New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain
11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
Talk about being at the right place at the right time! Jesus has just left Capernaum where he healed the Centurion’s servant (https://paigehanks.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/not-worthy-just-faithful/) and he walks in the gates of the town of Nain. He runs smack dab into a funeral procession, led by a grieving mother who has lost her husband and now her only son. I can only imagine her grief spilling out of her as she begins to accept this unwanted reality. I love verse 13 in particular; “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.'” I love it because it is just so simple. God then brings her son back from the dead with a simple touch.
In the presence of God, why should we weep? I cannot begin to imagine this mother’s sadness and loss. As a mother, I feel like my heart is constantly walking around outside my body every day, even more so as our daughter is approaching the time to set off on her grown up life of college and long distance from my “controlling” ways as a mom. I know several friends who have lost a child and the pain is simply inexplicable and can cover up every other emotion; paralyzing grief I am sure.
But God’s promise for the world is that there is life eternal. I simply don’t understand what that means in any tangible sense and I spend very little time and energy trying to figure it out. I just know that it brings great comfort in times of challenge and overwhelming sadness. But come on; who wouldn’t want to have our loved one come back from the dead? That is one of the great pitfalls in this story of a great miracle.
God has a plan and we are given the greatest gift of love possible – to live life eternal with our Father in heaven. Grief is for the living and as humans, is part of our human condition. I lost my Mom last year after a swift and ferocious diagnosis of multiple primary cancers. Mom was young, professional and worldly and it didn’t make sense for this to happen to a person at the top of her game of life. We all reacted differently to the shock and pain, but for me, it gave me a challenge that was like a river of faith. I don’t know why and it certainly didn’t match other family members’ responses to the situation. And boy do I wish she was still here to talk to and guide me as a mom and our daughter as her beloved Kiki.
She wasn’t raised from the dead to come back to be with us, nor did I expect that to happen. I even got my feathers ruffled a few times when folks said to me, trying to be helpful I am sure, that they were praying for a miracle and that she could beat this disease. We knew better…the situation was grave right from the start. So instead of spending time hoping for Jesus to walk right up to us and heal her, I thought a better way to approach this was to embrace life eternal and that precious gift of perfect healing. loving mom and providing peace and compassion as she lived through dying.
We can’t pray hard enough, do enough good in the world or do just the right thing to invoke the miracles. They come when God’s plan matches our desires. And although I would give just about anything for a few minutes with my healthy Mom, I was so very grateful that her incredibly debilitating pain ended much more quickly than anyone thought or believed. Her healing didn’t bring her back to the human life but brought her into the presence of our Savior.
So we wept for our loss of her presence, just as the mother who met Jesus was doing. This is normal for folks who love and all of us experience loss of this sort. Jesus feels sorry for us too, but now that he gave his life for us, he can call upon us to look forward in anticipation to the great gift of our resurrection. Maybe that is the miracle that is enough…we know what this grieving Mother did not know, that we have life eternal as our promise of perfect healing now. I want to ready at the right place and the right time for that.
Saving Father, we are so very grateful for the gift of your Son, sent to save us from our sins and give us the promise of life eternal. Comfort us as we grieve and teach us to trust your saving love for us. Help us walk in faith and to accept your gift of mercy. We thank you for loving us and protecting us. In your Holy Name we pray. AMEN.
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant
7 After Jesushad finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
For many of us Christians, we find ourselves measuring our faith against others. I know a woman who positively glows – she has an outwardly obvious faith and we have discussed many a serious theological issue together, proving to me that my impression of her faith is an accurate one. And when I look in the mirror, I am a bit envious of the ease with which she seems to navigate the challenges of life through the lens of her faith. Instinctively, I want to be more like that person and be able to live out my life so to represent that level of faith. Somehow, it makes me seem more “worthy” in my relationship with Christ.
Silly me…and maybe even silly you if you’ve ever had a similar experience! First of all, this isn’t a contest. The one with the most faith or who is the most worthy wins no additional grace from God. Secondly, we don’t have to be worthy in any way – our Lord loves us for us, without condition and without compromise. What a beautiful gift – God’s grace and mercy.
In Luke’s Gospel reading for today, Jesus illustrates this in a powerful story. A Roman military leader calls for Jesus to come heal his slave. This is an interesting twist on Jesus’ healing ministry, as this Centurion is not a believer of Jesus as savior. He just believes in his power to heal. In the face of it, that seems to defy any logic applied – who does he think he is demanding Jesus come and heal when the soldier doesn’t even believe or understand Jesus in relationship to God? It just wasn’t necessary to be “worthy” in this story; all that was needed was faith. Jesus didn’t even have to get close to the slave to heal him – he shared with his followers that the faith of this man was the most faith he had seen. The faith of the soldier must have been an unusual occurrence, even as it compared to the Jews who were gifted with Jesus’ presence for him to make such a statement as he does about all he has met in Israel.
Don’t be confused by this…this isn’t a story about someone deserving to be healed. Rather this is a tale of believing in Jesus for no other reason than that he makes the impossible seem possible. Those of us with faithful hearts can use a lesson or two from this Centurion. For me, my faith is foundational to who I am as a person. Yet still, I struggle with life’s challenges and have been known to question a thing or two that I thought God might have missed! And I reflect on my sinful self and can find myself believing that I’m not worthy of any blessing or gift too. But Jesus’ interaction with the Centurion and his request is a reminder to keep the faith. Focus less on our worthiness and more on our belief that in God we are well blessed. We can expect him to heal the parts of us in need and lead us down the path of following his will. It just takes the faith of one who BELIEVES in him.
Lord of healing and strength, we thank you for your grace and mercy that we do not do anything to deserve. Help us to believe in your power and will for us and to count on you with unwavering faith. We can do all things through you, Jesus Christ. Your grace is enough. AMEN.