June 5, 2016 Resuscitation or Resurrection?
The Old Testament lesson and the gospel lesson today combine to make for some very vivid and compelling reasons to trust God. In both of these reports you have people who are dead and then made alive again! Keep your worship folders open to these lessons it’s going to be like a tennis match for a few minutes going back and forth between them.
In the Old Testament lesson you have a son who dies of sickness. We’re also told in verse 20 that the mother of this boy’s a widow. You have action taken by a man of God because of the grief expressed by this widow. And the result of his action is that.. the boy lives again!
Now look in the gospel lesson. Again you have a dead son being mourned by, again, his widowed mother. Here the dead boy is being carried out of town and his grieving mother follows along. Jesus sees her grief and addresses her with just two words don’t cry. And then He takes action. Based on His compassion for her, He revives this boy. The compassion of God, expressed by earthly action is key in both lessons.
Compare these accounts: both boys are gone from this life, both have left mothers behind to grieve for them. Both of these mothers are widows, they have no other man in their lives to help, to support or provide for them. That’s important to remember in both these cases.
Families then were your ‘social security’. They looked after you in your old age and were there to support you. A woman especially was vulnerable when she was left without a husband or son because of the way society worked regarding property.
In both of these accounts the boys were all that the women had. And both tell of these sons being made alive again in God’s compassion! These were dead sons and they live again! Can there be anything more compelling than the dead being brought back to life again!! It solves so many problems.
There’s no more separation or loneliness, no sorrow or grief. And for the widows it meant security as well. In fact these dead being raised to life again is a cause of rejoicing and celebrating, it is the occasion of occasions. One last thing though about these 2 cases is – that both these boys had to, later, die again.
But today, they were both given life again. However, they were not given a new life. They were not resurrected in the fashion that Christ was; they were resuscitated.
Jesus promises His followers resurrection-life, not mere resuscitation. That’s important as we turn and focus now on the gospel lesson. What Jesus gives the boy from Nain is resuscitation in this world. But He gives it to him after the manner by which Jesus gives us resurrection-life; He gives by His will alone.
Look in the story and tell me, what does the boy do to help Jesus? Right, the boy does nothing to ask for it. The boy does nothing to help with it. The boy does nothing to cooperate with Jesus. However, it’s the boy’s choice how he lives his life after it’s restored to him. Jesus gives him life again on this earth but how the boy lives that life from then on is his responsibility.
We’ll come back to our responsibility to live our lives now in Jesus’ gift to us of resurrection-life.
But in the story, one of the things you’d expect is that he’d now look after the mother who wept for him. Her security, as we said, is only in what that boy could provide. This is not unlike Jesus’ own mother, Mary. Jesus addressed her earthly security needs even as He was dying on the cross. That’s why in John’s gospel we’re told, in verses 25-27 of chapter 19, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother… When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Stop here a moment and think about this act of love for His mother that Jesus does. Isn’t it interesting that though He knows He’s coming back to life, resurrection-life, He knew that it was not life of the same nature of this world that He was coming back to. And that’s different than the son of the widow of Nain in today’s gospel lesson that Jesus resuscitated.
Jesus knew that after His resurrection and ascension His mother would still need care in this world and that’s why He assigned John to look after her. Jesus was making the plans for his own mother needed for her future on earth. And He was doing that as He was also fulfilling the plan for her eternal future by going to that cross and dying for her sins and for the sins of this widow’s boy and for all of our sins.
Jesus’ resurrection-life is life that is of a different nature than before. His resurrected life is what Jesus has promised, has gifted, to His followers. And that’s what we have both now and what we’re looking forward to. Resurrection-life then will be a life… free of sin and free of the restraints that this world has on us.
Jesus’ death on the cross is what paid the debt for all sin for all time. His resurrection following His death is what guarantees to all who believe in His name life with Him forever. That resurrection-life is not what He gave the widow’s son on this day however. What this boy received was resuscitation to earthly life. Now I have little doubt that this boy and his mother both became believers in Jesus.
After all with this experience they had, when Jesus rose from the dead I’m sure their leap of faith to believe that Jesus was truly resurrected from the dead was not as difficult as it would be for others. After all they had experienced this boy’s return to life – at the word and by the compassion of Jesus. But they, like us, would’ve had to learn the difference between resurrection and resuscitation, though their learning curve was probably a little less steep than ours.
