Speaker: Helen Jenkinson
These past few weeks and months have been strange haven’t they? Tristan and myself were chatting a few days ago about the fact that there seems to be suffering and heartache everywhere we look.
So many of our family here at MCC have been sick or faced trauma in some way. People we know and love have died. The queen, who we don’t know but somehow we feel we do, has also gone to be with the Lord and it feels like the axis of our lives has shifted a little bit because things we’ve take for granted have changed. The day after the queen died I was in the supermarket and a woman I’d never met before just started chatting that she felt as though the news we’d heard the night before was all a bad dream and she’d soon wake up from it.
Maybe that’s how some of the people in the encounter we’re going to look at today felt- before Jesus wonderfully intervened.
Today we’re going to look at a miracle that speaks of the compassion and the power of our Lord Jesus when he raised a widow’s son.
In order to fully appreciate what is happening we need to understand a bit about the context of what we’re reading and the times Jesus was living in. This story is told directly after the story of how Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s son in Capernaum at the start of chapter 7. Nain is about 30 miles from Capernaum, about a day’s walk of 8 miles. So, Jesus and his followers have left, cock-a-hoop at the way Jesus has shown his power by healing the servant of a Gentile Roman without even seeing him. But as they enter Nain, they are met with a very different scenario.
Read: Luke 7: 11-17
In this passage we can see 2 C’s of Jesus: his compassion and his commands
In the ancient middle east, when someone died, they were washed, wrapped, laid on a mat then taken to a tomb very quickly. It was only then that spices were applied to the body. The fact that the dead son was being carried to the tomb meant that he had just died that day.
Verse 12 says that he was the mothers only son. Can you imagine the trauma for this woman? Not only is she reeling from the shock of losing her son but she’s a widow so has no husband to take care of her. There is no social security or retirement pension. She will be left destitute, maybe forced to get her food by collecting the leftover sheaves of wheat after harvesting.
Where would she live? How would she afford to feed herself? Who would protect her?
This poor woman was in dire straits. She has lost her only son. Interestingly, the phrase only son is MON-OG-EN-ACE in Greek. It is the same word that is used in John 3:16- maybe the most famous verse in the bible:
'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and ONLY SON that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life'
Jesus is the MON-OG-EN-ACE of the Father.
It describes the unique relationship between a parent and an only child.
So here we have Jesus, God’s one and only son, coming face to face with the one and only son of this dear woman.
What is his response?
Verse 13: His heart went out to her.
This phrase is used a lot in our times isn’t it? – maybe we’ve said it recently. ‘Oh my heart went out to them’. What WE mean is that we felt sorry for them. But the Greek word used here is SPLAGCHNIZOMAI. It’s a lot more than feeling sorry for. It’s a gut wrenching feeling. It’s feeling someone’s pain as if it’s our own.
This is what Jesus felt for this woman. He felt her pain as though it was his own. Unlike what we often do, his compassion prompts him to action.
Have you noticed that in verse 11 it is Jesus who enters Nain, but in verse 13, Jesus is now described as Lord. And the next part of what he does demonstrates his Lordship.
Jesus’ first command is to the grieving mother; ‘Don’t cry’ It seems a bit harsh to us doesn’t it? Of course she’s crying. Her only son has died. But what Jesus is saying is You don’t need to be sad because I am going to work on your behalf.
His next actions would have scandalised the crowd of mourners, and probably his own followers too. He went up and touched the corpse. The Greek word here means he grabs and shakes the young man.
We saw last week that Jesus touched the leper; something that would make him unclean in Jewish law. And the same is true here. In Jewish law, touching a dead body would make a rabbi unclean, unable to enter into God’s presence in the synagogue. But here, rather the dead body transferring uncleanness to him, Jesus transfers life to the corpse.
What does Jesus command? “Young man I tell you, get up!” Get up in Greek is EG-I-RO which means to raise or awaken. This command comes from a commander in command. He who has the words of eternal life. He who spoke the world into being. The Lord says EG-I-RO!! And because it’s the Lord of heaven and earth who had given the command the boy sat up and began to talk. He who was dead becomes alive because the One who was alive but who was destined to die had commanded him to wake up.
There’s so many questions that are unanswered in the passage isn’t there? What did the boy say to Jesus or his mum? Did he tell them what it was like to be dead? Did him and his mum become followers of Jesus?
We don’t know any of that. But we do know the reaction of the crowd--see verse 16-17.
Why do they use the word prophet? Because Nain is about 2 miles from Shunem. And in 2 Kings 4 we read the story about another woman whose only son was sick and died. We read how Elisha the prophet went into the room where the boy lay and laid down on the boy’s body- mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. Elisha prayed and the boy came to life. An amazing story. So no wonder the crowd was reminded of it when they witnessed Jesus’ miracle.
Although there are similarities, there is one big difference. Elisha was only a man so needed to pray for healing of the boy. Jesus commands. The one who IS life, spoke life into being and life was given back to the widow’s son. How amazing and awesome is our Lord Jesus! Be dazzled by him this morning!
