Summary: Jesus broke through boundaries to bring the Kingdom of God as a reality in the lives of people that were “outside” the existing community of faith, so that we might see that the call of Jesus to us is that we also would break the boundaries
Breaking Boundaries 2: A Widow and a Corpse
Luke 7:11-17 January 25, 2009
Intro: (setting: the city gates at Capernaum; circa 74AD)
The old man sat at the city gates, watching the people come and go, catching up on the news of the community and the countryside, as he did most days, when he felt well enough to walk down from his humble home. Two men approached the city from the road, dust on their sandals from a long journey, well worn cloaks, travelers packs that evidently had seen many miles. One was obviously a gentile, and had a look of learning about him. These, the man could tell, were experienced travelers.
As they reached the gates, they removed their packs, took a drink offered by one of the others in the square, and sat to rest. As they did, they looked around at the others, sizing them up, with an inquisitive eye, and spotted the old man. They stood, walked over, and sat beside him. “Greetings, old one,” the gentile said.
“Shalom,” came the reply. “You two have come from a long journey. What is it you seek?”
The gentile smiled warmly. “In a word, Jesus of Nazareth,” he replied.
The old man’s heart beat hard in his chest as he heard the name, a flood of memories of that day long ago returned, and he became excited. He reached for the gentile’s arm and pumped it vigorously: “Jesus! Yes, Jesus… but tell me, what is your name?”
“Luke,” came the reply, and he felt he could risk the next sentence. “I have heard many of the stories of Jesus, and have determined to set them down in writing so that all may hear and know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord.”
“Well, then come to my home, we will eat together, and I will tell you a story.”
Following a simple supper, the men sat together and the old man began to speak.
“It was a long time ago. My cousin had taken ill, and my mother was filled with deep concern for her sister. She had been widowed only two years before, and now her only son was gravely ill. You are not one of us, so please understand what this would mean – if my cousin were to die, his mother would be destitute. An outcast, without standing in the community, without any means to support herself. We had little extra, and though we would certainly share what we could, it would not be enough. My aunt would be reduced to a beggar woman, she would likely have to leave for a larger place such as here, where she would sit with the other beggars you saw at the gate today, depending on the handouts of others for basic survival.
“We lived then in a little village called Nain, about a day’s journey from Capernaum here. A small place, where everyone knew everyone else, and where my cousin died. Yes, I was there, I saw the life leave his body, and I wept. I wept for him, of course, and for the loss of my cousin and the grief that I felt, but mostly I wept for my aunt as I knew what this would mean for her. She was now an outcast, alone, desperate, and with no hope.
“I went out with the news, and soon our whole village knew, and the grief was great. I found the wailing women and hired them for my aunt, I went to the carpenter and had him prepare the plank on which my cousin’s body would be carried. I got the burial shroud, the piece of cloth that would cover my dead cousin’s body, and returned to my aunt’s small home. My father and other cousins had left the city to the burial ground to dig the grave, and they returned and cleaned up. Others began to gather as evening approached, the carpenter arrived with the funeral plank, and we placed my cousin’s body upon it, and began the processional. Most of the town joined in, my aunt walked in front with the aid of my sister, and the grief was great.”
The old man paused in the story to take a drink, then he looked straight into Luke’s eyes and said, “you may not believe what I tell you next, but I was there, I witnessed it, and I tell it to you now exactly as I saw it.
“I was one of the men carrying the funeral bier, it was hard to keep my footing through the tears in my eyes as I heard the weeping of my aunt and my mother. We walked through the village and continued towards the city gate, and as we neared it we saw another crowd, this one heading towards our city. It was a large crowd, and I was confused. ‘How have they heard about my cousin, and who are these people come to mourn him with us?’ I wondered. As we got nearer, I saw one at the center of this group, the leader, he came near to my aunt and I saw the compassion on his face and the tears flowing freely from his eyes and then I heard him speak.