Sermon Title: Young man, I say to you, arise
Sermon Text: Luke 7:11-17 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us hear the Word of God, as we find it written in St. Luke’s Gospel, the 7th chapter. 11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 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. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
Let us pray: and now let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Death is not something people like to talk about. Young people believe themselves to be invincible to the sting of death. The older people get, the more they worry and fret about death. It has been this way ever since our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden. People live, people die. History is full of dead people. Poets have written on the subject of death, songs have been sung about it, and movies concerning death, have been compartmentalized into genres such as comedy, drama, and horror. At one point in time or another, everyone has had a personal encounter with death. Yet if you were to bring up the subject of death at a party, more than likely the mood would turn somber, and people would start recounting the tales of their dearly departed.
Yes, death is not something people like to talk or even think about. There are countless commercials on television that promote ways to longer life in this bottle or that cream. There are various drugs that have been developed to help extend and improve one’s life. There are various treatment facilities that offer everything from health spas to total makeovers. The world is looking for a cure for death. The world is searching, like the famous Spaniard, Ponce de León, for a fountain of youth that will bring youth and immortality. Yet there is no such fountain of youth. All of the creams and bottles, pills and makeovers cannot stop death. The world, though it tries its hardest to cheat death, knows that death is inevitable and final.
The woman in our Gospel lesson today had been touched with this finality not once, but twice. First, she had lost her husband. In those days, women did not earn incomes, and were therefore supported completely by their husbands. If their husband was to die, it was the responsibility of her offspring to care for her. So in this lesson, we find a woman who is, or rather was, supported by her offspring because her husband was dead, but now, her son, her only son was dead as well. Imagine the grief and turmoil that must have been running through her head. How would she ever make ends meet? How in the world would she provide for a roof over head and food in her belly? Not only did she have to worry about how she would make it with no one to provide for her, but she also had to deal with the grief of losing first her husband, and now, her own flesh and blood – her only son.
The city of Nain was a small town in the district of Galilee. It was not too far away from Nazareth, 9 or so miles. One can imagine it as a quiet town, where everybody knew everyone. The Evangelist Luke indicates that a considerable crowd was with the widow as she followed those who bore her son out of the town. This is of no surprise to us, when everybody knows everyone; a death is a major event. More than likely the whole town had been crippled by this young man’s death.
Ahead of them, at the gates of the town was yet another crowd. This crowd did not know of the grievous events that had unfolded in Nain. They knew only of the wonders which the man they were following had performed. There were some who had been with this man since the early days of His ministry. Others had joined up at various occasions when He taught, or when He had healed. The most recent members of this crowd had become part of the crowd at the last town in which this man had been in. There, in Capernaum, they had witnessed a Centurion who, because of his faith in this man, had a servant of his restored to health without this man ever touching or seeing the servant. All of the members of this crowd followed a man from Nazareth; a man who had been born of a virgin in a stable in the town of Bethlehem. This crowd followed Jesus, the son of God.
Here, at the gate to the small town of Nain, amidst two crowds, one mourning the death of one of their own and the other celebrating the wondrous events they had seen; a widow who was mourning the death of her only son met the Son of God.
There was no pomp and circumstance. No fanfare announcing the entry of the second person of the Trinity. In fact, one can almost hear the silence that must have stricken both crowds. But the crowds did not go about their own agendas, for the Lord intervened.
“Do not weep,” Jesus says to the widow. Doesn’t that just command authority? Here is a woman who has at some previous point in time lost her husband, and now lost her only son being told not to weep. Here, on the road leading out of town to where she will lay her son’s body to rest she meets a man who is being followed by a crowd. This man, whom she has never laid eyes on before, who couldn’t even know her predicament, her grief, her sorrow – has just told her to stop weeping. Before she or any of the other members of the town can respond, Jesus proceeds to the bier. A bier was a type of stretcher that the dead person was laid upon and carried out to the tomb or other burial facility.