Bringing this boy to life again in the gospel today also points up another thing about Jesus and death… Death simply loses out to Life. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And here at the city gate of Nain, Jesus again proves that He… Jesus… is life… and He Wins… always! The three deaths that the gospels tell us about that confronted Jesus earthly ministry, He interrupts with life. Death, other than His own, is not tolerated by Jesus.
It can’t be tolerated because He’s the creator and sustainer of all life. And now death has no part in Jesus now that He’s conquered it by His own defeat of it through His resurrection! In the text from last week, Jesus heals the centurion’s sick slave and Jesus never even went to that person. The centurion gave evidence of faith in Jesus’ authority to heal and save by his words and works, words and works.
The point is that faith in Jesus’ power over death is always vindicated in scripture. Remember in the conversation with Mary and Martha, regarding Lazarus, they talked about death and resurrection and Mary says that she believes her brother will rise in the resurrection to come. And Jesus tells her what?
That’s right I am the resurrection and the life he who believes in me though he die yet shall he live. Again it’s important to remember that the life Jesus returned to Lazarus, like this boy today, was earthly life, not the resurrection-life that follows Jesus’ victory over death.
Resurrection-life is a different thing. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead we’re told by Paul in Colossians 1:18. Jesus is the firstborn from… from the dead. He’s the one who breaks the power of death and so He’s the one who defeats death.
In His defeat of death He overcomes sin, which brought death into this world in the first place by our disobedience in the Garden of Eden. And when that disobedience happened, on that very day, God promised that He would defeat death for us.
In Gen 3:15 God gives the first promise of death’s demise. God says to the serpent I will put enmity between your seed and her seed, and you will bruise his heel and He will crush your head. The offspring of Eve, Jesus, crushed the one who tempted mankind and so brought death in to God’s creation. Jesus crushed death.
Death came through the sin of man in the Garden of Eden. And from the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus went forth to fulfill the promise God made to Eve in Eden. Jesus went from Gethsemane to the cross and in rising from a garden tomb, Jesus defeated death. And because of His power over life and death He chose, in today’s gospel lesson to raise up this widows only son. So, let’s return to the point we said we would – about how we live as result of the resurrection-life that’s ours in Jesus Christ being up to us.
What we do with our new life all our earthly days is in our power to control. That is our God-given responsibility. It is in your power to live your life seeking to do God’s will alone. So that’s your choice.
However, what’s not your choice is like the boy in Nain … the boy had no part in his own return to life. The boy was resuscitated by Jesus’ choosing alone. And Jesus does the same thing for us. We don’t raise a hand and ask Jesus to take it and give us resurrection life. No, Jesus reaches down in His love and He takes hold of us and He grants us the promise of new life in Him. We are not promised mere resuscitation but resurrection-life with Christ.
Jesus today doesn’t wait for the boy to ask for anything. And Jesus didn’t wait for us to act to give us His promise of new life. He acts first. He is the prime mover, the first cause. Our salvation is not dependent in any way upon our action; if it was we’d be without hope. After all it is our action, the action of man, that brought death to creation in the first place. In fact we’re told by St. Paul that we are dead in our sins and trespasses, just like that widow’s son. So we can do nothing to help ourselves.
People like to say, ‘well you have to make a choice’. However, your only choice is that of death. If you reject what Christ has done on the cross, in His victory over death, you’re saying you prefer –death. You prefer your own death in sin rather than the resurrection-life that Jesus offers in His name. So yes you do choose, but your choice is how you respond to Jesus’ gift. And that’s not what caused Jesus to offer you salvation.
You didn’t choose for Christ to go to the cross but you can choose to reject His victory there that He promises to you. We’re the ones with the opportunity to let others know what Jesus did for this widow’s son and what Jesus has done for us all. Remember we said at the outset that the compassion of God, expressed by earthly action is key in today’s lessons. That same compassion is the Gospel and we’re the ones who say we are Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel.
Like this boy had the responsibility to live his resuscitated life well, and caring for his family, so we too share his responsibility. We too live so that others may come to trust in the resurrection-life that Jesus chooses to give to all who will believe in His name. In that all-powerful Name we pray, amen.
Sermon #830 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading 1 Kings 17:17-24 17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” 22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
Epistle Galatians 1:11-24 11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.
Holy Gospel Luke 7:11-17
11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.