2 Oct 2022
Jesus was not asked to do anything
The Gospel. St. Luke vii. 11.
And it came to pass the day after, that Jesus went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
Many of us have been touched of late by death given COVID and other health problems. I have recently lost family and friends, and the Anglican Church Worldwide mourns the passing of our beloved Archbishop Hartley Ward. Those without faith in this world can but shrug their shoulders and say, death is our common fate, and there is nothing that can be done. Some would say, “Carpe diem,” “Seize the day,” and make this an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Many young people just turn away and live their lives as though they were immortal and that there is no accounting for our actions. We who mourn are often left drained and feeling hopeless with seemingly no real comfort. Yet, we Christians do have hope—a real and ever-present promise from our Savior. We are reminded of this in the Gospel today.
The scene Jesus and his disciple find in the streets of Nain is a hear-breaking one. The widow has lost her only son. This terrible loss of a dear one of the family is compounded by the fact that she is now without financial support, and the family name is without heir. Her world has crumbled around her. Her neighbors and friends share her loss and mourn with her. But this very common human tragedy is altered--turned completely around—and it is divine compassion that sparks this unlooked for reversal. Though He hadn’t been asked, Jesus cared. “Weep not,” he told her.
It is important to realize that, unlike other incidents when Jesus restores life to the dead, He is not asked to do anything here. No one came to Jesus in prayer pleading for this young man’s life. The mother did not beg Him on her knees for a miracle. Jesus brought this man back to life through His great compassion for humankind. During Holy Communion we remember this hope (in our often hopeless-appearing world) when we say, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy:”
What was the reaction of the mother and neighbors to this incredible miracle? “There came a fear on all.” Fear? The Book of Psalms tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” Psalm 111:10. This is not fear of the worldly malevolent forces including death and illness; this is the healthy fear of the miraculous and merciful power of God—hope beyond all our expectations!
How different this view of life is from what this world is offering us. All too often the world through its electronic and printed communications can offer us only pessimism, often trying to inspire our hatred and anger at one group or person or another. It is very apparent that this world does not recognize the lordship of Jesus Christ; in fact, the real manipulating power behind so much evil in this world is very, very apparent to Christians. We must not succumb to the deceptions they have raised before us. The idols of this world are rarely those of stone and wood that the Old Testament warns us against: the modern world’s idols are possessiveness, gratification of desires, and hated and anger toward others.
St. Paul seeks to comfort us when he says of his feelings, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4)
Again, during Holy Communion, we are reminded, “So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (St. John 3 16) We are the people of that divine promise. We must never forget the Lord is ever aware of our true needs and attentive to the spiritual struggle in which we are engaged.
In Morning Prayer, we send up our prayers for those who have passed on to Him, “And we also bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins