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God Has Come to Help His People
Luke 7:11-17


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday after Pentecost—June 6, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our message is based on today’s Gospel Reading from the seventh chapter of Luke.  Jesus raises from the dead the son of the widow of Nain.  “They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’”

Nain is a little village about ten miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee, one of thousands of tiny towns scattered throughout the countryside of the Holy Land.  A small, rural, agricultural community, only mentioned in the Bible this one time.  It was not an important place, what we might call a “wide spot in the road.”

Walking down that road one day came Jesus and his disciples, just in time to witness a terrible tragedy in the little village of Nain.  “As he approached the town gate, a dead man was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.”

Because of the extreme heat, funerals in the Middle East are traditionally conducted on the very day of death.  So, this terrible tragedy had struck earlier that same day.  As a widow, the woman had already lost her husband.  But, she had one consolation: her only son.  He would take care of her and look after her and help her.  But, today a double blow struck: her only son died too.  Before the sun set that day, her son also would be buried, perhaps alongside her husband, and the widow of Nain would be left all alone.

There are times when it seems just too much.  When, like the window of Nain, we have trouble upon trouble, tragedy upon tragedy, sorrow upon sorrow, grief upon grief. 

This story about the raising of the son of the widow of Nain is a true story about a miracle that really happened.  But, it is also a kind of parable about all of us.  For, like that young man, all of us are dead—spiritually dead.  As Paul says in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  And, like that dead young man that day, all of us are on the way to the grave.  As Hebrews says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face the judgment.”  Because of our sins we all deserve the judgment of eternal death and damnation.

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don't cry.’”  Just as Jesus had mercy and compassion that day at Nain, he also has mercy and compassion on you. 

The Lord told Moses from the burning bush, “I have seen the misery of my people . . . I have heard their crying . . . I have compassion on their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them.”  We confess in the Nicene Creed that Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise, God himself, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven . . . and was made man.”  He is literally the “embodiment” of God’s mercy and compassion.  “I have seen the misery of my people . . . I have heard their crying . . . I have compassion on their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them.”  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’  The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”

Just as Jesus stopped the funeral procession that day at Nain, he also has ended your “procession” to eternal death.  “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” he declares.  “Whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”

Jesus raised the widow’s son that day, from death to life, by touching his coffin and speaking to him.  Just as Jesus spoke to the dead man that day at Nain, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” he raises you from death to life by speaking to you through his Word.  “I tell you the truth,” he says, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.”

Just as Jesus touched the young man’s coffin that day at Nain, he has touched and given you new life in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.  As Paul says in Titus, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

And just as Jesus touched the young man’s coffin that day at Nain, he still touches you today with his very body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” he declares. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

Just as Jesus raised the widow’s son that day at Nain, he also will raise you to eternal life.  “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Just as Jesus quieted the widow’s tears that day at Nain, the book of Revelation promises that in everlasting life, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. . . and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

“They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’”

Just as God came to Nain that day to help the grieving widow, he also comes into your life to help you in your trouble, your tragedy, your sorrow, your grief.  “Lo, I am with you always,” he promises.  “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”  “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will hold you up with my mighty hand.”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul asks in Romans.  “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . .  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.”  “Cast your burden upon the Lord,” Peter says, “for he cares for you.”  “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul says in Philippians, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” Jesus says.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The psalms beautifully express this trust in the Lord and his help.  “I will lift up my eyes to the hillswhere does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, the Lord Almighty is with us.”  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.”

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her.”  Just as Jesus’ heart went out to the widow of Nain as she faced trouble upon trouble, tragedy upon tragedy, sorrow upon sorrow, grief upon grief, his heart still goes out to you, today.  “God has come to help his people.”

Amen.

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