11Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As 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.13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favourably on his people!” 17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.
As someone who has had the privilege to conduct many funerals, I have to say, I haven’t yet had anyone walk up to the coffin and, taking compassion on the family raised the deceased from the dead with words like Jesus used “I say to you rise”
The funeral procession meets the disciples led by Jesus who are coming the other way. Jesus leaves that crowd and approaches the mother. He looks at her and says, “Do not weep.” Then Jesus touches “the bier”, the bier for want of another phrase is the stretcher on which the body was carried. It isn’t reported that he touched the dead body, he touches the stretcher. Now My thinking on this is that Jesus not only works a miracle here, he keeps the Jewish laws about ‘clean and unclean’. You see, if someone touched the dead body outside of the approved rituals they became ‘ritually unclean’ and couldn’t eat or touch other people until they had been to the temple and been cleansed by the priests. So Jesus doesn’t touch the man, but the stretcher and he stays ‘clean’ and this doesn’t slow down his mission because he didn’t need to stop and go through the days of cleansing that would be needed.
So Jesus is concerned for the mother. She has no means of income, her only son is dead; she’s a widow, and she has no other means of support. She will likely end up begging on the streets because women were second class citizens and could not run businesses and so, she might as well climb in the grave with her son because she has no future. Jesus seems to take compassion on her. . And then Jesus tells the dead man rise- and he does. It’s a miracle!!
Now he brings the man back to life and we have a whole new beginning, the man is effectively ‘born again’, his life restarts, he is able to do the things he wouldn’t be able to do if he were dead. A new start. To care for his mother, to care perhaps for others, to be different to whom he was.
There are several examples of Jesus raising people from the dead, there are examples of him curing people possessed with demons, people who have leprosy, the woman who had a constant menstruation, the mem who had debilitating injuries or illness that stopped them from walking, last weeks sermon was on the man who ‘picked up his bed and walked’ :all fabulous miracles aren’t they!
New starts, new beginnings
These are the big visible miracles that we read of in the bible, but what about the quiet ones that we sometimes read and gloss over. What about the woman at the well? Jesus tells her all she ever did, and she acknowledges him as her saviour and ‘sins no more’. He changes her life, what about the quiet miracle we really miss when we read about Jesus sending out the disciples in pairs to go and spread the word, we read that and accept it and we miss the next bit when he sends out 72 followers to do the same thing. 72 followers of Christ, that’s more than in our churches combined. We miss that miracle, then the feeding of the 5 thousand and the feeding of the four thousand from what amounts to the equivalent of half a Tesco shopping bag. miracles upon miracles upon miracles.
what about the quietest miracle of all?
The miracle of you becoming a follower of Christ. How is it that you go to church week after week after week? some of us have a sure and certain faith, some of us are a bit less certain, and some of us just come to find out more because, well, “there’s something there” and we might find out more ……. perhaps ………. maybe.
To those who want to find out more, all I can say is that it’s not my job to convince you, only you will convince yourself with the evidence before you.
I do lots of speaking at various groups and on one occasion I had done a men’s group and spoken about faith and Christ and God and one man afterwards said to me “I keep asking the questions but I can’t seem to find out that God exists”.
Now, I’m not that clever but even I knew the answer so I said “stop asking the questions and start listening to the answers, God is talking to you but your too busy ‘not listening’ Because you know if you do it will change your life, and perhaps you really don’t want to change, because when you do, you will have a new start and a new beginning and you’ll be a new you” We all want a new start, don’t we?
That’s where baptism comes in for today’s talk. I’ve probably done a few hundred baptisms, mostly babies and children. Some adults, but not too many. But something strange is happening in Waltham abbey something strange indeed.
In the last year I’ve had about four families contact me because their children, boys and girls have asked their parents to ‘get them baptised’. So I’ve visited the families and spoken to the families and three of the mums weren’t baptised either so got baptised with their children. Next week in the abbey and then coming to st Lawrence on the 19th for their certificate we have another family coming because the children asked mum and dad if they could be baptised, the mother who isn’t baptised is ‘thinking about being done at the same time’. New beginnings every much a miracle as the gospel reading today where we see Jesus raise a dead man and give him the opportunity for a new start
Today we will baptise Shou and today will be the beginning of a new start for her. I have no doubt about Shou and her faith in Christ; we’ve spoken about it at length, and she has told me about the miracle of how God has been in her life for a long time. On Wednesday, she with Hannah and paul will again make a new start, they will stand before the bishop and declare they wish to be confirmed into the Christian faith and the bishop will place hands on their heads and the miracle of a new start will again begin.
You see, Christ is our new start every day. He is our way to God, He is there willingly, and gives himself freely to us. We just have to accept the miracle. Not the miracle of ‘flash-bang’ healing; although I have seen that miracle; not the miracle of feeding the thousands from one shopping bag of food; got to admit, I’ve not seen that. The miracle we need to understand is “that God is real; Christ is real; and we get to be part of their plan to work their miracle in our life each day, quietly and with them by our side to help us each day’. The miracle is that simple for each of us.