Let us pray: Dear Savior, empower us to always keep our gaze fixed on You! When problems and turmoil erupts in our lives, move us away from getting so caught up by it that we are overwhelmed. Get us beyond self-pity, anxiety, and depression by fixing our sight upon the one constant that will never disappoint: the joy that comes from Your forgiving love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MIRACLE WORKER
TEXT: Luke 7: 11-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
No one likes to be on the “hot seat.” No one enjoys having upset people second-guess, question, mock, berate, laugh at, or just plain become angry with them. Likewise, no one ever wants to be caught between two totally different groups that are polar opposites. Romeo and Juliet tried that and only heart-break resulted. I know of a pastor or two who went to a new parish beset by factions and tried to be the “man-in-the-middle” as well. But neither of those pastors lasted long.
God and human beings are polar opposites, too. Humans are imperfect. God is perfect. Humans lie. God never lies. Humans are arrogant. God is humble. Humans die. God lives. Humans love conditionally. God loves unconditionally. And because of that last fact, God had to reach down to save human beings. We could not reach up to save ourselves. That’s where Christ comes in. As God’s Son, He willingly accepted the “hot seat” and suffered accordingly to make peace between God and human beings.
Today we see Jesus caught between two polar opposite groups—one filled with joy and the other filled with grief. That’s a microcosm of life here on earth, isn’t it? And what does He do about it?
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE BRINGS JOY!
“Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.” Most of us would pass right over that sentence without giving it much thought. But, that would be a mistake. For it is rich in meaning. Recall that right before this lesson Christ was in Capernaum and there He healed a Roman centurion’s servant. This miracle got a lot of publicity. People were intrigued by it. They were excited about the possibilities for their own lives. And they were joyful. Hope had arrived in that dusty, back-water area of Galilee. And so many dropped everything and began to follow Christ and the disciples around. In fact, they followed them either around or across the Sea of Galilee and trekked with Him another 20 miles to the small town of Nain.—Not too far from Nazareth where Christ grew up. This commitment shows the emotional “high” that crowd must have felt.
“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.” Talk about polar opposites! This joyous, raucous crowd runs smack, dab, into a funeral procession. And it’s not a usual funeral procession for someone who has lived a long life and died an expected death. No, a young man in the prime of life has died unexpectedly. For who expects death in their early 20’s? To compound the grief, he is the only son of a widow. In those times that meant a lot, and none of it was good. It meant that this poor woman was all alone in the world. It meant her sole source of support was now gone. It meant a life of begging for her, since there was no social safety net. Sad, sad, and sadder. Obviously everyone in that crowd knew all this and the tears must have flowed very heavily.
“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still.” That phrase: “His heart went out to her” doesn’t quite make it in English. Literally, it means that Christ was touched right down to His bowels, to the core of His being. As true man, Jesus has an emotional side. And this sight bothered Him more than words can tell. And so He tells her: “Don’t cry.” I can well imagine more than one person in that grief-stricken crowd thinking: “Who does He think He is? What a joke. Leave her alone.” (Good thing Christ didn’t do that, isn’t it?) And then when He touches the coffin, the pall-bearers stop. But again, they must have been thinking: “What an uncouth lout!” Meanwhile, I’m also sure the joyous crowd at His back had descended into a hushed silence, their smiles wiped from their faces. Christ has placed Himself on the “hot seat.” He truly is the “man in the middle.”
However, since Jesus is also the eternal Son of God Who came to seek and save the lost and bring peace on earth, that’s exactly where He wanted to be. “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.”
How long does it take to utter those words of Christ? Two, three, four heartbeats? No matter. The point is: they worked! This young fellow is re-energized. He is resurrected from death. He sits up and begins to speak. No doubt, his mother was on the verge of hysterics by this time. And our compassionate Savior immediately gives him back to her. Can you imagine the hugging and kissing that went on? In an instant, grief is changed to joy! In an instant the “hot seat” becomes the center of all-out joy and both crowds are united under the umbrella of Christ’s love shown here in this miracle.
“They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
Not to throw cold water on the joy of the crowd, but a careful reading of this last section shows that most there kind of missed the point. They likened Jesus to one of the Old Testament prophets—Moses, Ezekiel, or Elijah. They thought that through Jesus God had acted among them in the same fashion as during the time of those great men. This may appear to be an honor, but in actuality it isn’t, is it? For Jesus is the Messiah. He is God’s eternal Son in the flesh. He’s the Sender of the prophets. He is the One Who later raised Himself from the grave. Something no mere human could ever do.
When you look carefully at Christ’s ministry, you’ll see that The Man In The Middle Always Brings Joy. For it is Christ Who unites man with God, mortals with immortality, and changes tears to joy, and death to life. He proved it time and again, culminating in His own death and resurrection to save you and me. As you think about this marvelous lesson, don’t act as some and conclude: “What a wonderful story.” Don’t let your joy be so confined. Instead, recognize yourself in that coffin. See your grief in the weeping eyes of that mother. And then see your own joy resulting from the Man In The Middle drying your tears and raising you back to life, eternal life under God’s grace. Can opposites come together? Can the unforgivable be forgiven? Can the rebellious be pacified? Can the imperfect be made perfect? Can death be swallowed up by life?—Yes! For Christ, the Man In the Middle makes it so! He always brings joy. Truly Christ is the Son of God and our Savior! Amen