In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
“This report about Him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.” (Luke 7:17) Nain (Luke 7:11) is in northern Israel. It’s just a bit south of the Sea of Galilee, which means the news spread both south into Judea—where the “real” Jews lived—and north into Galilee—where the country bumpkins who didn’t really know their Bibles lived. Those Galileans were descendants of the Samaritans. They were of mixed blood and mingled with Gentiles. You know those dogs. Non-Jews. NOT GOd’s people. But the word about Him spread and spread. The word of the Lord spread. The word of the Lord’s mighty acts to save. Spread. The word about how the Lord provides for fatherless—this young boy—and the widow—the boy’ mother. (Luke 7:12) The word of the Lord spread. Throughout Judea and Galilee. To both the “real” Jews and the “ignoramus“ Jews; those unsophisticated, country bumpkin, Galileans up north.
We all do that, don’t we. We consider people to be less pure, less loyal, not as good at something, or of the same status as ourselves. We look down our noses at someone who’s not a real Lutheran, or not a real Canadian, not a real Christian. Not a real “fill-in-the-blank”. Not really one of us.
Especially here in this congregation many of us have a Germanic background. German’s tend to be perfectionists, to have high expectations. Which can be a good thing. But it also breeds in you a tendency to be unmerciful toward each other through those expectations. And judgemental according to our personal expectations, not according to the Word of the Lord. We say things like, “They’re no proper person.” “They were rude to me (according to my defintions).” “They didn’t do right by me (according to my definitions)” “They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just a total wash.” That’s the sinful nature in each of us. Judging others according to our own self-made laws. Not according to God’s laws. Telling ourselves that others are not as good as us. And that’s what Judeans did to the Galileans up there in Nain.
But the word spread. Even into Judea. For the word of the Lord was working. Working to provide for the fatherless and the widow. (Ps. 146:9; Deut. 10:18, etc.) So that these Galileans—they who are half-breeds, not proper Jews—they confessed that “a great prophet has arisen among us.” (Luke 7:16) And, of course, Moses had predicted 1400 years before Jesus that a prophet would arise from amongst their brothers who be greater than Moses. (Deut. 18:15, 18-19) Moses was a unique prophet in the Old Testament because he was the propher who gave the Old Covenant or Old Testament. And Jeremiah who had lived about 800 years after Moses and 600 years before Jesus had prophesied that a new covenant or New Testament would come. (Jer. 31:31-34) Which, of course, is just an extension of the prophecy of Moses that a new prophet like Moses would arise. THE Prophet. And that’s what they were confessing here. That a prophet, a great prophet like Moses, has arisen amongst us. (Luke 7:16) Will he be the one who brings the New Covenant?
Moreover, some of them even went beyond that. Some said, “God—god, in this man Jesus—has visited His people!” (Luke 7:16) That’s an incredible statement! We who are so often ignorant of the Old Testament don’t realize that that was a constant understanding throughout the entire Old Testament history—throughout all of the prophets. Right from very first promise of the Messiah to Adam and Eve, when they were told that one of the sons of Eve will crush the head of the Serpent. (Gen. 3:15) The Serpent who brought sin into the world. Who ruined the perfection of the Garden. One of the sons of Eve will crush the head of the Serpent and all his works and all his ways. Because when you crush the head of a snake, the whole snake dies. Everything connected to the snake dies. He will crush the head of the Serpent. However, HE will be bitten in heal. (Gen. 3:15) The venom of the Serpent will strike Him. And smite Him so that He will. DIE. Of course that prophecy was about Jesus.
