Summary: He had a strong faith-a faith that did not waiver in the face of his terminal illness and death. He knew that in spite of his suffering Jesus would show him and his family compassion. He knew that Jesus is the Great Comforter.
On a dark and stormy night, an American, a Canadian and a Scotsman were in a bad car accident. All three were rushed to the hospital, though all three had died before they arrived. Just as they were about to put the toe tag on the American, he awoke and opened his eyes. Astonished, the doctors and nurses asked him what had happened.
The American replied, “I remember the crash, and then there was a bright white light, and then the Canadian and the Scotsman and I were standing at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter approached us and said that we were all too young to die, and that for a donation of $150 we could return to earth. So of course I pulled out my wallet and gave him the $150 and the next thing I knew I was back here”.
One of the doctors said, “That’s amazing, but what happened to the other two?”
The American replied, “Last I saw them, the Scotsman was haggling over the price, and the Canadian was waiting for the government to pay his.”
Picture the scene in today’s Gospel reading for a moment. The widow has just lost her only son. Since her husband is already dead, she is facing dire personal and financial trouble. In those days, widows were supported by the eldest son. To make matters worse, her son is being buried within 24 hours of his death, as was the custom at that time because of the problem of decomposition combined with the heat. She has not had time to even begin to comprehend the meaning of her loss.
As the funeral procession is leaving the village, Jesus and his followers arrive from the village of Nain. They immediately stop to let the funeral procession pass, something which many of us do today, although there are some who don’t. When Jesus sees what is happening, he is moved by compassion. He comforts the widow, and then brings her son back to life.
This is not the first time Jesus has raised someone from the dead. He who is called the Word of Life in 1 John 1:1 is Lord of both the dead and the living according to Romans 14:9. This also parallels the Old Testament reading from 1 Kings 17:8-24 which we heard this morning in which Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead. The difference is in the way both dead sons were raised to life. Elijah laid his body on top of the body of the widow’s son, whereas Jesus merely had to touch the body.
Someone pointed out that in each case where Jesus raised someone from the dead he called each dead person individually. He did this because if he would not have specified which person was to rise, every tomb in Israel and in the entire world may have opened up at his command. Jesus has that much power. Instead, the tombs of the other people and those who have died since then will be opened at the time of the Second Coming.
This is a story about miracles. Christ still works miracles in our lives today. Sometimes the miracles are the direct result of prayer. A good example of this involves our former Priest-in-Charge, Fr. Art Nash. Some of you may have heard that approximately a month and a half ago, his cancer returned; however, in an email he sent a couple of weeks ago, he said that according to tests he had earlier that day, there was no sign of the cancer at all! He has to visit his oncologist and other specialists for other tests to make sure that the cancer really is gone, but both he and his doctor, who is also a Christian, claim that this miracle was the direct result of the prayers, laying on of hands and anointing that he received as a member of the Order of St. Luke. Healing does not depend on the degree of faith we have or how righteous we are. If we have faith that is as small as a mustard seed, God can and will work miracles in our lives.
Healing and wholeness are first cousins. To be healed is to be made whole, and to be made whole is to be saved. God heals the body and the mind at the same time. God does not just heal on a whim. He does it so that we may see his glory, hear his word and sing his praises. God uses miracles as signs of his power.
All of Jesus’ healings were the result of his compassion for people. When he saw the widow and her friends pass by, he assessed the situation and thought of a way to respond. He did not want to simply stand on the side of the road and watch the procession go by. He wanted to do something that would show these grieving people the kingdom of God-a kingdom which knows no grief. In order to put his plan into action, Jesus had to touch the coffin. In doing so, he broke one of the laws of that time. Under Jewish law, touching a dead body made a person unclean for seven days. Jesus didn’t care about customs or rules. To him, faith, love and actions were more important. We do not have to fit into a set pattern to receive his help. He doesn’t restrain his compassion because we fail to meet a good deed quota or because we don’t say the right words, or because we don’ follow the correct ritual.