Trinity 16 (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
September 15, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 7:11-17

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What is the purpose of this narrative of Christ meeting the widow of Nain and her dead son, raising him from the dead and giving him back to his grieving mother, except to show us the compassion, power, and purpose of the Christ?

Wherever Christ the King goes, He ushers in the kingdom of heaven. And the kingdom of heaven, unlike the kingdoms of men, doesn’t grow by conquering men, but grows by conquering death and giving life.

You want to know how to witness to the world? Conquer death by giving life. As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s victory over death. Your best witness to the world is your attendance at the Lord’s gathering, making it the top priority of your life, for this is your life. This is your eternal life for this is Christ: here in bread and wine, given and shed for you.

But out there you can witness, too. Not talking about what Jesus has done for you – frankly, nobody cares what Jesus has done for you. Rather, you witness of Jesus by telling others what He has done and will do for them. For them He has died and risen again. For them He will come again. For them He will raise the dead. They, too, will be raised from the dead. Don’t talk to your neighbor about Christ because he believes – for how can you judge the heart? Talk to him so that he will believe. And to do that, you must preach Christ crucified and risen. And we’re back to you proclaiming the Lord’s death until He comes in the future.

When our Lord stopped that funeral procession outside the city of Nain, you can believe that all eyes were on Him. Nothing has changed. He still stops the funeral processions of men. Not as He did at Nain, but by the preaching and proclamation of His Church. For we proclaim life in the face of death. And when we do that, as our Lord does it, all eyes are on us.

Believe it or not, Christian, the Lord’s eyes are on your neighbor through your eyes. You either see your neighbor - whether they’re out there somewhere or sitting in this hallowed room with you – as the Lord sees them, with love and compassion; or as the devil sees them, as those that are in your way. There’s no middle ground. You can’t think poorly of a person and then defend your Christian love. You can’t mock a person and then sing the praises of your faith. You can’t refuse your neighbor and be called a son of God. You can’t hate your brother and love God.

But what did the Lord do when He met His neighbor at the gates of the city of Nain? He had compassion on him. And the Lord’s compassion caused Him to become unclean by touching a coffin with a dead body in it. His compassion caused Him to consider the condition and poverty the poor grieving widow and the company of people with her. His compassion caused Him to consider the dead man, that he was no longer able to care for his aging mother. The Lord has compassion.

That’s really the story of the widow of Nain and her dead son. The eyes of the Lord were toward them and He had compassion on them. And in His compassion He pulled them out of the clutches of death and gave them life. He didn’t just give life back to the son, but He gave life back to the grieving mother. He restored the broken relationship. He mended and repaired what had been ripped asunder. He undid the work of Satan.

So we who are His Body are to have compassion and undo the work of Satan. We are to raise the humiliated – not humiliate them further by withholding ourselves from them. We are to give to the poor – not ignore their poverty by only concerning ourselves with our finances. We are to clothe the naked – not turn our head in embarrassment. We are to speak kindly of those that would speak evil of us – not seek our own glory. We are to love even our enemy as Christ loves us. We cannot do this if all we ever see are people that are in our way and that will drain our resources or dirty our pristine possessions.

And just as all eyes are toward the Lord – even the eyes of the unbeliever as he considers the proclamation and life of the Church – so, too, our eyes, the eyes of the Christian, are always toward the Lord. When we remove our eyes from the Lord, and behold everything that is around us, then we succumb to fear and trembling and are unable to rise. It is as when St. Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water. When his eyes were on the Lord, Peter walked on water. But when he considered his surroundings and where he was and what was going on around him, he took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink and was filled with fear.

But just as the eyes of the Lord were toward the grieving widow and her dead son, so the eyes of the Lord are toward you. Not to see if you’ve been naughty or nice – He’s no divine Santa Clause – but to show you mercy and to have compassion on you. To raise you up out of death into life. When you stumble and fall, sinking into the deep, the Lord’s eyes are on you and He reaches out His hand and pulls you into His boat. Only His hand is not merely a five-fingered glove of flesh, His hand is His word given in His mysteries. And His boat isn’t of wood or steal, but is His holy, Christian Church; the ark of salvation that floats lightly atop the sea of death and chaos, piloted with divine precision to the shores of eternal life.

Consider where you have been in life, what you have done and what has been done to you to cause you to sink into the deep sea of sin and fear. Now consider that you are here in the boat of the Lord. The Lord has had compassion on you and has called you out of the deep and into His kingdom where life reigns over death and righteousness over sin.

That is why the Son of Man came to earth: to undo the works of Satan. He came to lift up those that are bowed down; to raise the humiliated; to mend the broken hearted; to bind of the wounds of the wounded; and to give life to the dead.

But this isn’t simply metaphoric rhetoric meant to give you a pep talk or bolster your emotions so you can deal with another day. This is reality. This is really what the Son of Man came to do. Only, He’s not doing it so you can have your best life now or so you can be all happy and content with this life and the things of this life. He is doing it for the life to come.

For as much as He came to lift up those that are bowed down, to raise the humiliated, to mend the broken hearted, to bind up the wounds of the wounded, and to give life to the dead, He is also the resurrection. We live in the age of the resurrection. Jesus is the first-born from among the dead. We are next. The widow’s only son was given mortal life and restored to his mother, but we are waiting for eternal life and to be restored to our Father.

That is not to take away from the mercies of the Lord in this life. He works mercy in your life. Else you would not be alive and would have no hope at all. For through Him and by Him are all things sustained. But what He doesn’t do, what He didn’t do for the widow and her son, was solve all our problems. It is wrong to hear a passage such as this and think, “When will He have such mercy on me?” He has had such mercy on you, and a great deal more. For this miracle, as wondrous and exciting as it is, is merely a sign of better things to come. It’s a foretaste, a foreshadowing. It’s not the substance.

The Lord came to give you life, to give you abundant life. And the life He gives is not your own but belongs to Him. It is His life He gives to you. And His life has been through death. His life is beyond the grave. His life is eternal. And He gives you His life by pouring over you His water and word; by feeding you the bread of eternal life; by welcoming you into His kingdom to live among and with His people. So that the promise is good and the hope is sound and your conscience and your worries are quieted by His shepherding and by His words. You have eternal life in Christ.

 And because you have eternal life in Christ, you have conquered this life. No, your troubles won’t magically disappear, just as the widow’s and her son’s troubles didn’t magically disappear. But it does mean that your troubles are fleeting and not permanent. Eternal life is permanent. It does mean that your worries and fears will give way to confidence and peace. People say that life is hard. No, life is easy. Death is hard. And death reigns in this mortal life. But the life you live you live in Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

The Lord has compassion on you and His mercies are new every morning. We will still bury our dead and be left widowed. This life will still be full of trouble and trial, but our eyes are toward the Lord who lives beyond the grave and is seated in the heavenly places. The eyes of the Lord are toward us, to have compassion on us; to reach out His hand through His mysteries and stop our funeral procession and raise us up out of death to life.

+ In Nomine Iesu +