Jesus raises the widow's son. 7:11-17
This short incident in the gospel of Luke forms part of a section which reveals the nature of the dawning kingdom of God. The raising of the widow's son takes place at Nain, which is a village located a few kilometers south of Nazareth overlooking the valley of Jezreel. As Jesus approaches the village, he and his disciples came across a funeral procession. It was bad enough that a mother's son had died, but in this case the woman was a widow. She now had no one to care for her in her old age. In the death of the son there was the death of the family line and inevitably her own death. Without being asked and without any demonstration of faith on the part of the woman, Jesus acts to bring to life the dead son. Both compassion and power are demonstrated in Jesus' act of kindness.
v11. Luke happily links the raising of the widow's son with the previous miracle story, the healing of the centurion's slave, although they are probably not related in time.
v12. As Jesus came near to the village, with his disciples and a large group of "sight-seers", he came upon a procession for the burial of a widow's only son. Probably the whole village is in the procession as it headed toward the local cemetery. As was typical of the time, the man was probably wrapped in a linen cloth and carried on a plank of wood, a bier, a kind of stretcher.
v13. Luke, giving Jesus his authoritative title, "the Lord", makes a point of noting Jesus' driving motive, his compassion, along with his authoritative word of command, "do not go on weeping."
v14. Halting the procession with a touch of his hand on the stretcher, Jesus commands the widow's son to wake up.
v15. Pulling himself up on the stretcher, as if waking up in his bed, the young man begins speaking. Jesus then presents him to his mother.
v16. The crowd responds with awe and respect, proclaiming that Jesus is obviously some sort of prophet; God is again visiting his people and blessing them.
v17. The news of God's visitation through a prophet spreads far and wide. As a consequence, the news reaches John the Baptist in prison. John had thought that Jesus was the messiah, not just a prophet. Could the Baptist be mistaken?
The presence of Jesus in our world is a life-giving presence, but it is a presence observed by very few.
As a young man I announced to my father that I would not be taking over the family business. If I remember rightly I didn't tell him in a very loving way, but then I suppose few kids, wet behind the ears, are tactful about anything. He didn't understand why someone would give up the chance of taking up a going concern like Cox Findlayson & Co; suppliers of perfumes, essential oils and essences.
When I look back on that decision I am not sure I knew what I was giving up. My life had been essential oils and aromatic chemicals, blending and designing. Although, I would have to say I enjoyed driving trucks more than learning the art of my trade. Youthful energy - all hormones and few brains.
I had decided to enter Theological college, to train for the ministry. Somehow I felt that my life's path lay as a minister of the Word of God. To this day I can't really say why I felt this way, but Jesus' hand was in it all. And now, all these years later, I wouldn't exchange it for the power and status of my father's business. The business of my heavenly Father has been more to my liking.
It has not been an easy path, for you can never satisfy all the people all the time. There have always been the few who have regarded me as self-deceived, and such will always be the case. It is no fun to see the life-giving words of Jesus fall on deaf ears. Even in church there are the status ridden, the hate blinded, the self deceived, the proud. It is easy for the words of life to be hidden behind a mantle of self-confidence, even the self-confidence of the person in the pulpit.
Hidden in a world that rushes headlong toward oblivion, there dawns a new life-giving age. Like that crowd long ago in the village of Nain, our age sees the superficial, not the substantial; the prophet, not the messiah. To our world, the church is a useful organization for the welfare of children, the teaching of good manners, the maintenance of the moral fibre of our nation, and the visible marking of our life-stages. What our world doesn't recognize in the church is the gift of life itself. Our world rushes onward believing that a person's life is found in the abundance of their possessions and thus, too many of us leave this place, curled up, naked, and bereft of life itself. All that we possessed is then possessed by others. And as we rush forward to our doom, we share in the destruction of the very environment that maintains our species. The human population explodes and environmental resources deplete and the inevitable catastrophe moves closer. Yet, the life-giving Jesus is recognized as but a good man, a prophet maybe. Few see, few recognize the bondage of death, let alone the possibility of release from its captivity to eternal life.
"The dead man sat up", all the world slept, but in the farthest corners of the cosmos there came the sound of rejoicing angels. "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it". In Him there is life, and that life is the light of mankind.
Societal disintegration is addressed in the unfolding purpose of the mission of Christ to gather to himself a people to be with him eternally. How should we make that purpose known? What factors inhibit its hearing and how should we overcome them?
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