“More Than a Prophet - The Life of the World”
Text: Luke 7:11-17; 1 Kings 17:17-24
The story that we just heard not only took place a long time ago, it is happening every day. For with each passing day, there are countless processions to graveyards all over the world. Parents burying children, children burying parents. Mass graves due to disease or genocide, or solitary graves with few mourners. We see the images on TV of crowds carrying a casket on their shoulders, or in our country the long line of cars making their slow and winding procession. But wherever or however, the conclusion is unmistakeable - death is the reality in our world. And one day its going to be you or me at the head of that procession, our lifeless body being carried to our resting place.
So it was that day in Nain. What had happened to this son, the only son of this widow? He had died, but how had he died? Had it been sudden and expected? The result of an accident or murder? Or had it been a long, slow, drawn out agony, knowing that death was coming but not knowing when? Watching and waiting. It doesn’t really matter though, does it? The pain was the same for that mother. The pain she had felt before when her husband died. And how long ago was that? Maybe that pain was still recent, that wound still open and sore. Her life now, it seemed, as empty and lifeless as her son that was being carried out.
So how fortunate for her that just as the body of her lifeless son was drawing near to the gate of the city, that the One who is the life of the world was too. The One who had breathed into Adam’s lifeless body and brought it to life. The One who answered Elijah’s prayer and brought that other widow’s son back to life. The One who was life and the one who was dead now met head on in the city gate.
Do not weep, Jesus said to the grieving mother. How many others had told her the same thing? It’s what we say when we don’t know what else to say. It’ll be alright. Don’t cry. You’ll get through this. Little comfort, really, in those words. But whereas the other mourners and friends could do little for this mother, just as we can do nothing in the face of death, Jesus could. In fact, for this very reason He had come. His words no empty comfort. So after speaking to the mother, He speaks to the dead one: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And creation obeys its Creator. Death flees the one it possessed, and his heart starts beating, his lungs start breathing, his eyes open, and he sits up and begins speaking. We don’t know what he said - his words are not recorded and he didn’t write a book about his experience with death. But it’s not his words that are important, but Jesus’. For not his words, but Jesus’ words, brought life to that son and comfort and joy to that mother and that crowd of mourners that day.
For a while, at least, But one day, that young man - maybe by then an old man - would be carried out again, as would his mother, and all the rest in the crowd that day. Just as we see in our world so much today. The wages of sin is still death. That day in Nain was but a temporary reprieve for that young man and his mother.
But Jesus had come to provide us with much more than just a temporary reprieve from death - He had come to provide a life that is eternal. A life beyond the reach of death and the grave. And so shortly after this day in Nain (which was near Nazareth, where Jesus grew up), Jesus would begin His own funeral procession to Jerusalem, where He would be put to death on the cross. Paying the wages of sin owed by us, that with sin forgiven, we could be like this young man and rise from death.
And you will. That’s exactly what’s going to happen. For after dying our death and paying the wages of our sin, Jesus Himself rose from the dead. And so one day, the living Jesus is going to say to you, too: Young man, or young woman, I say to you, arise! And though you may have lived long on this earth, you will still be a young man or a young woman, for you still have an eternity to live with your Saviour. And on hearing those words, just as that young man in Nain, you too will begin to live again. You will sit up and speak - the never-ending praises of Him who saved you and is your life.
In fact, that has already happened to you in your baptism. For there, in those waters, Jesus spoke to you and raised you from the death of sin to live a new life. There, in those waters, Jesus gave you the forgiveness of your sins and breathed into you, like Adam, His Spirit of life. There, in those waters, you were given the promise that one day Jesus would call your dead body to life again. A promise! Not a fortunate or accidental crossing of paths at the gate of a city. A promise! That Jesus will not forget you, will not leave you or forsake you, but that you will live with Him forever. Where death is no more and where there are no graveyards - only life and peace and joy.
And so we have received a much greater gift than this son and mother. For them, they had been given life as a temporary reprieve from death. But for us, in Jesus, death is but a temporary interruption in our life. For while death is the end for all sinners who walk this earth, so life is the end for all who are in Jesus. Because more than just a great prophet has arisen among us - a Saviour has arisen from the dead. And therefore in Him, so will you. And therefore we know that the Word of the Lord from His mouth is truth. His word that said: I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26).
Lord, I believe.
In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.