2 Pentecost, in the Octave of Corpus Christi

The seventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel begins with a servant being healed and a son being raised. Both involve Jesus, of course, but each story demonstrates Jesus’ power in different ways. The first story, the incident at Capernaum when Jesus heals the slave of a centurion, should be relatively familiar to us. The centurion sends to Jesus some of the elders of the Jews to beg Jesus to come and heal his slave. When Jesus had gotten close to the centurion’s house, the centurion sent some servants to Him, carrying the centurion’s message. We know the message: “Lord… I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” Jesus was struck by the centurion’s humility and faith, and He healed the centurion’s servant from afar; Jesus could heal from a distance.

Luke then tells us that soon after healing the centurion’s slave, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went with Him. Nain means charming, so apparently Nain was a charming little place. We know it was and is a small town; it’s no bigger than Bordentown city proper and even now has a population of around 1600. Nain is situated a short distance from Mount Tabor, and is only about 9 miles away from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, so Jesus probably knew the little town and perhaps even knew some of the people there.

Now as Jesus was entering the gate of the village, He saw a funeral procession. If this procession was like other funeral processions at the time in Israel, it probably consisted of several pall-bearers who would have been carrying the dead man, the man’s family – in this case his widowed mother – several of the towns-people, and maybe even some semi-professional mourners, usually women who would cry along with the actual mourners. In this case the dead man was his mother’s only son, and his mother was a widow. His death left this woman essentially hopeless, without any visible means of support. The ancient equivalent of life insurance was family, and this woman had no family left. Seeing this, Jesus had compassion on the woman – Jesus’ concern was not immediately for the dead man, but for his widowed mother – and He decided to do something about her troubled state.

Jesus then approached the bier and the pall-bearers stopped in their tracks. Jesus then said “Young man, I say to you, rise!”

I read a poem once about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, written from Lazarus’ point of view. The poet imagined Lazarus as being none to happy about being raised from the dead, being ripped out of Purgatory, being pulled back from the sleep of peace. The poet imagined that before his death, Lazarus would have certainly chosen to live rather than to die, but after, being dead, Lazarus would have chosen his sleep rather than to live again, to live just to die again. Remember that Lazarus and the young man in Luke’s story were not resurrected but rather resuscitated – both would eventually die again.

But again, Jesus’ compassion was for the mother of this young dead man of Nain, and so He commands him to awaken, to rise. And so, of course, he did, and he sat right up on his funeral bier and started talking. Jesus healed, this time not from a distance but right in front of Him. Jesus healed the centurion’s servant because He saw an example of great faith and humility in the centurion, and He restored even life to a young dead man not because any faith was demonstrated, but just because He had compassion on his widowed, grieving, hopeless mother. But even in the midst of such great demonstrations of Jesus’ power to heal, there must have been countless others all around Him who didn’t receive healing, who were not restored to wholeness and strength. “But this is a reminder that the signs performed by Jesus in his public ministry were not designed to make all things well instantly for every last person… nor to make people strain forward for some over-realized eschatology by which death and disease would soon be eradicated 100%…The miracles were foretastes of kingdom fullness, not the fullness itself. The miracles (or signs as John called them) were arrows pointing a certain direction, they were not the destination that was being indicated. As C.S. Lewis once put it, only a fool confuses the highway sign for “Chicago” with the city itself.” And so with us. Some of us will be healed in the here and now, some of us will see miracles happen right in front of us. And that’s good, of course. But some of us will have to wait until the Last Day, some of us will have to wait until we see Christ face to face to experience the fullness of His healing power. Even when we experience healing now, it’s no warrant to expect its effects to last forever, until the forever comes.

Until that time comes, know that Jesus still heals, He heals us from afar and He heals us from right in front of us, most strikingly with His Body and Blood. Know that Jesus still sees examples of great faith and humility amongst us; know that Jesus still has compassion for the widow and the orphan, for the sick and the destitute, He still has compassion on all of us. Know that we too can read the signs and miracles, that we too can know and feel that the only Name under Heaven given for health and salvation is the great Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in knowing this, we know all things.

Quotes from ‘This Week’

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