Jesus came up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still.
᛭ INI ᛭
((5. Oops!: We’re confronted with two unthinkable, horrific situations.))
It’s horrific, not just once—twice! We’re confronted with two horrific situations. They’re very similar, but they’re almost equally terrible. Two widows, and their only sons were just like their husbands—dead.
We first heard about the Old Testament widow last week, and what we can glean from all of 1 Kings 17 is that her husband had died recently. Last week Elijah recognized her as a widow right away—the garments of mourning would’ve given it away. Maybe that’s true also for our Gospel lesson, but certainly Jesus and the Apostles would’ve heard what this funeral procession was all about.
Either way, it’s horrible. Death always is, and that’s what we’re confronted with today: the hard reality of death. The death surrounding these two widows. Their sons are dead. The death of their husbands lingering in the background. Unimaginable, unthinkable, horrific. No wonder Elijah’s a bit upset about it. No wonder “a considerable crowd from the town” was there at Nain.
((4. Ugh!: Death is unthinkable for us.))
Death is unthinkable for us. We don’t want to think about it. We avoid it! We’d rather not think about the scope and scale of it. It may be one of the only certain things in life, but that doesn’t mean we want to talk about it, let alone think about it! Yet it’s always there. It’s darkness always drawing closer. Unstopping. Unrelenting. Like the fast appearing darkness as the sun sets.
Society doesn’t want to deal with death. No one wants to deal with the finality of it. The world would rather postpone that. Celebrate the lives of those who’ve died. Things that maybe tell us more about the bereaved rather than the deceased. Certainly things that will be forgotten once those attending are dead. “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity, says the Preacher.”
We also don’t want to talk about death, since death is a reminder of sin. The widow isn’t wrong in her accusation: “Have you come to me to bring my transgression to remembrance and to put my son to death?” Paul’s words are true: “The wages of sin is death,” and no amount of good things listed in an obituary will ever change that. The casket, or the urn, is the irrefutable proof. That person was a sinner. That person is dead.
The world doesn’t want to think about sin. (We don’t much either.) And we, along with the world, certainly don’t want to talk about or think about death. Because we are sinners, we deserve death along with eternal damnation. (Something else we think doesn’t exist for those who don’t believe in Jesus.)
((3. Aha!: Jesus does the unthinkable!))
Jesus, the Son of God, comes into this world that’s been overshadowed by the darkness of sin, the darkness of death. He comes. Born of the Virgin Mary. He comes to Nain and does the unthinkable.
That’s how Paul talks about God the Father today. He’s “the one who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or or think.” Jesus does that, too. Jesus says in John 5: “…the Son cannot do anything on His own, except what he sees the Father doing. For whatever He does, the Son also does that in the same way.”
Now, God in Christ doing things far beyond our understanding doesn’t have to do with God doing awesome things in our lives. It actually has to do with how He deals with our true problem, and not whatever self-help or life goals we crave.
Jesus does the unthinkable today. Jesus came up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He interrupted the funeral procession. (In the past, even in our country funeral processions always had the right of way.) But not when Jesus is around! He’s a roadblock!
Jesus does even more! He touches the coffin—unthinkable! Remember from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. That’s unclean! Sure, those carrying the casket had signed up for that. They’d be unclean for 7 days, but Jesus just does it. You could imagine them staring at Him…
((2. Whee!: JESUS DOES THE UNTHINKABLE: HE RAISES THE DEAD!))
Today at Nain, Jesus does the unthinkable. He doesn’t just roadblock the funeral. He doesn’t just throw caution to the wind and become ceremonially unclean. He puts a stop to the whole thing!
JESUS DOES THE UNTHINKABLE: HE RAISES THE DEAD!
Jesus meets death head on. He ends death. That dead man didn’t make Jesus unclean. In fact, Jesus cleansed him, and those who were carrying him. He cleansed that man of death itself! “Inconceivable!” Jesus brings back that dead man back to life, “and gives him to his mother.”
Jesus doesn’t just dispel death, like turning on a light switch. He certainly can! He’s the “Author of Life,” as Peter says in Acts. He didn’t create us to die, and Jesus can use His Almighty, His omnipotent power, to raise the dead.
JESUS DOES THE UNTHINKABLE: HE RAISES THE DEAD.
But that doesn’t just mean He destroys death from the outside. It actually means that He does it from the inside out. What He delivers at Nain, what Elijah delivered at Zarephath, is a bit of an IOU. Jesus is in effect saying that He will go to His cross, His death, but also His empty tomb! Jesus is delivering the fruit of His resurrection ahead of time.
Jesus really came back to life on the third day, after dying for your sins, and the sins of the whole world. He died for the sins of the two widows, their sons, their husbands, too. Jesus received the wages of their sins, the wages of our sins—He died! He died our death, and He came back to life. He delivered that redemption from death at Nain and at Zarephath.
He delivers the promise of it to you and to me. Jesus’ empty tomb is a promise of our own empty tomb. Holy Baptism unites us to Jesus’ cross and empty tomb, as Paul says in Romans 6. Baptism gives us a clean conscience before God because of Jesus’ resurrection, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3. It’s the promise of Jesus’ flesh and blood, too. “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.”
All those benefits are received by faith in Jesus, trusting Him. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in Me will live even though He dies. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” “Whoever believes in the Son of Man, has eternal life and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.”
((1. Now death can be thinkable in its proper light.))
And because Jesus is alive right now, after He had been dead, well, death doesn’t have to be scary for us. We don’t have to shy away from it, be afraid of it. There’s no reason to whitewash it with whatever good deeds we can think up.
Because Jesus is risen from the dead we can think about death in its proper light. No only is Jesus risen, He raises the dead! You’re baptized into His death and resurrection. They’re yours! He feeds you with His resurrected flesh and blood. He’ll certainly raise you on the Last Day. Bet the farm on it! Trust it.
It’s not unthinkable. In fact, because Jesus is risen and raises the dead, we sing the Last Stanza of our closing Hymn today. True words!
Jesus lives! And now is death But the gate of life immortal; This shall calm my trembling breath When I pass its gloomy portal. Faith shall cry, as fails each sense: Jesus is my confidence!