2 Kings 20:1-21
When I turn on the news, or pull up my Twitter feed, it isn’t hard to see that our world is marked by incredible loss. Last week, one man killed over fifty people and injured 500 in Las Vegas. We are constantly reminded of mothers like Sybrina Fulton (the mother of Trayvon Martin) losing their sons to police violence and of wives losing their husbands who are killed in the line of duty. We read of countless families ripped apart by ISIS in Syria and lives destroyed by hurricanes or other natural disasters .
Loss can hit a lot closer to home, too. Those we love die, become estranged, battle cancer, or suffer alzheimer’s or dementia. Our lives don’t measure up to what we’d hoped, our sin seems ever present, pain seems like a constant companion.
But that’s the thing about Scripture and about the Gospel. It calls a thing what it is, it recognizes how sin has distorted and diseased our world. In our texts today, we see the Psalmist, Hezekiah, Peter, and the widow, are all in dire circumstances and in need of healing and rescue.
Today, our main text is Luke 7, but I want you to hold the other texts in the back of your mind as well. We enter the Gospel text with the crowd in Nain. As we walk closer to the town we see a great crowd and begin to hear wailing and weeping. And as we look more closely, we see a man lain out on something like a stretcher, but we know that he is clearly dead.
The woman with him, his mother is a widow. This isn’t her first loss. She has already lost a husband and now, it seems that bad has become worse, as she’s lost her only son. Her only source of comfort, her only means of support and security, is now torn from her. She doesn’t have a 401K or pension, she doesn’t have something to fall back on, except for God.
Have you ever had one of those moments? A time when you’ve lost everything or felt like everything was lost. A time when you could only rely on God. but maybe in that time, you felt a little abandoned too? A little forsaken? A little cursed?
But it is here, in this desperate moment, that Christ enters in. He does not turn back or try to go around the crowd, but he enters in. He sees the weeping woman, is filled with compassion and comes close to her, and says, “Do not weep.”
That’s the thing about Jesus. Throughout Scripture, we read that “he sees” people. He looks at them. He sees the crowd and has compassion on them. He sees the bleeding woman in the crowd and calls her forward. He looks at Jerusalem, and he weeps over it. Jesus does not look away from us in our pain, weakness, and sin, but he sees us with compassion.
And not only does he see, but he heals. He tells the woman, “do not weep,” but then he touches the bier and then he touches the young man, saying, “Young man, I say to you, arise” and then as the young man rises, Jesus gives the boy, who was thought to be lost, back to his mother.
Sometimes in life, we may not know why God allows us to suffer pain and loss. We may not know this side of heaven why such horrible massacres are permitted to happen, why we may lose the ones we love. Why, at times, he allows us to fall so far that it seems we may never get up.
In these times, it can be hard to see why he permits such pain but I think Martin Luther sums it up well:
But why does God do this? He permits man to fall so deeply into danger and anxiety, until no help or advice is within reach, and still he desires that we should not doubt, but trust in him who out of an impossible thing can make something possible, and make something out of nothing. If you are so deep in sin that your heart denies you all grace and the mercy of God and makes you think there is no hope for you, as many consciences are ensnared by such anxiety and distress; then turn about and look here how friendly and graciously God allows himself to be pictured by Christ in this Gospel; that you may observe that he means it well with you from his heart; and that he is not here either to condemn or excommunicate you, but to preserve your soul forever. For this purpose such miracles and wonderful works are held before our eyes, and they also serve to the end, that we may see. As God here helps this widow in a temporal way through Christ, so he will help us not only bodily, but much more spiritually, and our soul forever, if we only put our hope in him.
So today, I ask you, do you trust that God is able and ready to heal? And I don’t mean that you believe with your head, but do you know it in your heart, do you actually believe it? When suffering comes, do you turn to Christ or do you try to find hope and sustenance in the things of this world. Maybe it’s your job, your title, your friends, or your family. Maybe if one thing falls through, you just try to find comfort in another area, or you work even harder to make it better, to make yourself better.
Or maybe you don’t have a problem crying to God for help in your trouble, but you easily forget his saving graces, or how he daily sustains you? Maybe like Hezekiah, once God heals you or rescues you, you turn your gaze back down to all your “stuff,” and boast to your neighbor, rather than proclaiming God’s goodness to your neighbor. If that’s the case, or rather, when that’s the case, repent and run to Christ.
No matter who we are, we will suffer death and suffering. We will lose ones we love and they probably won’t be raised from the dead right away. And even if they were, they’ll end up dying eventually. Massacres will continue, mothers will still lose their sons, and systems may not become just. We will have dark nights of the soul. In those times, we have to remember the hope that Christ gives and cling to him.Just as he did with the widow, he sees us and he has compassion, not because of any merit we have or any striving we do, but because he is merciful and compassionate. As he declares in John 11:25, he is the resurrection and the life. He has conquered sin, death, and the devil upon the cross. He has already brought us from death to new life through baptism and continues to feed us with his Body and Blood in Holy Communion. And as we declare his death until he comes again, inviting others to new life and a place at the table, we can hold to the hope that all will be restored and redeemed, and that our present weeping will be turned to laughter when he returns. That those who put their hope in Christ only fall asleep when they die.
That because of Christ, we can sing with Johnny cash that
When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down