Summary: Realizing that Jesus stands among us can cause us to rejoice or recoil in fear.
Luke 7:7 – 11 Among Us
Intro: One of my favorite TV programs is “Ghost Whisperer.” A young woman named Melinda Gordan can see spirits of dead people. The “spirits” are trapped here because they have some unresolved issue. I find fascinating the various reactions of people when Melinda tells them she is talking with their deceased loved ones. Reactions vary from happiness to outright terror.
I. Some pastors and layperson react to this passage from Luke in the much same way. Because of the nature of the miracle, some are happy because it proves Jesus had power even over death. Others are fearful for the same reason.
A. Looking at the passage, there are some interesting facts about the text itself. The reading from 1 Kings 17: 8 – 24 tells a very similar story about Elijah with a few minor differences?
B. Many Biblical scholars looking at Luke’s writings conclude that he had a special and very tender concern for women. So it seems natural he would recognize and record this same attitude in Jesus.
C. Luke says that God “drew nigh.” The Greek word used for that action is a verb often used of a doctor’s visit. Something that Luke, the physician, had done himself. Here in this story, Jesus confronts one of the cold realities of life --- death.
II. I’ve told my friend, Ray repeatedly that he should rent himself out as a professional mourner. He attends at least one funeral every week. He even attended the funeral of his mailman’s mother. Unlike Ray, there are people who dread or fear going to a funeral home. – Let’s look more closely at how the people participating in the funeral procession reacted to the actions of Jesus.
A. The first part of Vs. 16 says in the NIV “They were all filled with awe” --- However, the word used for awe can also mean “fear” In face, the NRSV translates the phrase, “Fear seized all of them.” A much more forceful expression and more natural reaction, FEAR.
B. Fear is a frequently used word in the NT. --- the disciples on the stormy sea (Mt. 8:26), again when the disciples think they’ve seen a ghost (Mk. 6:50) and (Mt. 25:25) the one-talent servant in Jesus’ parable of the talents just to name a few. In most of these instances fear is viewed as evil or at best inappropriate or unfortunate.
C. However, the NT recognizes the appropriateness of fear under certain conditions --- Remember the shepherds at the birth of Jesus started in fear and ended by glorifying God / In that story and in this one, fear is appropriate because it is a recognition of weakness and unworthiness in the presence of the ultimate goodness and power. In both stories, fear is creative because it issues in appropriate action to the revelation of the glory of God which is an act of praise.
III. The remainder of Vs. 16 contains two phrases that may have been spoken in unison by the crowd or been spoken at the same time by two different groups. Regardless, they represent 2 distinct yet complementary interpretations of the miracle.
A. People at the time of Luke were much like people today. They believed in a distant God who was remote from them and not involved in their lives at all. But here, Luke shows God has come close to humanity. God stands among them directly involved.
B. The NRSV says “A great prophet has risen among us / While the NIV says, “A great prophet has appeared among us.” Both translations emphasize the human person and answer the question “Who is this Jesus?”
C. The NRSV says “God has looked favorable on his people!” While the NIV says, “God has come to help his people.” Both of these translations emphasize the divine event and answer the question, “What has God done?”
Conclu: When I was a teenager growing up in the Presbyterian Church in my hometown, I remember singing a hymn written by William Pennefather around 1855. Here are the words: “Jesus stand among us in Thy risen power; Let this time of worship be a hallowed hour. Breathe Holy Spirit into every heart; bid the fears and sorrows from each soul depart. Thus with quickened footsteps we pursue our way, watching for the dawning of eternal day.” Then, as now, I wondered what it would be like to have Jesus, God’s son, stand among us. Some would be full of fear. Others would rejoice and be happy. --- Which would you be? Would you fumble for a Bible to show your saintliness, drop to your knees in prayer, or reach out your arms to embrace and welcome Him? Would you know Him if you met Him? --- Perhaps he is already among us and we just pretend He isn’t there.