Life intersects Death

(From Sojourn Snapshots Session 1)

Luke 7:7-11

Traveling that road on that day. Jesus. 12 Disciples. A great crowd.

The road from Capernaum to Nain.

As He came toward the gate there was another procession coming toward Him. A funeral procession. Of an only son. The mother leading it. Overwrought. Uncontrollable grief spilling out.

The son had died. The mother’s hope had died with him. He was carried in a typical Jewish way. The mother in front with no man beside her. No other sons behind her. Just her dead one lying on a slab of wood. The bier, they called it. He had been prepared in all the right ways. Washed. Nails clipped. Hair cut. Anointed with spices. Eyes closed. Wrapped in linens. Face left free.

No professional mourners would be employed to mourn loudly and play flutes and tell of how much this mother loved her son. She probably, as a widow, lacked the funds for them. In fact, now with her son gone she lacked any funds. What would she do? Where would she go? But, not now. First she must bury her son. So she walked alone in front. However, behind the bier, a great crowd followed. Those with sympathy for her situation. Those who were considering this good work worthy of their time. This accompanying the body to its burial place.

Death marches out of Nain.

Life marches into Nain.

And they meet.

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“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.”

Saw: Seeing that becomes knowing. Grasping the spiritual truth-the reality- from the physical plane. Comprehending what is happening in front of you. Looking into the eyes and seeing the soul.

Compassion: to feel in the inward parts. Deep, deep feeling that leads to action. Welling up from a place in the heart and spilling out.

Do not weep: There is hope. The grief that is flowing out. . . that can not be contained. . . in the midst of that. There is hope.

“Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Jesus is unconcerned about becoming ceremonially unclean by touching the bier.  His concern is the widow. The widow of Nain.

“And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

Sat up and began to speak: Proof of the miracle

Gave him to his mother: Those words so familiar. Spoken in 1 Kings 17:23. Elijah. The widow’s son.

Jesus gives the widow back her son. Giving her hope. Trading her grief over the future to hope for a new future.

The people knew something had happened. They called out praises to God and recognized that this had come from Him. They called Jesus a great prophet. Yet, they stopped short of calling Him, God. That would come. One day. By a few.

A story that seems to be about a miracle, the raising of the dead and yet, in this male dominated society, it is actually the story of the restoration of a woman. She is, after all, the center of the story.  It doesn’t escape my notice that in a society that often regards Christianity and the church as those who would downgrade women. . . Jesus again elevates them. He always treats women with dignity and respect and honor so foreign in that culture.

In my mind I cannot seem to escape that point.  .  .  where life and death intersects. And what happens at that point? What happens when Jesus, who came to give us life, abundant life (John 10:10) comes face to face with uncontrollable grief?

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Compassion.

Henry Nouwen, the man who left the prestigious job to go and work with the least of these said:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.

So into death- of any kind- chronic disease, financial ruin, friendship breaks, gloomy days- times when the death seems so real inside. Jesus goes to where it hurts. He enters the places of pain. He shares in our brokenness. Our fear. Our confusion. Our anguish.

And in those death places. . . He brings life. Because He is life.

And if we are in those life places. Those full places. What do we do?

Do we go and “be Jesus” to the world? How can we? We aren’t God. And yet we take up the Savior complex and try to fix everyone and everything. And we can fix no one and nothing. Because we are not life.

But we can be compassion. We can go where it hurts. We can enter into the places of pain. We can share in the brokenness, the fear, the confusion and the anguish. And in those places we can reflect His love. His life.

Life intersecting Death.

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