Jesus walks up and touches this stretcher with the dead man, the only son of the widow on it and commands the man, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Imagine the shock that must have went through the town crowd, when obeying the command of this man, the dead man sat up and began to speak. Their amazement could not be contained. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”
The greatest miracle, which one can do, is beyond a doubt, the raising of a dead person. What greater miracle can be imagined than one in which a person who was once dead has been raised to life? Yet, how does this account of the raising of the young man in Nain have anything to do with you and me?
The widow, is she any different from us? We might not be widows or widowers, but we have all been touched by death in personal ways. Did the widow do anything to deserve her son’s resurrection? Not at all. The text informs us that it was Christ who took compassion on her. In your life and mine, do we do things that merit Christ having compassion upon us? Absolutely not! We know through the teachings of Scripture that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We also are made well aware that it is not by our deeds that Christ has mercy upon us, but rather He has mercy upon us because of His grace through faith in Him. See we, like the widow have done nothing to deserve any compassion He may dispense.
But dear Christian friends, he does have compassion for us. His Father loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins. Christ willingly paid our debt to sin so that we would not have to face the finality of death. We, like the widow, do not deserve this great gift, yet He gives it freely.
Or are we any different from the young man who was dead? Each and every one of us, before we were baptized, was held in the clutches of death. We along with the world feared death above everything else. Yet because we are baptized we have died to sin and been made alive in Christ. Our iniquities were nailed to the tree upon which the Son of God hung. When Jesus was laid in the tomb He took our sins with Him, yet He left them there in an empty grave when He rose from the dead.
When our race has been run, we need not fear the finality of death. For our souls reside in heaven with our Father, and our bodies are only asleep, awaiting the call of our Savior to arise from their resting place and be perfected. Because He lives so we too will live. We have been given this promise by Him and should trust in it securely. We need not fear death, for Christ has conquered the powers of sin, death, and the devil all for you and me and all people.
Again are we any different from the crowd who mourned the loss of the young man, and because of the miracle Jesus performed feared and praised God? Should we not fear and praise God? As Dr. Luther said in each and every one of his explanations to the Ten Commandments, we should fear God. This is not the same sort of fear as the fear of death, but a righteous fear. We know that God is Lord over all. Who could stand in His presence and not be fearful? Yet He is a loving God, for He forgives us our trespasses.
We too, just as the crowd at Nain, recognize that the man Jesus was from God. While the crowd at Nain might not have known Him to be God’s Son, we do! We know that it is for us He suffered and died. We praise Him and give him honor and glory because these and all things belong to Him. We do not do it out of fear, but with joyful hearts because of the gift He has given us.
Dear Christian friends, if you are harassed by your sins, if you are anxious for comfort because of your transgressions, return quickly to Nain; there you will find comfort. Remember that he who can conquer death must also be the Lord over sin; for death is the payment of sin, and sin is the sting of death. Therefore, in firm faith, hold fast to Christ Jesus. In Him you will find the forgiveness of all your sins, in Him victory over all the foes of your soul, in Him grace, life, and salvation.
Dear Christian friends, if you are frightened of death, if you must weep at the grave of your loved ones, return in spirit to Nain. Christ Jesus, who turned tears of sorrow into tears of joy, can also dry your tears. As certainly as the widow again embraced her dear son, so through Christ’s miraculous power you will someday also joyfully embrace your loved ones who died in the faith. A blessed morning will come when Christ will say to all his own on a new earth and in a new heaven: “Weep not! All sorrow is now ended. I have conquered for you, rejoice with me; there will be no more separation, no more departure.”
Finally dear Christian friends, if the thought of your own last hour worries you, take the Word of Christ into your heart: “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Behold, for at this word death fled and life returned. So Christ has destroyed also your death and brought life and immortality to light for you. We can rest peacefully, for in that final hour of our earthly lives, the promise made to the thief on the cross comes to our minds: “Today, you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus says. Our bodies will be resurrected and perfected on the final day, yet we will not have to wait to meet our Savior, for we too, like the penitent thief on the cross will be with Him and all the saints who have gone before us in paradise. Amen.
And now the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.