A Widow, A Dead Man, and the Word of God

(Dis)Belief  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:41
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The preacher of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “My faith rests not in what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what he has done, and in what he is doing for me.”
Another great theologian, John Owen wrote, “Faith itself is of God. Not of ourselves; and teaches us to be all by grace, and not by works of ours.”
1000 Fresh Illustrations Illustration 2 > Bible

Authorities in Augusta, Georgia were called to an Interstate 20 Welcome Center to investigate a suspicious package. A visitor saw the package on a table and told employees, who in turn contacted authorities. They believed the suspicious package might contain a bomb.

Richmond County sheriff’s sergeant John Gray says the center was closed for nearly an hour, while authorities investigated. They treated the unknown package as if it contained explosives, spraying the brown-wrapped package with a water cannon used to immobilize bombs.

Further investigation revealed the package had been left for someone curious to find. Inside was a Bible, and a note urging the person opening the package to take a chance on God.

—http://www.accessnorthga.com, Bomb squad defuses a Bible, Thursday, November 28, 2002. Submitted by Jim Sandell.

What is left for us to lose when we are destitute or left for dead by this world?
Luke 7:11–17 ESV
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.
Which one are you? Are you like the widow and the crowd? are you like the dead man? are you similar to the Lord who does the works of the father?

The Widow and the Funeral

Similar to today, funerals in the time of the Lord Jesus were a sad and contrite occasion for the family of a demised individual and the community. Upon the death of a man, woman, or child, the family would enter a long period of mourning lasting several weeks. The community would accompany the family in mourning, and at the end of the funeral rites (which included interment), the community would resume life at its regular, hurried pace.
It would be far more difficult for a widowed mother with no sons, who was seen as nothing more than property, to become destitute and left to the care of her extended family (a family redeemer), who could help as any property and goods left were given to the next male family member. Here, the widow in the text is left out in the cold with no prospects of everyday life as a community member but is left as someone living on the edges of society without regular care from a loved one.
The people in the scene described by Luke shows a sense of sharing the pain and the new reality for a mother and widow with no redeemer for her cause. Life will no doubt be radically different and painful.
All of us have or will face difficult moments in life that leave us vulnerable and spiritually naked before God. Have you been there? Are you there?
Yes, the world has many troubles that impact our relationships but there is more than meets the eye. For the Christian, in particular, faith points beyond “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
What is the believer to do? And yet, it gets worse.

The Dead Man and the Unclean

Pastor and Theologian Alistair Begg states, “Death for the Christian is to fall asleep in the arms of Jesus and waking up and finding out that you’re home.” Yet, somewhere else we find written, “For a Christian, this world is the only hell they will know. For the unbeliever this world is the only heaven they will know.”
The young man being carried by members of his extended family or the community, as for those without Jesus Christ, the second statement is true. Death comes and takes all hope, joy, and prospects of tomorrow away.
Beyond that, we read in Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy how a person is made unclean by contact with dead flesh. The Word of God shows us this:
Leviticus 11:32 ESV
And anything on which any of them falls when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is an article of wood or a garment or a skin or a sack, any article that is used for any purpose. It must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening; then it shall be clean.
and Numbers 5:2
Numbers 5:2 ESV
“Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead.
This young man is facing a number of realities that all of us will face:
He is no more.
Hope has no tomorrow.
The future has no other outlook than utter emptiness.
The acts of the past, the present and the future goals become memories simultaneously.
Rightly do we read from Nathaniel Hawthorne:
A grave, wherever found, preaches a short and pithy sermon to the soul.
Nathaniel Hawthorne
The text shows us the loss of life, the suspension of the present and the future as a soul is entering eternity, leaving those whose journey is not yet done.
The dead man is not merely dying, nearly dead, or just a percentage dead. The man is so far gone that the procession has begun after a period of mourning and preparation for the grave
Every person here today may find that we too are the young man, who is dead. We may find ourselves under the shroud of dullness of self and life. The spiritual life seems like a far off dream or caricature of reality.
For those whose lifeless spirit have been given new life, whose life here and now are more than mere existence, but living, we see the power of someone greater at work in us.
The dead man, whose mother was left out in the cold shows us the reality of the human race, which continues to hold a one out of one death rate over all history.
While dead is the absolute worst and its impact on a community far-reaching, there is hope that comes from God to give us life beyond this world.

The Word of God and the Broken World

As we journey through the gospel of Luke we see God the Father giving humanity grace in fulfilling the Old Testament law and the words given by the prophets. A major figure that the Jewish audience would remember in Luke’s gospel by the similarities in Jesus’s actions is Elijah.
Elijah is a prophet from the 9th century BC, whose ministry to Israel and Judah is marked by the show of miracles to display the presence, reality, and trustworthy nature of YHWH toward those who lived by faith. He is remembered for defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and for the raising of a widow’s son. Elijah’s dependence on God led to him being carried away to heaven, riding on a fiery chariot. Elijah represents the ministry of the prophets to the people of God.
Luke is making the following points:
Jesus is greater than the prophets of old.
Jesus is greater than Moses, because he is the Law giver. He is greater than Isaiah because he is the suffering servant. He is greater than Jeremiah because he is compassionate for his people. Jesus is greater than Daniel because he is the Son of Man. He is greater than Ezekiel because his word gives life to bare bones. He is greater than the lesser prophets because he is the one who comes to redeem his people by dying for them.
Jesus is not unclean, but makes the unclean clean.
Where you and I are tainted by the presence of sin and the onslaught of temptation in our lives, Jesus is the cleansing fountain for the one who repents and believes that He is the Word of God. Where we were rotting corpses, Jesus touches our lives and makes us alive to eternity with the Father, to fully enjoy Him forever. Here we remember the words of the old hymn, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone.”
The commands of Jesus are on par with the commands of God, the Father.
Here all we have to do is quote Genesis 1:1-3
Genesis 1:1–3 ESV
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
and then we can see its echo in John 1:1-3
John 1:1–5 ESV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Jesus is the verb, the word, the logos that created, maintains, and enables the entire universe to exist moment by moment.
Jesus commands worship and fear (reverence) because He is God.
Look at the way the people reacted to the dead man rising and the gift of live and redemption to the widow through her son:
They acknowledged that God was among them.
Have you confessed who Jesus is over your life? Rejoice over the truth that Jesus is who he says he is, because it points to the trustworthy nature of His promise to give us eternal life!
The report of God’s works continued to spread through the region.
When was the last time you shared the good news of Jesus with someone? When was the last time you discussed your faith and the words of life outside of the church building?
The calling for us is simple:
Matthew 28:18–20 ESV
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A Widow, A Dead Man, and the Word of God

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