When something horrible happens, have you ever said, or heard it said, “It will be all right. Don’t cry.” “It will be okay.” Or “we offer you our prayers and condolences.”
I have heard children say that to a weeping parent. We have heard it on TV shows in response to tragedy and misfortune. The words may be well meaning and spoken from genuine concern. But, are they realistic? Is it helpful?
Sometimes we are at a loss for words—what to say, or how to respond to bad news when hearts are broken by tragedy. Sometimes it is better to say nothing, and just be present and care, with a quiet look, a hand on the shoulder.
In our text this morning we have two crowds of people. Two completely opposite crowds. One loud and celebrative! Jesus has just healed a sick servant on the point of death. He has been teaching and healing and proclaiming God’s Good News. The crowd accompanying Him was ecstatic and excited. They were unlike us quiet and reserved folk here. They were laughing and talking and loud. They were walking with the Lord of Life. And all was good. Until they come face to face with a funeral procession.
My imagination paints the picture of two freight trains colliding as these two completely opposite crowds come together. One crowd celebrating life and healing and hope. The other crowd mourning death and tragedy and despair. Kind of like life in our present day. We don’t want to be negative, but hardly have anything to be positive about. Or at least that is what we think.
When two polar opposites collide, which one wins? The lessons I’ve learned from life often indicate that the evil side wins. Only in the movies and in well written novels does good overcome evil. Right?
If you believe that, you still need to discover the good news of God in Christ!
Consider this story in our Gospel reading. I believe it is factual. You can interpret it as metaphorical if you choose, but I see it as an accurate account of what happened that day.
I’ve already told you about the crowd accompanying Jesus. They were happy. They were positive. They had good reason to be.
The crowd coming out of this town called Nain was overcome with grief. A woman was burying her only son. And she was a widow. Her life had turned upside down. All hope was gone. First her husband dies. Yet she has a son who can support her. Now he is dead. There was no Social Security for her. No welfare program or social safety net. Her plight was one of hopeless desperation. The whole town had come out to help her grieve. Her friends, her neighbors, those who lived across town. The synagogue—her church group—everyone came out. And they were not quiet. There was weeping and wailing and shouting that was nearly deafening.
It must have been quiet a sight to have these two polar opposites collide at the city gates, one on its way out to the cemetery. The other on its way into town.
Then the amazing happens. Jesus takes the whole situation into view and acts in an incredibly amazing way.
He tells the weeping widow who has lost her only son and lost all hope—don’t cry! It will be okay!
Then He does the completely inappropriate thing for a good Jew to do—He goes up to the stretcher (funeral pallet) and touches the dead man. He is breaking one of the most important rules, the clean versus unclean law of the Old Testament. To touch a dead person makes you unclean and then you have to go through a cleansing ritual. Ah, but Jesus is no ordinary Jew. He is no ordinary man. He is God in human flesh. He is the Lord of life. Death has no power in His presence. His Word triumphs over all the tragedy and death our world can throw at Him or us.
He touches the dead man and commands the dead man to wake up! Get up! Wake from the sleep of death! Be alive! And…the dead man obeys. He wakes up, sits up on the funeral pallet and begins to talk!
Talk about ruining a funeral. Talk about a phenomenal change of events. Death meets life and is subdued! Grief cannot survive when the Author of Life speaks hope and comfort and life!
Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday. November 1st is All Saints Day. We remember that all believers—past, present and future are made saints—made holy and righteous through faith in the blood of Christ. We are not saintly because of how good and noble we are. We are not righteous because we have been able to overcome all our temptations and faults. We are declared righteous by God because of Christ Jesus!
And, today, we celebrate the promise and reality of heaven. I’ve never been there. So I cannot tell you what heaven is like. But I believe on the basis of Scripture that it is real. I don’t believe it nor hell are geographically defined. You cannot go to heaven by flying to the moon and taking a left. Heaven in my understanding is like a fifth dimension—just outside our physical world, yet just there. Just a breath away. Heaven is being in God’s presence. And God just happens to be here this morning receiving our worship and praise. And God’s angels are around us as well. We don’t see them. We don’t hear them. We cannot always feel them. But faith holds onto that promise and reality.
And today, on the basis of this text from Luke 7, we proclaim Jesus’ power over death and the grave. Our loved ones who have gone before us are very much alive. Their bodies have to wait for the Second Coming when Jesus will raise us up physically with all believers, but our souls are immortal. When we die our souls, our spirits go to be with the Lord and are freed from the pain and misery of life on this side of heaven.
I cannot prove that. But, on the basis of Scripture, and the Spirit within, I believe it and claim it. It changes me. It empowers me to live with hope. It gives me courage to stand up against evil and do the right thing even against all odds. We are the body of Christ on this side of heaven and the way we live now makes a difference.
So…what on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake? Heaven is as real as Jesus—His life, death and resurrection. Heaven is real as you and me and our faith to live in grace and love.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.