A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 13, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether God Has Come to Help His PeopleLuke 7:11-17Here’s a picture of soldiers lined up in an ancient battle scene.  I don’t even want to think about what that was like for soldiers armed with swords and spears charging full speed into each other.    Our text this morning there’s another battle scene.  On the one side is Jesus leading a large group of His followers down a narrow road toward city of Nain.  Coming out of the city is a second large group.  At the front is the coffin of a young man and right behind his grieving mother.  As these two groups meet, which one will step aside or reverse direction?   Will it be the one led by the Prince of Life, or will be one the led by a victim of death?   You already heard how this turns out.  The Prince of Life defeats death.  Nevertheless it’s good for us to see how this battle unfolded, because we face battles too.  For some of us it may be a financial battle.  For others it health problems, or maybe it’s both at the same time.  In addition sooner or later death will touch our family too, just like it did that widow in Nain or the widow in our Old Testament reading.  As we charge into our various battles – battles we don’t want to fight, battles that terrify us, may the victory cry at Nain ever ring in our ears!  God Has Come to Help His People.  1.  He comes with tender mercy.  2.  He comes with divine power.   The word Nain means “pleasant valley.”  Life there was pleasant and safe with vineyards and olive groves scattered over the slopes of the hills.  However, for one woman life was not so pleasant.  Her husband had died young, and now her only child had died too.  Emotionally and mentally, this must have felt like running into a brick wall.  I mean how would she deal with the loneliness?  Or, as she gets older, who would take care of her?   They say that when a person is faced with death, he/she will go through four stages.  Maybe this woman did too, as her son was dying.  The first stage is denial.  The person emotionally and mentally denies what is obviously going on.  When denial becomes impossible, the second stage begins – bargaining.  The person bargains with God, if not for healing, at least for more time.  And so, he’ll say things like, “When I get better, I’m going to be in church every Sunday, or I’m going to dedicate the rest of my life to helping people.”  The bargaining stage ends, when it becomes clear beyond denial that things are not going well.  Next comes the anger stage.  In the anger stage a person becomes angry with God for being unfair.  Or, maybe he’s afraid to get angry with God, so instead he takes his anger out on his loved ones.  Finally comes the acceptance stage.  A person has reached the acceptance stage when he is able to pray with joyful confidence, “Your will be done.”   Now, not everyone goes through these stages in the same order with the same amount of time in each one.  Also, a Christian might feel that he should always just be in the acceptance stage.  After all, we know we are sinners and the wages of sin is death.  But we also know that Jesus died for us and on the last day He will raise up our bodies glorified.  And so, with our heads we can say, “Self, what are you worried about?!”  Yet in our hearts we don’t want to let go.  We don’t want to let God.  Who knows what stage this widow was at in our text.  Regardless, Jesus doesn’t scold her.  He doesn’t say, “Get over it, or you should have a stronger faith.  Instead, His heart went out to her.  In fact in the original Greek it says more literally that He was torn up inside for her.     Jesus also comes to us with that same tender mercy, whenever we are hurting.  For example going back to those four stages a person might go through when he or a loved one is faced with death.  The first stage is denial.  But why be in denial?  Whichever things go, Jesus says, “I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future – Jeremiah 29:11.” Or, the second stage is bargaining.   But why bargain for what we already possess?  Through Christ we have peace with God.  Through Him our prayers do accomplish much!  The third stage is anger at God.  But why be angry?  Look at Jesus’ hands, His feet and His side!  And now hear what He says, “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going – John 14:2-4."  Finally comes the acceptance stage, but Jesus helps us here too.  Our Old Testament lesson was about Elijah.  Years later his replacement would be Elisha.  However, Elisha had a hard time letting go of Elijah, and so God gave Elijah more time on this earth just for Elisha’s sake.  My point is God’s timing is always exactly right for everyone involved.  Another way Jesus helps us with acceptance is He assures us that we will not stay separated from our fellow believers. But He will give us back to each other, just as He gave the son back to the mother in our text.   However as comforting as all this is, can we really count on these things for us?  We can!  Our text reads, “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.  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."”  The coffins then did not have a lid.  They were open and just used to carry the body to the grave, which at that time was cave with a stone slab.  The body would be laid on that slab, and after decay, the bones would be put in a stone box and placed with other relatives’ boxes in the cave.  Anyway in this case, death was defeated by life.  We can only imagine the shock and the joy especially for this mom.  However we might wonder, how come they were so lucky, why not my family too?  Well, Jesus had several reasons for raising this young man. The first was His tender mercy.  A second was to demonstrate His divine power.   The phrase in our text, “He gave him back to His mother” is very significant.  It’s the exact words used in the Old Testament reading when Elijah raised that widow’s son.  Now, Elijah was recognized by all the people as a fore shadow of the coming Savior.  So, when Jesus did what Elijah had done, He was identifying Himself as that Savior.  Also, Elijah didn’t actually raise the boy from the dead; this happened through prayer.  Jesus on the other hand did not pray.  He simply commanded.  Therefore Jesus is more than a great prophet.  He is God Himself.   The disciples would need to remember this in a few years when they would see Him hanging on a cross.  God the Son died there.  And so, not only did Jesus have divine power to raise this young man, He had divine authority.  He could overturn his death sentence, because He Himself would suffer that death sentence for him.  And now, let’s go back to the question of why this family and not my family?  In this life, we walk by faith.  In this life we must go through many trials and troubles, because the world is sinful and sin still lives in us.  But it’s not always going to be that way.  God has come to help His people, and by raising up this young man, Jesus was proving to our faith, that someday it will be our family too, and this young man is just the start of it all. Nevertheless we wait, and we hurt, and so looking ahead we may question if our faith is going to be strong enough, while we wait.  If we think that our faith comes from within us, no, our faith isn’t going to be strong enough.  But now our faith comes from God.  As an example, consider St. Paul.  He was persecuting the church, when God called him.  Our coming to faith was no less miraculous; and all the big and little sins we ever committed prove that our faith is a miracle.  But now since our faith is a miracle, through Word and Sacrament let’s continue believing that God will help us through this life and will rescue us from death itself by His divine power.  St. Paul put it this way near the end of his life.  “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day – II Timothy 1:12.”   Do you see how completely God has come to help us?  He paid for our sins.  He tenderly cares for us each day we’re here.  He guards our faith!  So, what’s left for us to do?  Right after Paul expressed his confidence in the Lord, he urged his friend Timothy to guard the pattern of teaching which had been passed on to him.  That’s also why we’re here – to keep for ourselves and then to pass on to the next generation everything God has taught us.  However, the good news is we do this with the Holy Spirit’s help. Another reason we’re still here is that we may be torn up inside like Jesus was for all who are still hurting, and then, do something about it.  But what?  Tell them God’s promises.  Tell them what Jesus has done!  And even if you can’t say anything, you can show that Jesus helps His people by not giving up – no matter what the future appears to hold, no matter how long we have to wait, no matter what we’re going through.  We’re not on the side of victims of death anymore.  We are on the side of the Prince of Life.  Let’s follow Him!  Amen.      

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