2nd Sunday after Pentecost June 23, 2019
1 Kings 17:17-24
248, 200:1-4, 200:5-8, 50
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.
In Christ Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
About number of years ago I went to visit one of our members in the hospital after she had given birth. When I stopped at the front desk in the maternity ward, I asked for the room number. The nurse behind the counter must have been having a bad day because immediately her eyes narrowed and she snapped, “Who are you? Let me see some identification!” Of course, I showed her my driver’s license and I was allowed to go in and see the mother and child.
Shortly after the incident recorded in our text John the Baptist, who was, himself, having a bad day imprisoned in King Herod’s dungeon, sent two of his followers to Jesus to ask for some I.D. They asked Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:19) Jesus reply came in the form of action: “And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.’” (Luke 7:21f) Christ’s works proved that He was who He said that He was, namely, the Messiah, the Son of God.
Christ’s chief purpose in working miracles was to glorify God by proving His identity as the Christ. As Jesus said when He healed the paralytic in Mark 2:10, “…that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…” And His works had the intended effect, as the Pharisee Nicodemus had noted, “No one can do these signs unless God is with Him.” (John 3:2)
In all that Christ Jesus did He glorified God. So also in our text for this morning, for we are told that after Christ raised the young man from the dead, “Fear came upon them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us,’ and, ‘God has visited His people.’”
So we consider for our theme this morning that: GOD IS GLORIFIED IN CHRIST.
The Lord Jesus tells us, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Jesus is not there saying that He, God the Son is identical to God the Father. Rather, He is declaring Himself to be the one, true God, even as God the Father is the one, true God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the three Persons who make up the one, Triune God. There are not three God. There is one God who consists of three distinct Persons, as the Scriptures teach, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) And again, “There is no other God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4)
Concerning God the Son the evangelist writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:1,14,18) Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate, that is, He is God made flesh. But the crowds that witnessed the miracle recorded in our text did not necessarily understand this. Yes, they glorified God, but they said, “A great prophet has risen up among us! God has visited His people!” They saw in Christ a man through whom God was working, like Elijah in our Old Testament reading who prayed that God would raise the young man from the dead. But notice the contrast: Elijah asked God to do this; Christ simply did it. He does not say, “God, please raise this young man from the dead!” No, He simply commands the young man, saying, “Arise!”
Besides referring to Jesus as “the true God” (1 John 5:20), the Bible presents to us in Jesus Christ Someone who can do things that only God can do. No mere prophet, no mere man, could do what Jesus did. It was with His own Word that, “…the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised…” When He said that, “The poor have the Gospel preached to them,” He meant that He was preaching to them the Good News about Himself!
Now, we say that no mere man could do the things that Jesus did. The Bible is clear: Jesus Christ is true God. But the Bible is equally clear on another point: Jesus Christ is also true Man. He is true God and true Man in one Person.
Besides referring to Jesus as, “The Man, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5), and “The Son of Man” (Matthew 18:11), the Bible offers us countless instances showing that Jesus is, in fact, also true Man.
We read in our text, “Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.”
Consider the scene that confronted Jesus. We’ve seen this seen many times on the TV news. We see Palestinians or Jews in Israel parading through the streets carrying their dead loved one wrapped in a cloth and laying on a stretcher. The funeral processions today are still just as they were in Christ’s time.
So, here was a woman, a widow at the head of the procession, a woman who had already led such a funeral procession for her husband’s body. It was the custom at that time for a woman who had lost her husband to rely on her eldest son for her support. But this widow had now lost her only son when he was yet a “young man,” that is, before he was even old enough to provide for his mother.
Here the Lord of Life came face-to-face with the wages of sin. We may say, “Oh, this poor man died so young.” But death is a fact of life. That is the way you and I and all people are going, for it is written, “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23), all have earned that wage. Christ saw before Him the tragic results of life and death in a sinful world.
So we are told, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” The word here for “compassion” is much more descriptive than simply feeling bad for someone. In the ancient languages the seat of emotion was the stomach. Jesus felt this woman’s pain, He felt it right here, like a punch in the stomach. He had genuine human compassion for her when He saw her suffering the devastating effects of life and death in a sinful world.
While we might feel badly for someone in this widow’s situation, Jesus was in the position of being able to do something about it, for, as we know, He is the true God incarnate, true Man and true God. He is, as He would later say:
Now some would say that what Jesus said next was inappropriate. He says, lit, “Stop weeping!” But why not weep? The world would say that this widow had every reason to cry. In fact, why not cry? She had just lost everything that she had in this world. But Jesus said to her, “`Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin and those who carried him stood still.”
As Jesus touches the coffin, or, more accurately, the stretcher, it is not to say goodbye, but to say, “Arise!” For you see, He does not call Himself, “The Resurrection and the Life” for nothing. As true God Jesus has power over death. As true God it is He also who declares in the Old Testament, “…there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
This power was shown, of course, when Christ Himself rose bodily from the dead three days after His death. But even already here in our text Christ Jesus demonstrated this power. Even at that time death was at His command. He needed only to say the word and death would be forced to release the young man.
What was that word? “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And what happened? “So he who was dead sat up and began to speak.” There was no gradual awakening, no recovery period. Jesus addressed the young man and, as if it were no big deal, he who had been dead sat up and began to speak. The young man had belonged to death, but Jesus had freed him from that prison and “He presented him to his mother.”
It was as simple as that. With just His Word Jesus raised a man from the dead. There was no sophisticated medical technology, no fuss, no magic or trickery involved. Just a simple word from the mouth of the Lord.
And so it shall be at the Last Day. When Christ returns at the Last Day He will “…halt the great funeral procession that is moving forward all over the world.” (Martin Luther) Every day people are burying their dead and mourning their loss. But to believers Jesus says, “Stop weeping!” At that great Last Day, with just a simple word from His mouth, Jesus will raise not just one man. He will raise all people from the dead, as it is written, “…the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28f.) Those who have done good are those who are in Christ Jesus, who have received God’s forgiveness and righteousness through faith in Christ. Those who have done evil are those who do not believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin.
The apostle writes, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13f.) Our fellow believers who have died have been carried out of this world. Yes, they have been carried out of this world and into the heavenly city, where their souls await the bodily resurrection from the dead. Therefore, while we may weep at our loss in this world we do not cry tears of hopelessness. We shall be reunited with our fellow believers at the resurrection, for the apostle continues, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess 4:15ff.)
This why Christ came into the world. He did not come into this world merely to restore a dead man to his mother. Nor did He come to raise sinful men back to a sinful life, only to die again. Rather, Christ came to confront death, to confront sin, and to confront him who has the power of death, that is, the devil. Jesus came to confront these enemies and to defeat them at the cross. He came to restore dead sinners to life through the forgiveness of sins that He won there, that He might then bestow upon us eternal life, both body and soul, at the Last Day.
What better way to glorify God than to restore life to countless believers who now sleep in Jesus, who would have been lost without God’s gracious compassion?
After Jesus raised the young man from the dead we are told, “This reports about Him went out throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.” The compassionate Savior restores life to the dead. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and will, at last, bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. “Therefore, comfort one another with these words,” and give glory to God through Jesus Christ. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.