SERMON for TRINITY XVI
23 September 2012
St. Luke 7:11-16
In our gospel today we are looking at a major collision that takes place in the city of Nain. NO, not the collision you see in your mind, like a colliding train, bus, car, or plane, but two groups of people clashing and in this case at the entrance to the city. One is a procession of death and sorrow while the other is a procession of life and hope. We have at the front of one group a man who has been defeated by death and at the other a man who WOULD defeat death. Notice carefully the difference in that sentence for out of this collision will come a new group, one made up of victory and celebration.
Jesus is about to enter into the city of Nain. Previously he had healed the Centurion’s son, and now we will see Him raise someone from the dead. Through these miracles Jesus is showing us that He is almighty and the powerful Son of GOD. Each miracle that Jesus performs carries a specific lesson for all of us. In addition to spreading the truth about Jesus’ power these miracles also let us see His love and compassion. They just might even point out His concern for seemingly little things in our lives like food and drink. In some of His miracles he shows us His desire to teach spiritual truths and in others they are more practical in nature. For example the time Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee to join His disciples.
Back to our Gospel, as Jesus is approaching Nain, death and sorrow are going out of Nain in the form of a funeral procession. We have an only son, the child of a widowed mother. You will agree with me that a funeral is a sad time, some more sad than others, especially if it was a tragic death. Usually in our society when an elderly person passes we are usually thankful for a long, prosperous life and the fact that their struggle with old age is ended. But when someone in their prime passes, or perhaps a young high school student in a horrific accident the sorrow is felt much deeper and we feel it is unfair. When parents have to bury a young child the natural order we come to accept seems turned upside down. The other thing that adds to our measure of misery is the circumstances of those that were closest to the deceased. Their sadness and their future may also touch the hearts of those who are in attendance. ALL of these “misery factors” were present at this funeral in Nain.
Jesus was entering the city. A young man was dead. A grieving mother was burying her son. The mother had already lost her husband and now with the loss of her son she was alone. This meant short-term and long-term misery for her. She would face a future with little companionship and no financial support. Maybe a life of poverty was facing her from now on until the time when she is carried to the cemetery. Funerals probably do not get any more heart wrenching than this one.
Surely it would have been a cold-hearted person not to be touched by this procession. Many people at a time like this usually are thinking about when death will strike them. Am I next? What will happen when I pass? What will happen to my loved ones?
Now as we look at this scripture lesson today are we not also a part of that procession? From the time of Abel who was murdered by his brother to the final body that will be buried before the Last Day all living things are headed toward the cemetery. Hebrews reminds us, Just as a man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Why are all things dying? The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans, Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all have sinned. Corinthians tells us, The sting of death is sin. We are on a constant crash course with death because of the fact that we and all our kind have rebelled against God. One of the consequences of sin is death and all the misery that goes with it.
So we can liken this funeral procession coming out of Nain as one coming out of any city or town in the world at any time. The children of Adam and Eve in every corner of the earth must return to the ground from which they were formed. Because of death hearts of men are frequently broken, dreams are shattered, and tears are shed. It is a train of misery on which all must ride.
BUT thankfully we have “HOPE.” When death and sorrow collide with life and hope everything changes. In our gospel today death met life, sorrow met hope, and THAT changed everything. When Jesus saw the weeping mother, His heart went out to her and he said, “Do not cry.” He went to the coffin, touched it, and said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk. Jesus gave him back to his mother. The Lord of life spoke to the living and the dead. May we all learn from this collision at Nain to prepare for the times when we must walk among the procession of death and sorrow.
Things happen according to God’s time. The leader, JESUS, is in control of everything. So it was by no means an accident that he met the grieving group. It is on HIM and HIS words that we focus in order to learn from this lesson. JESUS had compassion on the person at the center of this story. HIS heart went out to the widow about to bury her son. Even though JESUS is the eternal Son of God he is also the Son of Man. He has a human nature that feels pain and compassion, sorrow, and joy. If we are ever tempted to think that GOD does not know what we are going through when we stand at the grave of a loved one we need to remember that Jesus was fully human. That HE cried when Lazarus died. But thankfully HE can do more than just show compassion for He has the power over death, which He shows us in this miracle. Jesus was NOT sent by His father to bring only a short-term solution to death but to permanently end death’s power. In Hebrews He reminds us, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. This is why Jesus could speak to the dead man directly and command him to get up. He was the one who would suffer the wages of sin for all dying men. He received the death sentence that every sinner deserves.
Not only did Jesus take away the cause of death, He also conquered death by walking away from the tomb. Romans tells us: For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. To the whole world He brings life and hope. If we are going to learn from this lesson today we need to listen to the One who speaks to the living and the dead. John tells us: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die. And in Revelations we find: I am the Living One, I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and hell. As we journey closer to our collision with death may we hold tightly to the words of the one who has defeated death’s power.
In Nain we have death and sorrow going out and life and hope coming in. The wages of sin are going out and the sacrifice for sin is coming in. Jesus faced death with compassion for those it affected. He undid death’s damage using His undisputable power. The effects are tremendous. We can see the results everywhere. Two groups were made one. They were amazed at the miracle. The disciples and the crowd were given more evidence that Jesus was the Savior. Their joy was increased. They were filled with hope. A grieving widow received back her son and so gained a future, someone to support her and love her. Those who had questions and concerns about their own death found some answers. Although we cannot be sure what the people thought back then we know they recognized that God had come to help them.
Does Jesus teach us anything from this? I surely hope so! When Jesus meets the funeral procession you come face to face with victory and celebration. For He brings life and hope. It tells us to face death with confidence just like the Apostle Paul tells us: Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The results of this collision that took place at Nain are still with us two thousand and twelve years later. Just like those people who saw this miracle said: God has come to help his people. YES, HE came to them, and HE comes to us today!
Today’s Gospel lesson has invited us to step back and look at this collision at Nain. If we let it, it will strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. It will give us confidence. Death and Sorrow are going out and LIFE and HOPE are coming in! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! AMEN!