands, they didn’t necessarily
But Christ’s proclamation came
in this world of darkness, as was said to the widow of the
only begotten Son when He was but an infant that this One would cause
the rising and fall of many, and would cause the revealing of one’s
heart to be laid bare. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead?
You were baptized into the
fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection there. You are life. You are
not death. And though death does remind us of what we do not have the
power over, and what haunts us and walks with us at each step, you are
life. You’ve been brought out of death into life. You feast upon the
very fruits of life in the death and resurrection here offered to you
where you eat and drink the fruits of your salvation, the fruits of
life, and by believing you are life and you have life because life has
made you arise. As it did to this woman’s son, so it did to you. Be
raised up, and you are.
I cannot imagine what it must
be like to be a father or a mother of a child who dies. I know my brother
does. He experienced that when my niece was but six years old, and I
can see that it takes a horrible toll and cost upon a mother’s heart
and upon a father’s heart. But you and I also know the great gift of
faith that God gives, and the great strength that does not come from
within us, but it comes from outside of us and is proclaimed to us,
and God’s Holy Spirit causes faith to cling to such a promise in the
midst, like the widow of Zarephath, of death, and like the widow of
Nain, of death.
When the only begotten Son
of the widow, our Lord Jesus Christ, hung upon the accursed tree did
He speak words to His mother. And just as Jesus gave the widow of Nain
her son back, the text says so did our Lord give Mary another son in
the apostle John. Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Proclaim
what you believe, and live as you believe it to be true in the name
of Jesus, Amen.
The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life