Luke 7:11-16

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In our reading this morning from the Gospel according to St. Luke, we have an event which is typical for our Lord’s ministry, and an event which is atypical at the same time. It is not unusual for us to see our Lord working miracles in the Scriptures. We see Him doing all sorts of miracles, many healings, and even several recorded times when He raised someone from the dead. So our Lord working this great miracle of raising the widow’s only son from the dead fits easily within the profile of our Lord’s earthly ministry.

It’s not the miracle which is atypical in this morning’s reading, but the circumstances. St. Luke tells us that our Lord had gone to the city of Nain, with His disciples and a large crowd. Our Lord was often followed by a large crowd, coming to hear Him preach and to be near Him. As they came to the city, they met a funeral procession – a widow burying her only son. Our Lord went to the open coffin, told the young man to arise, and the dead boy came back to life – he sat up and began speaking. What is truly strange about this miracle is that our Lord does it in front of the multitudes. The large crowd following Him, along with all of the townspeople there for the funeral, all of these witnessed Jesus raising this widow’s only son from the dead. If you’ll think back on the ministry of Christ, He usually performs miracles when only a few are around. He’ll go into a house, or in front of a very small group – and nearly always He tells those who were healed not to tell anyone else about it. So our Lord performing such an awe-inspiring miracle in front of such a large crowd is very unusual.

This brings us to an obvious question – why? Why did He do this particular miracle in these circumstances? We can pull two reasons from the text of our Gospel reading.

The first reason we see in our Lord’s reaction when He saw the grieving widow who was preparing to bury her son. St. Luke writes, “when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” Our Lord had compassion on the woman who had lost her only son, He suffered along with her at this tragic loss of human life, and He intervened. Of course, we could ask the calloused question, “what about all the other dead – why did He not raise them from the dead?” But that becomes a discussion which is beyond us. Who are we to argue with God, to judge the decisions of His infinite mercy? Our God is a God of mercy and of compassion. He lived on earth with a body like ours, with the circumstances of death and illness and suffering and sorrow all around Him. He came into this world to show us how, in Him, we can overcome all of this evil. Our Lord raises this boy from the dead (even when He would be seen by such a large multitude) because He was moved by compassion for the grieving mother.

The second reason for our Lord’s activity we see in the final verse of our reading, which I’d like us to hear again: “then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” One of the reasons that our Lord didn’t do many miracles around large crowds was because He didn’t want to be known as simply a miracle worker. There were many men around who made messianic claims and “worked miracles.” Our Lord was not one of these men, and He didn’t want to be confused with these men. He was the Messiah – He didn’t just claim to be; He truly worked miracles – the type of miracles that the Scriptures said the Messiah would work; His goal was not physical freedom or pleasure or anything of this world – He came to make God known to man, to show us the way of salvation. But on this particular occasion, in front of a large crowd that followed Him, Jesus did work a miracle, a Messianic miracle. And the effect on the crowd was immediate – they gave glory to God, they recognized that a great event had happened, that God had visited His people. In this miracle, our Lord glorified the Father and bore witness to His own Messiahship. He revealed to them Who He truly was.

I love that phrase of St. Luke – “God has visited His people.” Christ is the greatest event that the world will ever know. He came into the world to reveal God to man, to share with us the love that God has for us, and ultimately He was here to die for our salvation. He revealed in His very person everything that we need for our salvation. You know, the people Jesus healed, the people He raised from the dead, all of these people eventually died a bodily death. Ultimately, what Christ brought for us is salvation – not magic tricks or earthly happiness. He brought us healing of soul and body, as we’ll hear when we approach the Chalice for Holy Communion. He taught us to be human. As I was talking about with the youth yesterday evening, wherever there are Saints, wherever there are people living in Christ, healing is brought into the world. But our physical bodies will eventually fail us, and all of us eventually will die. As the Fathers of the Church remind us, our soul can be fully healed and united to Christ even during this life, but our bodies will find constancy only in the Resurrection at the last day.

May our God grant us to greet Him on that last day in the same way the crowds did today – glorifying Him as our Lord and our God.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson