Summary: Two groups collided at Nain: a procession of death and sorrow met a procession of life and hope.
“With television cameras rolling a brand new car is propelled down a track into a concrete barrier. Smash! Air bags explode. Crash dummies recoil from the impact. The test is repeated on dozens of new cars. Why this waste of automobiles? Researchers are trying to learn from the collisions in order to make cars safer for the times when real people are involved in a real accident. A train speeds down a track and collides with a car compacting it into a small slab of metal. What will be done with the footage caught on tape? It will be used to show drivers education students what could happen if they carelessly try to beat a train at a railroad crossing and are hit by it. From collisions like these lessons are learned.
In our gospel lesson for this morning Luke tells us about a collision that took place at a city called Nain. It wasn’t a collision between trains or automobiles. Two groups collided at the city gate. A procession of death and sorrow met a procession of life and hope. At the front of one was a man who had been defeated by death at the front of the other was a man who would defeat death. When the two groups ran into each other they formed a new group--one made up of victory and celebration. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us into these verses so that we:
LEARN FROM THE COLLISION AT NAIN
I. Death and sorrow were going out
II. Life and hope were going in
III. Victory and celebration went everywhere
Our gospel lesson begins with the words, “Soon afterward.” Jesus went to this village called Nain shortly after he healed the Centurion’s servant. We heard about that miracle in our gospel lesson last Sunday when we read verses 1-10 of Luke chapter 7. Although this miracle in Luke 7:11-17 may sound more impressive, since Jesus raised someone from the dead, it serves the same central purpose as the other miracle. Through his miracles Jesus showed that he is almighty--the all-powerful Son of God.
But each miracle also carries a specific lesson for us. In addition to broadcasting the truth about Jesus’ power the miracles let us see his love and compassion. They may even point out his concern for seemingly little things in our lives like food and drink. Some of the miracles show us his desire to teach spiritual truths in a variety of ways. Other miracles are more practical in nature--like the time Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee to join the disciples. He wasn’t going to swim out to them, was he? Let’s dig into these verses and see what we can learn from the collision at Nain and the miracle that took place there.
Death and sorrow were going out of Nain. Luke tells us, “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried outthe only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.” Although all funerals produce a certain amount of sadness some seem more tragic than others. When an elderly person dies we are thankful for the long life they were given and for the fact that their struggle with old age has ended. But when someone in the prime of his or her life dies, or when a young person dies we are not nearly as understanding. Then death seems unfair. When parents are burying a child the natural order that we have come to accept at funerals may also seem turned around. The other thing that adds a measure of misery to funerals is the circumstances of those who were closest to the deceased. Their sadness and their future may also touch the hearts of those who are in attendance at the funeral.
All of those “misery factors” were a part of the funeral procession that was leaving Nain on the day Jesus was entering the city. A young person was dead. A mother was burying a son. The mother of the deceased had already buried her husband and was now all-alone. This meant short term and long-term misery for her. She would face a future with little companionship and no financial support. It would be a life of poverty and misery until she too was carried to the cemetery. Funerals probably don’t get any more heart wrenching than this one described by Luke.
It would have been a cold heart that was not touched by this funeral procession. There were probably few dry eyes among the crowd going out of Nain. As people do at funerals many were probably thinking about their mortality. “When will death strike me?” “Am I next?” “What happens when I die?” “What will happen to my loved ones when I die?” Questions like those were most certainly swirling in the minds of the people going out of Nain. Indeed it was a procession of death and sorrow exiting the city.