Summary: Mixed reactions to the miracles of Jesus.
Luke 7: 11 – 17 / Seized With Fear While Glorifying God
Intro: Throughout our lifetime we ask “why?” As children we ask, “why is the sky blue and the grass green?” As we grow older the “why-questions” become more difficult to answer. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” --- Perhaps you have lost a son or daughter in death and Jesus did not heal them. Perhaps you have lost a spouse, a friend, your health, or your marriage. You ask yourself, “where was this kind and gentle Jesus then?”
I. Because of the nature of this miracle story some individuals are happy because it proves Jesus had power even over death; while others are fearful for the same reason.
A. Looking at this passage and the story contained in 1 Kings 17: 8 – 24, we are struck by the similarities between the stories. Some believe this is intentional because Luke here is building a case for Jesus to be God’s greatest prophet.
B. Other scholars claim that because of Luke’s own sensitivity and tender concern for the plight of women he has included a story that casts Jesus in the same light.
C. In this story, Jesus confronts the hard reality of life known as death. The crowd who witnesses the event says in verse 16 “God has come to help his people.” --- GOD DREW NIGH --- Greek verb used is often used for a doctor’s visit.
II. There are people who dread making an appearance at a wake or funeral. My friend, Ray Duke is not one of them. He attends at least one funeral every week. Ray attended the funeral of his mailman’s mother. Although some people fidget and speak in hushed voices; Ray will usually recount some funny story about the deceased.
A. People react in different ways when confronted by the reality of death. Look at the crowd in this narrative. VS. 16 says in the NIV “They were all filled with awe.” --- However, the word used for awe can also mean “fear.” The NRSV translates the phrase, “Fear seized all of them.” A much more forceful expression and more natural reaction.
B. Fear is a frequently used word in the NT. In most of the instances, fear is viewed as evil or at best inappropriate or unfortunate. (Mt 8:26 – disciples on a stormy sea / Mt. 6:50 – disciples think they are seeing a ghost / Mt 25:25 – reaction of the one-talent servant.)
C. Fear is also viewed as appropriate in the NT when it is a recognition of weakness and unworthiness in the presence of the ultimate goodness and power. Fear can be seen as 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 appear in quotation marks. They may have been spoken in unison or been summarize the reactions of those present.
A. The first phrase in the NRSV says, “A great prophet has risen among us.” / the NIV says, “A great prophet has appeared among us.” Both translations of the Greek emphasize the human person who has come and answer the questions, “Who is this Jesus?”
B. The second phrase in the NRSV says, “God has looked favorably on his people!” / the NIV says, “God has come to help his people.” Both translations of the Greek emphasize the divine nature of the event and answer the question, “What has God done?”
C. Today as at the time of Luke, many people believe that God is distant and remote and not involved in their lives at all. Because of what appears to be the unfairness of life and circumstances, many even believe there is no God. But here, Luke shows God has come close to humanity. God stands among them directly involved.
Conclu: I often wonder what the reaction of society would be if Christ Jesus stood here among us in physical form. Some would surely tremble in fear while others would rejoice and be glad. Which would you be? ---- More significantly, would you know Him if you met him? Perhaps He is already among us.
“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.”
(Hymn by William Pennefather, 1855)