Summary: It can be confusing to understand when to expect God to intervene in our lives in the form of a miracle and when not to expect it. Jesus' encounter with a widow who had just lost her only son can give us some clues.

Two weeks ago we wrapped up the account of the Sermon on the Mount from Luke’s Gospel. This morning we take up the story again of the amazing things that happened as Jesus traveled from town to town in Israel, announcing and demonstrating the kingdom of God.

This morning’s text is Luke 7:11-17. I invite you to open your Bible to it so you can see it for yourself. You can find it on page 65 of the New Testament pew Bible.

11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

This is a really beautiful story. If you read it with your heart plugged in, you have to really feel for this woman. She’s a widow. We don’t know anything about how long she has been a widow or what happened to her husband. But you have to feel for her. It’s so painful to lose your spouse in any time or place. And beyond the emotional loss, in this era, before social security or pension funds, most widows were very much at risk. Women just didn’t go into the workplace then, so if you lose your husband you would be very much dependent upon the charity of family members and the community.

This widow woman had the good fortune of one living son for a while. But now he has died, too. And he died way too young. And her community felt her pain. A huge crowd has come together to support this poor woman.

And as the funeral procession comes out of the city it meets another procession coming in. It’s Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd of people who are following him. And those of us who have been following the story of Jesus might instantly wonder what Jesus is going to do here. He has done a lot of amazing miracles, but raising somebody who is dead, being carried out to the cemetery is a new challenge.

And you just heard the story. Jesus stopped the procession. He told the woman not to cry anymore. He touched the cot on which they were carrying the young man. And he told him to get up. And the young man got up. He spoke to them. He was alive. And the mood of the crowd changed instantly. Everyone there was just so elated. They shouted out, “A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!"

If you like happy endings or warm chicken soup for the soul, this is for you. When you read it with your heart in the “on” position, through the eyes of faith, it’s a wonderful story.

But in modern times it becomes harder and harder to see the world through the eyes of faith. Probably most of us here have been in situations where loved ones were seriously sick and we prayed for Jesus to heal them. We prayed and we prayed. And it didn’t happen. There was no miracle for us.

And more and more we are surrounded with voices that are struggling to maintain faith that God can do anything in this world, voices that might sound like this:

“You know, I see my friends who have deep faith in God and I wish that I could have the confidence and comfort it brings. But I just can’t believe in a Bible that is full of miracle stories that are so different from the real world that we live in today.

I was raised in a family that believed in science. And how many times have faith and science fought it out and faith had to retreat? People once thought the earth was flat because the Bible talked of the 4 corners of the earth. But nobody believes that anymore.

And when was the last time you saw a healing? Oh, I know. I’ve heard of some people who reported they had been healed, but how do you know they can be trusted? Couldn’t it just be wishful thinking?

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