Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Ordinary 2

"Jesus Ruins a Funeral"

Luke 7:11-17

June 5, 2016

It had all the features of a great tabloid story. It was sad, so very sad. In a small village a young man had died suddenly. His widowed mother was now burying her only child. The funeral was a large one. Everyone in town turned out. As was the custom, the professional mourners were wailing and getting their money's worth for the scene they were creating. Human grief and misery were the dominant emotions. And now, Jesus is going to ruin a perfectly good funeral.

Luke 7:11-17. Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 

Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

As Jesus and His disciples entered the town, they met the funeral procession leaving for the cemetery. It doesn't take omniscience to sum up the situation. Jesus sees the stretcher with the young man's body being carried out. Behind follows the distraught mother.Although surrounded by those seeking to console her, she is the lone mourner. Her future is as dead as her son. Who will comfort and support her now? Her tears are copious and bitter.

Suddenly, the procession stopped. Normally, strangers would step aside as a sign of respect to allow the dead to pass. Rather than step aside, Jesus blocks the path and stops everything. The grieving mother is probably too distraught to understand what is happening until the Lord tells her to stop weeping.

Put yourself in her place. Who is this stranger telling her to stop crying? Doesn't He realize the depth of her loss? Who is this guy that He can tell her to stop what naturally flows out of her broken heart? Nevertheless, our Lord speaks with such authority that her tears cease as she looks at Him in bewilderment. 

Truly, only Jesus can tell this grieving mother to stop crying. Everyone else would tell her to let the tears flow. Let them cleanse the despairing heart. Our Lord doesn't tell her why she should stop crying. Yet, there's something about His voice and quiet command that stop the tears. Without waiting or offering any further explanation, Jesus touched the stretcher and halted those who were carrying it. Then, He did the miraculous. With a simple command He ordered the young man to arise and by doing so ruined the funeral.

The 4th century pastor Ephrem the Syrian said this about today's Gospel reading: "The Virgin's son met the widow's son. He became like a sponge for her tears and life for her son." Death fled in the face of Life. Sorrow was turned to joy. Bitterness was replaced with hope. Weeping was turned into laughing. The funeral dinner was going to become a real party of celebration. And, no one complained that Jesus had come to ruin the funeral.

Maybe this is why the crowd's reaction seems a little strange to me. Rather than being filled with joy, they were seized with fear. Maybe we'd have the same reaction. We, too, might be frightened. Whoa! What just happened here? The people had never seen anything like this. It probably took awhile for the whole thing to sink in. Although they glorified God, they did not seem to embrace the power and authority of Jesus who commanded death to depart. 

Why was that? They acknowledged this guy truly must be a prophet of God! Now think about it. How many people, how many of us, want a prophet like that living among us?

Oh, they were awestruck for the moment but having a prophet with this kind of power from God would call them to faithfulness and holy living. Our sinful nature wants to do its own thing and not be bothered by the continuing presence of God in our lives. Yes, we like to have God at our beck and call but we want Him on our terms not His. It shouldn't surprise us that they did not joyfully embrace the miracle working power they had just seen. 

Precisely because we live with the reality of death, Jesus comes into our midst as He came into the village of Nain. The raising of the widow's son reminds us that God visited His people in grace. Grace is unconditional love. Through grace, God surprises us with His visitation. He does for us what He does NOT have to do, what He is not obligated to do. He comes to us although we often choose to reject His grace and visitation among us.

Jesus will come again to put an end to funerals forever. In the meantime, He comes to bring daily meaning to our striving in life. As much as we struggle, we never seem to accomplish our goals, realize our dreams or make our wishes come true. We are often burdened with frustration, confusion and even anger. Life isn't one long happy parade filled with continuous joy and laughter. 

We have been to funerals. We, too, have shed the hot tears of grief and sorrow. Where was Jesus when our loved ones died? Why wasn't He there to turn our wailing into dancing? He was there with us but not as we wanted. We wanted Him with us in joy but He came to us in our sorrow. Our Lord was there. He comes to us even in our deepest sorrow. Although He isn't going to come to halt our funeral processions making the way to the cemetery, He will call us from the grave on the last day and give us eternal life. In our grieving Jesus comes to soak up our tears as we mourn. Jesus comes to ruin the gloom of funerals with His word of hope.

In the midst of your sorrow, He tells you not to weep, because only He, the Son of God, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, can give life. When Jesus says to the young man, "Be raised," He is also talking to you and me. He is raising you from the death of your sin. After all, you live in your Baptism.You've been baptized into Christ's death and into His resurrection. 

When Jesus went to the funerals of Jairus' daughter and His friend Lazarus, He came to the mourning bringing words of comfort and life. He comforted Martha by saying, "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. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." [John 11:25-27]

His words to Martha are His words to us. Martha's confession of faith is also ours. These words and promises of hope and comfort ruin the gloom and despair of funerals. On the day of resurrection, He will turn our mourning into dancing. Blessed is He who come to bring us hope and comfort, light and life, now and forever. Amen.


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12/28/2014
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10/12/2014
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09/28/2014
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