September 23, 2012
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
The Widow of Nain’s Son (Luke 7)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and The Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter seven.
Her only-begotten Son. Dead. Her husband is dead. There are no other relatives in sight. She isn’t even given a name in our text. She is just “a widow”. She has no place, no one to care for her, no family, no future. All she has is the unclean body of her only-begotten son. This funeral procession for her might as well be her funeral procession as well.
What is she feeling? Fear, uncertainty, and above all, dread for what will happen. Her only-begotten son was her only future. The rest left her in the past, in the dust. And so she is vulnerable, unsure of what chaos will come upon her after this funeral procession meets its end outside the city gates.
We all have experienced that chaos at different times. Death, a move, grief over a lost job, a bitter divorce that has left you gasping for breath. This chaos makes us uncertain of our place, unsure of why we’re here and where we fit into the whole scheme of things.
I can remember that walk, the procession to the grave. I remember it when my mother died seven years ago. The numbness, the fear, the uncertainty. My guess is that many of you know that gut-wrenching movement.
So here she is, and low and behold, there is more chaos on the way. Or so it seems. The procession of death meets head-on with another procession. This procession, unbeknownst to her, this procession is headed by The Lord of Life, who orders all things by the Word of His mouth. It looks like chaos, a traffic nightmare gone awry, but when she hears the words of our Lord, everything changes.
Jesus draws near to the gate, and behold, there is this procession of death. In an instant He takes it all in: the widow, the son, the crowd, the fear and chaos. He sees all of this and then our text has one of those great, richest of all possible Gospel words. He has compassion on her. Literally, it means that his heart or gut aches for her. He sees this insanity of her life, all of the fear and worry and anxiety and uncertainty, He sees it all, and He is moved to help her.
God, you see, is always moving. He is never satisfied to sit back and watch us from afar. He sees the chaos, the insanity and fear of our lives, He sees all of it, and He is constantly moved to compassion. For you, for you, all for you.
So Jesus says to this woman, “Do not weep.” Really it’s more like “Don’t weep anymore.” At first glance, this sounds rather mean. Don’t weep, she might say. My only son is dead and I might as well be dead with him! Why do you say to me don’t weep. Please.
But then Jesus does something even more crazy. He touches the funeral bier. This bier was kind of like a big stretcher, where the body is held up on the shoulders by several men. Jesus touches the bier and everyone stands still.
For us, we don’t quite get this. We might look at touching a dead thing as kind of gross, but not that it would have anything to do with anything else. You’d wash your hands afterward, that’s probably it. In Jesus’ day, however, to touch something that was dead made you unclean. It means you couldn’t enter into the Temple for seven days. These men were actually making a sacrifice by carrying the widow’s only son to his grave.
And yet, here comes Jesus walking up and touching this bier like He owns the place! But our Lord has that way about Him sometimes, doesn’t He. He can walk into the messiest chaos of our lives and bring peace. There is no trouble too great for Him. There is no mess too, well, messy for Him. Even our sin and shame. Even death itself. He comes right up to it and He is not afraid. He wasn’t afraid then, and He isn’t afraid for you either. In He comes to your life, messiness and all.
Then Jesus says these words to the dead one, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” He doesn’t say, “Get up when you have enough faith.” He doesn’t say, “After you’ve cleaned up your life, get up and we’ll make a plan for your best life now.” Jesus’ word brings what He commands. And His gracious command here is very simple, live
“Get up!” He says. His gracious Word brings with it life, and healing, forgiveness, salvation, and cleansing. All in a word and the touch of our Lord.
Do you hear it? The closer this procession of life came to the woman and her son, the crazier it looked. But the crazy had to get closer so that she could hear the Word of Jesus, the word of life and hope for a fallen and messed up world.
It is in these times of chaos in our lives that God is at work for you. When things are darkest, when the insanity and uncertainty and the messedupedness is at its very peak, so that you can’t seem to take any more, THAT is the time to hush your mouth and open your ears. For God is coming to you, lowly and gently, with His Word of life and forgiveness. Take, eat, take drink. I forgive you. Our Lord enters into you with His very body and blood, cleansing you and giving you life.
Jesus gave the son back to his mother. God restores what is broken, binds up what is wounded, and gives healing and hope to all of us. For we are all widows in a way. We are all lost without the gentle touch and word from our Lord. And you are now restored into fellowship with Him, where life and healing and hope are all wrapped up in Him with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. The procession is here. It is the procession of death to life. And you are in this heavenly journey. So come, join in with widows and orphans and sinners all. Come and be at peace, for Christ our Lord has touched your grave in Holy Baptism, and calls to you even now. Come, and live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.