So as we encounter Jesus in this gospel account, let’s see what it means for us:
Jesus sees and Jesus cares
As Jesus walked into Nain he saw the situation that was occurring. He just didn’t see the situation but knew the thoughts and feelings of each of the people there. He hasn’t changed.
Whatever we are going through he sees us. He knows us. Jesus seeing us is not the same as he notices us or glances at us as he’s on his way to an appointment. No, just like in Nain, he stands right in front of us. He looks into our eyes. He knows us.
Jesus sees you this morning. With all your failure, with all your worries, all your anxiety. With all the stuff that’s going round your head. The stuff that keeps you awake at night. He sees you. He looks deep into your heart and you know what? He’s not put off! He doesn’t think that you’re too much to deal with in his busy schedule of the day.
I love that line in the song Indescribable. “You know the depths of my heart and you love me the same. You are amazing God”. That’s what Jesus does.
More than this, he has compassion on us. He doesn’t say ‘There there’ like we might say to our child who is crying. He feels a gut wrenching sorrow for the things that cause us pain. Even the stuff that others might think is trivial. If it causes us pain, Jesus feels it too. You might be in physical pain this morning. Jesus feels that pain as if it were his own. Anxious about the increase in the cost of living? Jesus feels your anxiety. Problems in your relationships? Jesus feels your pain. Lost someone dear to you? Jesus feels your sadness and grief.
Why? Isaiah 53:4 says, 'Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.'
This wasn’t just for the cross. Jesus spent his whole life doing just that. Right after this story in Luke we read about John the Baptist’s confusion about who Jesus is. He sends his followers to ask Jesus if he really is the Messiah. Let’s read Jesus’ response in verse 22.
This is our Messiah. Not a warlord, but someone who feels the isolation of the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf. Who truly sees the sorrow of the grieving. This is the one you have been expecting he tells John’s followers. So Jesus sees and Jesus cares. Jesus wants to work on your behalf. To do for you what it’s impossible for you to do yourself. But also……
Jesus says wake up
Remember Jesus’s words to the dead boy- EGIRO. Wake up. Rise up! Imagine the Lord shaking the shoulder of people who are now longer with us saying EGIRO- wake up! Victoria. Egiro. Wake up! Damian. Egiro. Wake up! Elizabeth. Egiro. Wake up. What are they waking up to?
These people we have loved are not lost. They are more alive than ever because they are present with Christ. What an encouragement that is, that we will see them again. God’s word guarantees it.
But maybe Jesus is saying EGIRO to us who are still alive in this world this morning. Wake up! Rise! It’s so easy to spiritually fall asleep isn’t it?
We can be so busy doing life- good things, even things for the Lord but still have fallen asleep. I loved what Tristan said about being dazzled by Jesus. The problem for those of us who have been Christians a long time is that we can easily become a detached observer when we read the gospels.
We know the stories. If you’re like me you’ve heard every story since you were a child. You remember the flannel graph in Sunday school! It’s like watching a film that we’ve seen many times. There’s no cliff hanger for us. No jeopardy.
Sometimes, if we’re trying to decide what to watch on TV, I’ll say to Simon and Lizzie that I want to watch a certain film or programme because it’s familiar. I’ll be tired and I don’t want to have to think too deeply. I can nod off a bit and still pick it up later! Jesus can become like that for us. He can become mundane to us because we’re so used to him. Or comfortable like a pair of slippers.
Can I encourage you during this series to feel the Lord tapping you on your shoulder saying ‘EGIRO! Wake up. Experience the truth of who I am again. Be dazzled by me again.'
One way to do this is called active reading of scripture. When you read a gospel account try and enter into it. After reading, don’t jump straight into thinking what the life application might be. Imagine yourself in the scene. What would it feel like to be there? Imagine yourself as one of the characters. What would they be thinking? What would they be feeling? What would you say to Jesus if you were in that situation?
Then as your imagination starts to kick in, ask the Holy Spirit to let you be dazzled by Jesus. Truly see him. Not as just a means to your salvation but simultaneously as the Son of God and as the Son of Man.
Often scripture tells us facts but it doesn’t tell us HOW the person said something. It’s like reading a text message as opposed to actually speaking to them. Sometimes you’re not sure what the mood is of the person writing it. Sometimes it’s like that with scripture.
Take the command of Jesus in today’s reading. ‘Stop crying’. It appears harsh but what is not explained is the look Jesus had on his face? What the people would have seen in his eyes? Try to imagine it in your mind’s eye.
I would encourage you over the next few weeks to wake up. Arise. Be dazzled by Jesus. Ask questions. Really think about some of the things Jesus said and did. Often what he did was unexpected. Sometimes outrageous! Always loving, even when he was rebuking someone. Let the gospel accounts permeate into your being. Let the person of Jesus jump off the flannel graph (if you’re older) or the you tube clip (if you’re a bit younger!) and encounter him.
God’s one and only son brought life to the widow’s one and only son. He sees. He cares. He says wake up!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace