Luke 7:11-17 (2nd Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
June 6, 2010
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson from Luke 7:
Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 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. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
If there was anyone that she needed a visit from, it was God. Even the consoling support of her friends and neighbors was not enough to bring comfort in her grief. First her husband and now her only son had died. This widow’s situation was particularly desperate. Her future was uncertain. There was no family left to care for her and support her for the rest of her life. With the passing away of her son—her only support and provider—this woman’s security passed away too. A great crowd went with her to the place of burial, but how was this sympathy to offset her terrible loss? Only the visitation of God could help.
God’s visitation of His people was introduced in the Song of Zechariah, the Benedictus, in Luke 1. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. . . . because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.” (Luke 1:68, 78) God’s visitation here is with reference to His incarnation, His becoming flesh and dwelling among us. (John 1:14) God is Emmanuel, “God with Us,” in the person of His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. Speaking of Jesus in Colossians 1, St. Paul wrote by the power of the Holy Spirit, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . . For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” (Col. 1:15-20)
In our Gospel text Jesus is acclaimed by the crowd as God’s compassionate visitation in grace. Why would they say this? The crowd proclaimed that God’s visitation is in Jesus because of the compassion He showed to this woman and the power He has over death. Did Jesus not reveal the tender mercy of God to this grieving widow? Luke records that when Jesus saw her “He had compassion on her.” Literally, His gut moved. Jesus experienced a gut reaction as we sometimes do in terribly sad situations. We would say that His heart ached for her. So deep is His compassion and mercy for those who are suffering the effects of sin in this world.
Do you think that Jesus has a gut reaction over you and your situations in life? Do you believe that Jesus’ heart aches for you when you are struggling with sin and sin’s effects? Does the tender mercy of God move Jesus to compassion when we step away from our life of faith and obedience and fall into sin and other great shame and vice? Does the tender mercy of God move Christ to compassion when you and I undergo trials and pain caused by sickness and disease, depression or loneliness, sadness and grief?
God’s Word gives our answer. Psalm 103: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (vv. 8-13)
It was His compassion that motivated Jesus to stop the march of death in its tracks that day in the village of Nain. “Do not weep,” He said to the grieving mother. Then He came up and touched the frame on which the body had been laid and the bearers stood still, and He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. It was also His compassion that motivated Jesus to stop the march of death in its tracks that day on Calvary’s cross. Jesus’ poured forth His life-blood which cleanses us from all our sins. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life and salvation. And where there is eternal life and salvation there death is rendered powerless. Death lies defeated in its own grave because Christ left death there when He rose again. Death cannot hold our Lord and neither can it hold those who have been redeemed by the blood Jesus Christ poured out for us.
Jesus is the compassionate God who was rejected, crucified, and was raised for us—for our forgiveness and our rescue from death. He is the sunrise from on high who continues to visit us in our grief, distress, trouble, and pain. Jesus comes to us in His Holy Word and with His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. He comes through these means by the Holy Spirit with mercy and with compassion and commands us to stop our weeping. He draws our attention with faith and trust in that fact that we stand in the presence of God Himself who has the power over sin and death and we are not condemned! Jesus has raised all who believe and are baptized from the deadness in trespasses and sins, giving us a new nature and new life. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
In this new life, the Holy Spirit “calls me by the Gospel, enlightens me with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”
What great comfort, help, and support it is to have the visitation of God’s compassionate grace in this life of sin and trouble. Even in the worst of situations that sin and life can throw at us, especially in the face of death itself, with trust in Christ as our Savior and Lord we are able to lift up our eyes to the hills and know that our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth, who became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. (Psalm 121; John 1) We beleive that Christ is for us so that no one can be against us. We confess that we are certain that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)
If there is anyone who needed a visit from God, the widow of Nain was certainly one of those people. But so are you and I—we too are those whom God loves and for whom His compassion is deep. We are the ones to whom God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, who out of His great love and compassion for us, died for our sins and rose again. Jesus accomplished salvation from sin and overcame death for us so that we will live eternally with Him in body and soul. What’s more, Christ visits us daily with His compassion and love as He comes to us in His Word and Sacrament by the power of the Spirit. Christ is present with His grace and compassion us in all of life’s moments, especially the ones that hurt us most. And we can be certain that Jesus will also be present with His compassion even at our hour of physical death so that we might pass through the gate of death and the grave with our Savior into everlasting life, awaiting the resurrection of our bodies on the Last Day. Amen.