Pentecost 3 – St. Luke 7:11-17
In the four Gospel accounts, Jesus is recorded raising 3 different people from the dead – Jairus’s daughter, the widow’s son at Nain, and Lazarus.
What is curious is that whereas Jesus was sought out in the case of Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter, today’s raising of the widow’s son at Nain is almost an accident.
Just think, a difference of 5 minutes either way, and this miracle does not happen. If the disciples pick up the pace and Jesus goes through Nain 5 minutes sooner, then the funeral procession is not interrupted by Jesus; or if the Pharisees come up to Jesus and pose another one of their hypothetical scenarios, and Jesus is delayed by just a few minutes, the casket and the mourners are already at the cemetery. The tiniest alteration of events in any direction, and this chance meeting is missed.
That Jesus and the funeral procession meet appears to us to be a complete and total coincidence; a situation of being in the right place at the right time, yielding a miracle that otherwise would not have happened.
And yet it does; Jesus stops everyone in their tracks, and tells the young man to arise, and he does; and the funeral procession does an immediate about face and becomes a parade back into the town rejoicing that this son who was dead, is now alive again.
How many people went to the funeral dinner turned celebration of life restored dinner and wondered aloud to each other what would have happened if Jesus had not been there. The smallest thing could have prevented this resurrection, and yet it did not.
Of course, you do not have to wonder about such things. You know exactly what would have happened if Jesus had not shown up.
Because Jesus did not show up at the hospital, when a parent was struggling to get their last gasp of breath. Nor did Jesus show up at the mortuary, when you looked at your spouse lying in the casket. Nor did Jesus show up at the church when the words and promises of baptism were spoken once more as you sat here surrounded by friends and family. Nor did Jesus show up at the cemetery when the casket holding your child was lowered into the ground.
You do not have to ask yourself what would have happened if Jesus had not shown up at Nain at just the right moment to put an end to this funeral procession; for you have been too far too many funerals where Jesus did not show up; where Jesus did not say to the body lying in the coffin arise; where Jesus did not turn a funeral procession of mourners into a parade of loud sounding rejoicers.
How many funerals have you been to where Jesus was seemingly delayed in arriving? How many funerals have you been to where Jesus came through to soon?
We speak of Jesus earthly ministry as being three years, and how He traveled a radius of about 100 miles; how many died in Israel during that time that Jesus did not raise? How many funeral processions did not come to a screeching halt at the command of Jesus? How many husbands and wives, how many sons and daughters, were not returned to the arms of their grieving family?
How many did not experience the joy and the celebration that this widow at Nain experienced?
Satan would point to exact numbers; he would point you to other widows, who likewise had no other children; who likewise would suffer severely at the death of that son; who did not see Jesus interrupt their son’s funerals.
Satan would point you to the funerals of husbands and fathers; of mothers and wives; whose own deaths brought great sadness to their families; and he would ask where was Jesus at these funeral processions.
Satan would point you to your own daily lives, to your own homes, and ask where was Jesus when your loved ones were sick; where was Jesus when the hospital called; where was Jesus at the funeral home, or at the church, or at the cemetery?
Satan can point you to all the numbers and all the statistics, and most of all too all the tombstones, and ask you where was Jesus? Why was He too quick to pass by? Why was He to slow in coming? Why was there only mourning and not rejoicing at this funeral?
What has this widow at Nain done to make her worthy of receiving her son back from the dead, while so many others have not been deemed as such?
And yet, what we see today outside of Nain not only gives us cause for hope, it gives us certainty in our hope.
This son, will die again; just as Jairus’s daughter will; just as Lazarus will.
But there is one other resurrection that Jesus is involved in; His own. Jesus Himself rises from death; those who come to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, leave rejoicing. Those who watched Him die, now see Him alive in locked rooms, along the Emmaus road, and on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus own resurrection is not five minutes early or five minutes late; instead He rises at the appointed time.
And unlike the widow’s son, and Jairus’s daughter, and Lazarus, who all die again; Jesus does not; Jesus rises from the tomb and lives forever.
And Jesus victory over death and the grave is now passed onto you. You will die, but you will also rise; and you will not die again.
Jesus does not just raise from the dead Lazarus, the widow’s son, and Jairus’s daughter, but He also promises that everyone who dies in the faith will rise again.
Jesus is at every funeral in Israel, announcing to those who believe, that they will live. Jesus is never late or early; He is always present, always stopping the pallbearers in their tracks, and announcing to their cargo that they will arise.
Jesus is there in the hospital, announcing to parents and children, that as they gasp for one last breath of oxygen, that they will live again. Jesus is there in the mortuary, announcing to the corpses of husbands and wives that they will rise. Jesus is here in the church, as the words and promises of baptism are spoken, and He announces to the gathered friends and family that this body will stand at the last. Jesus is there when we make the slow drive out to the cemetery, standing amidst the tombstones, announcing that these sons and daughters will rise from their slumber and live.
There is no sadness, there is no mourning, there are no tears; for the word announced to you today, the word spoken over the tombs, the words spoken over all those who have died in the faith, are the sure and certain words of Christ our Lord, that these bones shall live; breath shall enter these lungs once more; life will once more fill this corpse.
Jesus stands up at every funeral, stops the procession, announces to one and to all, arise! The message delivered here at Nain, is the same message that is delivered to one and to all, arise!
By your baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, those words will also be spoken to you. Arise, for your Lord stands before you. Arise, for death has no victory and it has no sting for those who believe. Arise, for your time of slumber has come to an end. Arise, for you shall live once more. Arise, for you shall live forevermore.