You have probably heard the song ‘He’s got the whole world in his hand.’ Maybe you’d even like to sing it with me.
The song is a powerful reminder that God is at work in creation. That God is the creator, redeemer and sustainer. As I prepared for this morning’s sermon I found myself asking the question what does the world look like? Now, I’m not talking about a view from space, though that is one answer. Nor am I talking about what my senses tell me. I’m not concerned with what I see, hear, smell, touch or taste.
What I have been reflecting on is what makes up your world. Your family, friends, home, job. Where you were born, your social status and financial security. How much do these things define who we are as individuals? What barriers do they create and what happens when we lose them all?
These are the issues that are present in our gospel lesson from Luke this morning. On the surface it appears to be another healing miracle. Last week we considered how the faith of the Centurion was responsible for the healing his slave received. This week the only outward sign of faith is being displayed by Jesus. However, our gospel lesson today is about much more than just healing.
Today our story is about restoration. Not just of restoring a son to a mother, but of restoring a widow back to her place in society. This is where some context is required for us because we do not live in the same world as the widow and her son. Our cultural expectations are vastly different from what is occurring in this story.
We need to understand the widow and her role in society. Widows were on the margins of society, who along with orphans were to be cared for by society as a whole. However, this didn’t always happen in some dramatic or grand gesture. Rather widows often lived in the outskirts of town, with no wealth or property to sustain them.
What we know about the widow from our story is that this was her only son. The widow is crying and grieving for two reasons. First, because she has lost her son. She weeps for him and the loss of his life. The second reason she is grieving is for herself. You see as a widow who has now lost her son she does not have a man to take care of her. Now to us today that is a pretty distasteful thought, I actually shuddered as I typed it. But in the ancient world it was a reality. Worse the property that she held would return to her dead husband’s family leaving her homeless and penniless.
Being a widow with no sons was not a position you wanted in the ancient world. In short, this whole woman’s world had just collapsed around her with the death of her son. She had lost everything and the only thing she had gained was the status of outcast. Who would care for her, who would look after her?
These are the reasons she is crying and grieving a double loss. This is the scene that Jesus walks into as he travels to Nain, located just south-east of Nazareth, that day. When Jesus has compassion for her it is not only because she has lost a son, but because she had lost everything.
When Jesus brings her son back to life he not only performs a healing miracle but he transcends the social barriers of the culture he lived in. Jesus literally gives the widow her whole life back. He restores her place in society and he does all of this without invitation.
Jesus was passing by the funeral procession. He didn’t seek her out, she didn’t seek him out. He witnesses the events, takes compassion on the widow and acts. Our gospel lesson this morning is a healing miracle on two entirely different levels. Two lives are restored, one in a physical sense and the other in a social sense.
This is what we are called to do as followers of Christ. We are called into a ministry which is restorative. Not only do we pray for healing and minister to the sick and dying, but we look at the living and we say how can we help? What can we do to alleviate your suffering, to improve your daily walk in life.
This is the relationship that we have with Jesus. The events of the cross are big and bold and they speak to the redemptive plan that God has for us. However, this healing story tucked away near the beginning of Luke’s gospel is just as powerful. Jesus demonstrates that he is willing to walk with us and to restore us to where we need to be in life. This promise is borne out in his willingness to die for our own sake.
The healing of the widow’s son speaks to us on two levels. First there is reality of the son raised from the dead. Powerful and moving, this is a compelling miracle which speaks to Jesus’ power. It is a stark reminder that Jesus acts as the prophets of old. Just as we read in our Old Testament reading this morning where Elijah revived the widow’s son. We see a direct link between these two stories.
The second way that our gospel lesson speaks to us is how it reveals to us that we follow a God who is interested in our well being. That through Jesus Christ we are restored to fullness and that we have the promise of life eternal at his side. The restoration of the widow is kingdom work, it is the work and promise of fullness that we have and experience in Jesus.
Friends, Jesus enters into our lives and restores us. He puts us into the place where we need to be. What is the one occasion, deadline, meeting or event that is coming up in the next few months that you are absolutely dreading? Think about that time and approach it with prayer. Now imagine Jesus coming alongside of you as you pray. Now imagine coming through this situation with Jesus as your side. How does this occasion or event feel now? How does having Jesus at your side change your perspective? How does Jesus change your whole world?
Jesus is with us when we are most desperate. Jesus is with us when we are at our lowest, when anxiety seeks to overwhelm us. When we are unsure and unprepared. Jesus steps up beside us and reminds us of the restoration that we have already received. All we must do is accept this free gift of grace that has been offered. To walk with Jesus, to offer prayer and live a life which honours God.
A life which says I understand the restoration that has been gifted me and I am willing to share that with others. I want them to know how it feels to have hope. Because it is hope that Jesus offers to the widow. Hope of a full and rich life.
May each of us walk with that same sense of hope that God is there with and for us. Amen.