SCRIPTURES – 1 Kings 17:11-17; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17; Ps. 138
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”
What do we see in our Gospel lesson this morning? Jesus comes across a funeral procession on its way to bury a young man and, without being asked, stops the procession. He commands the mother to stop crying, not only forbidding her tears but preventing the hired mourners from weeping and wailing loudly, as was the custom. Then, he raises her dead son to life – without being asked to do so! I wonder: did the man want to be raised? Now he’s once again going to be subject to the sufferings, sicknesses, and sorrows of this world; again he will struggle with temptations and sins; and, he will again face death one day. Would he consider this a blessing, or say, “Thanks for butting in!” Yes, God butting in; that’s what we see!
I’m being facetious, of course. We don’t at all mind if God butts into our lives by turning tragedy into triumph and sorrow into joy. “Hey, please butt in more often!” But, how about when God butts in with trials and tribulations that cause great stress and sadness? Are you then inclined to say, “God has visited His people!” or, “What do you have against me? Have you come to remind me of my sin?”
The two processions we see in Luke 7 – the one of happy and excited people following Jesus, who, having seen wondrous miracles, wondered what would happen next; the other with sad and grieving people, mourning the death of the only son of a widow – are so very different. But, they’re also very familiar, for both confront us in our lives.
Sometimes life is filled with joy and happiness, and you are very content.
At other times you are part of the sad procession, as burdens are laid upon you and you shed many tears.
Because of Jesus, both times are times of opportunity for the love and present help of God.
GOD BUTTS INTO OUR LIVES WITH TIMES TO GIVE COMFORT.
There are many times in our lives when we are happy and life is good. And then, you run into someone who is struggling with worry, grief, and many other sorrows, and you wonder, “What do I say? What should I do?” Do not ignore such times, such people and their needs. God is giving you an opportunity to help and give glory to Him!
But what can you say? What comfort can you give? Unlike Jesus, we cannot raise the dead!
Notice what Jesus did first: He touched the coffin. No one in his day would ever have done this, for to touch the coffin of a dead person would make a person unclean and for a week would severely restrict who he could see and what he could do!
Jesus, however, did not hesitate to touch it. He did not hesitate to join Himself to peoples’ uncleannesses and griefs, no matter what they were. Well, you belong to Christ. You bear His name and He lives in you. You, then, should also join yourself to the needs and griefs of others to bring His help and comfort. They are opportunities for His mercy! But, what you can say? How about the words of Psalm 138, our Introit: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for you, for His steadfast love endures forever.” This is the good news we have in Christ!
God has a good purpose even for our sorrows - can this be true? Well, our Gospel lesson gives us another hint in of this certainty that we have in Christ. The young man who was raised is referred to as “the only son.” Jesus is Himself the only Son. He also went through death and was raised; but not for Himself. He did so for us. He can help, no matter what faces you, for by His death and resurrection for us He has triumphed over all our evils. His death for us is the guarantee that God looks with favor upon us, and not anger, and wants to bless us with forgiveness and eternal life. That is the good news we have to share!
But, what about when times are bad? At such times,
GOD BUTTS INTO OUR LIVES WITH TIMES TO RECEIVE COMFORT.
Processions of grieving come into the lives of us all, bringing sadness and hardship and testing our faith. At such times we need comfort. We need to know that “God has visited His people.”
God is very aware of such times and knows what you need. His heart goes out to you, as Jesus’s heart went out to the grieving widow. He helped her by raising her son. He helps you by His own death and resurrection. But, how does that help?
In times of sorrow and suffering sins and guilt become especially evident and real. God’s love and His desire to help are doubted, and we are tempted to cry out, as did the widow to Elijah in 1 Kings 17, “What do you have against me? Did you come to remind me of my sin?” Then, shame because of our weakness is added to feelings of guilt, and we go from bad to worse.
Jesus is the promise that the Lord does not hold your weakness and doubt, or any other sin, against you. He has taken away your sins, and so will not refuse to help you! This is the message of the cross. Jesus butted in and helped the poor widow by raising her son because He was moved by her need and in compassion responded to it. No sin of hers – or her son – stood in His way. He has not changed. The Lord is always your helper and Savior. Trust in Him!
And, even when His help is less than you desire (for after all, Jesus did not raise all the dead in Israel, and those He raised died again), know that He always walks with you. Physical healing in this life is a secondary blessing, for it does not deliver us from our sins or temptations to sin, nor, ultimately, from death. The greatest blessing is to be able to know and confess that in Jesus, “A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help His people.” Such faith receives the forgiveness of sins, and God is pleased to call us His children.
God’s greatest help will come in its completeness at the end: He will raise us from the dead and bring us into eternal life with Him. That is what this miracle of the raising of the widow’s son proclaims. Jesus is the Lord of life; not even death can separate us from Him. The Lord Jesus will one day butt into your grave to bring you to life, again and forever!
Yes, God butts into our lives; but His butting in is always good, always filled with opportunities to give and receive comfort. Both are the will and the work of God. And so, at all times make this your prayer: “Father of all mercy and God of all comfort, You always go before and follow after us. Grant that we may rejoice in Your gracious presence and continually be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”