Let us pray: Dear Savior, the one inescapable fact of life is the reality of death. And although most people either avoid the topic or choose to live in the fantasy land of: it won’t happen to me; it stalks all of us. Today we thank You for giving us the hope, the comfort, and the reality of Your victory over death. We thank You for taking our ultimate fear away. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF ETERNAL LIFE!
TEXT: Luke 7: 11-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Recently I listened to a lady on the radio who is an atheist. However, counter to most atheists, she says she isn’t anti-religion or anti-Christianity. In fact, she readily agrees that the moral truths of Christianity help people live a better life and uplift society at large. She just isn’t willing to commit to the reality of God, which of course, includes an afterlife. But, at least she’s thinking about these great issues of life, unlike so many. So, I’ll pray for her and ask that God turn her heart to acknowledge Him and turn her soul to believe in His love as found in Christ.
If you accept that humans are flawed creatures prone toward evil inclinations, and if you also accept that the commandments outwardly work towards keeping that evil in check, then you have to ask: “If there is no God, no total goodness, how could evil humans ever dream up those rigid commandments?” That’s the illogical folly of promoting the goodness of Christianity apart from the first principle behind it all—the reality of God. For nothing occurs in a vacuum.
Of course, people only think hard about these issues when they realize they are helpless. The intellectual who has no time for God in life because he or she is too busy analyzing the eating habits of chimpanzees thinks differently when they are in chronic pain and death stalks them. The old adage: “There are no atheists in a foxhole when artillery rounds are landing” is certainly true.
To me, the saddest thing in life is to hear atheists or even agnostics talk about the “nothingness” of their reality after their death. To go through life with no hope for the future, no comfort in the face of death, no certainty that a form of life extends for you beyond this one that you’re now in—well, that isn’t a fun way to live. To me, it’s pretty empty and forlorn. And I guess that is why today’s lesson is such an “upper” for us. For once more Christ takes these issues head-on and gives us answers about death, the great equalizer. He shows us that through faith in Him alone:
THE GREAT EQUALIZER IS VANQUISHED
Nain was a small village in Galilee about 6 miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up. It had no claim to fame. It was a backwater farming village filled with simple people. It boasted no unique buildings and no rich or famous people who came from it. Yet, around the world today, if you mention the village of Nain, people will know of it because of what Jesus did there.
“Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’”
I’ll bet you’ve forgotten that not all the Jewish people of that time believed in heaven. Not all believed in the resurrection from the dead, either. No, the religious leadership of the nation, the Sadduccess, rejected and idea of resurrection, heaven, or hell. To them, when you died you entered nothingness. Perhaps that is why they strove to acquire money and power in this life—because that’s all they could hope for before the great equalizer hit them and then—nothingness. Perhaps that same thinking propels the non-religious cultural elite of all nations including our own today?
No doubt that crowd held mourners of every stripe imaginable. Some were very religious, some not. Some were there simply because it was all so sad, others because if they were missed it would be bad for their business in a little town. But the fact is: it was sad! A widow with no husband meant no money, no prospects, and with no welfare system it meant little food. No other children are mentioned, just this lone son. That meant no family support network. Christ knew all this. He knows the plight of every soul including yours. And so, in pure love—“His heart went out to her”, the first words from His mouth were: “Don’t cry.”
Without the reality of God in our lives; without the reality of eternal life with Him in heaven; saying: “Don’t cry” to a grieving family member is both meaningless and at the same time cruel. If there is only nothingness after death strikes, what else is there but tears? However, Christ is God’s Son. He knows all about death and even more about life, eternal life. In fact, He is the Creator of life, and the restorer of life. And so, when He says: “Don’t cry” hearts are calmed and tears are dried.
“Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Earlier Jesus had vanquished the great equalizer when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Now He raises this 20 year old in Nain. Later He would raise His friend Lazarus. And finally on Easter Christ would raise Himself from the grave, as well. He would thereby prove His divinity and prove that His deadly sacrifice on the cross for all human evil really did vanquish that evil and its ultimate fruit: death.
If you really pay attention to Christ’s life, you will discover a progression of hatred directed against Him by the ruling religious elite, the Sadducees. And you will also discover that after finally raising Lazarus, who had been dead 3 days in the grave, their hatred boiled over and it is then they decided to kill Jesus. Having Christ vanquish death and resurrect lifeless bodies hit them where it really hurt. It shook them to their core. It turned their worldview upside down. It challenged them to think beyond more money, more power, more political intrigue, and more party-hardy and buy, buy, buy because that’s all there is to life. Such resurrections shook their hard hearts and told them: “Death may be the great equalizer, but in death these nothing people like this young man of Nain are better off than we, who ignore or scoff at it all, are!”
In the end, who came away from this miracle more happy, more fulfilled, more able to cope with life—the “little people” believers in that funeral procession, or the pompous elites among the unbelieving ruling council? Whose lives were enriched more?—God’s faithful Christians or the atheists or agnostics of that time? Who was more humble? Who approached the great equalizer with calmness instead of fear? Of those in attendance that day we’re told: “They were filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people.’” My friends, you possess the greatest truth in life through your faith in Jesus Christ. For you know that He has vanquished the great equalizer. He grabbed it, shook it by its neck, stomped upon it, and then while standing upon its lifeless carcass, He arose to eternal life! Even more, He has given this victory to you, today! Rejoice! Amen