And when Eve bore Cain, her first son, which is the very next event recorded after that promise. When Eve bore Cain she said, “I have gotten a man, the Lord." (Gen. 4:1) That’s the way the Hebrew reads. Our modern Bible translations try to make it make sense. They say, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” Which is a great translation because its important to acknowledge that the Lord is the source of all things. But. The original translation is, “I have gotten a man: the Lord.” This is the very beginning of this understanding that the Lord Himself would come and rectify all things. The Lord Himself would be that prophet who would come. So, a “Great” prophet has arisen amongst us. Could he be THE Prophet? Answer: yes. He is THE Prophet. Some of them even went further. “God has visited his people.” And that word there “visit” is the word that “Bishop” comes from. Because the word “bishop” simply means visiter. In our circles where we don’t use title “Bishop” instead have presidents and circuit counsellors—or circuit visitors. Basically, the Circuit visitor is the circuit bishop. And he’s supposed to visit congregations. We have woefully gotten away from that practice. Our visitors should come and meet with us. Once a year? Maybe at congregational meeting? Or at the very least, with the board of elders. And meet with the pastor. Check in. How are things going? That’s what a circuit visitor ought to do. They don’t always do it. We all understand. We’re all very busy. But the visitation aspect of the circuit visitor has mostly ceased. Just as the visitation aspect of pastors has often ceased. Sometimes because we ourselves don’t want the pastor to come and meddle in our affairs. Sometimes because the pastor is not sure how to get it all in. And the pastor has a family. He can’t be out of house every night. So the whole visitation thing. It’s troubling. Because its hard. Because its hard to build relationships, to trust your pastor when he doesn’t visit. Of course, if you want a pastor to visit, if you want to have a relationship with your pastor, if you want to trust your pastor more, maybe you should sit and have coffee with your pastor? Maybe you should invite pastor over? Maybe you should go to church from time to time and say, “Hey pastor, let’s sit and chat.” He’s a human being, just like you. He takes this collar thing off from time to time. He has interests just as you have. He has family just as you have. He’s not really any different. He is called and ordained to the office of preaching the word and administering the Sacraments. But otherwise he is a believer in Christ just as you are. And he has doubts just as you do and he has sinful struggles just as you do. So get to know him. Trust him. Not because he’s such a great guy, but because he’s the one God has given to you to bless you with God’s Word, God’s promises, God’s name, and God’s own body and blood.
Back to Jesus, a great miracle had occurred. Moreover, the last thing to talk about is that Jesus comes up to the tiny town of Nain and a funeral procession’s coming out. And can you imagine? Jesus. Interupts. The. Funeral. Procession. We have the practice of cars driving out to cemetery all in a row. Led by the hearse. That still happens here. Can you imagine someone cutting people off in that procession? What a horrible person!? What a terrible awful person!? So rude! And that’s Jesus. Jesus cuts into the funeral procession. Moreover, they’re carrying this boy on a stretcher. That means the pall bearers are carrying the stretcher. These would have been relatives of him because for a Jew to touch a dead body would make you unclean. (Num. 19:11, etc.) Jews do not risk uncleanness except for a close relative. And they were probably carrying the stretcher with poles underneath it so that they don’t have to touch the stretcher or the dead body, or anything related to it. So they can hopefully remain clean. That’s the idea. The only people who risk becoming unclean are those who are close relatives. Those who have duty toward the boy.
What does Jesus do? He comes right up to that boy—He interrupts the whole thing like a rude hooligan—and He touches the stretcher. (Luke 7:14) Technically, this would make Jesus unclean. But does it make Him unclean? Does it make it so that He can’t come into the presence of God? Does it make Jesus unable to be heard by God the Father due to His uncleanness? No. Jesus is God. He is the One who is so perfect and so clean that His perfection sucks uncleanness out of you. His perfection purifies that which is defiled. And it brings life back to which is dead. That’s how He provided for this widow. He brought life back into this dead one. (Luke 7:14-15) So that of course they had to say “God has visited His people.” (Luke 7:16) It was right in front of them. There was God.
And the report spread. Of course, He’d said to her before that, “Do not weep." (Luke 7:13) You and I can tell people not to weep when they’re grieving. But it’s not really helpful is it? You DO need to weep when you’re grieving. But here in this moment He said “Do not weep” because He knew exactly what He was going to do. He was going to bring life back to her dead son. So there is no point in weeping because God was there and God intended to destroy that which was causing her grief. To give her back that which she had lost. You and I will not gain back that which we have lost until the day of the resurrection of all flesh. And so we need to grieve. And Scripture says as you grieve do not grieve as those who have no hope. (1 Thes. 4:13-18) So grieve. But hang on to the hope which is ours in Christ Jesus. That your dead in the Lord—those who are baptized in His name and trust in Him—you will receive them back on the day of the Resurrection. That’s why we have hope.
Because we have a great prophet who has arisen amongst us. His word is being proclaimed in your ears now. And that’s working purification for you of your life. It’s working new life for you in your life and all your surrounding territory. (Luke 7:17)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.