“As [Jesus] drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother” (Luke 7:12-15).

Today, Jesus raises the widow’s son and gives the child back to his mother, and we can think of nothing greater, because we lack imagination.

Please don’t hear me wrong.

There’s nothing lacking in what Jesus does.

He sees the boy, who was dead.

He sees the mother, who grieves.

And He has compassion on her.

For the mother who grieves the death of her child, to have that child again, alive and well, in her arms—there’s nothing greater.

In one sense, that’s true.

Sin takes its toll on the body, and the mind, and the spirit.

So does death.

Some of us know how this mother feels.

None of us want to.

But for the boy to get back up—and to speak.

For Mom, again or for the first time, to hear his voice—we can think of nothing greater.

But for the mother, and for us all, the Last Day will be greater than this day, because—today—Jesus doesn’t give the husband back to his wife—she was a widow, remember—only the son back to his mother.

In one sense, only an earthly sense, there’s nothing greater.

And, with things eternal in mind, there is.

This miracle, while full and complete and comforting to the mother, is yet best understood not in terms of our daily bread but of our deliverance from evil—who Jesus is and what He’s come to accomplish.

Miracles are like that.

They’re not promises for our day.

They’re illustrations of the God who has visited His people to redeem them.

The Christian’s hope is not the happy reunion of some of those we’ve lost.

Some who’ve gone before us.

Of course the mother wants her son returned to her, and she rejoices to receive him back.

But this is neither a picture of what God promises for our day nor even a picture of what heaven is like—since the widow also wishes for her husband.

Of course she does.

The years have multiplied her grief, and while some grief is divided out in receiving her son—some remains.

Some of us know how she feels.

None of us want to.

For all who grieve, there are those we would call and bring back to us and have and hold again.

But this miracle teaches that one does not come back from death unless one goes forward in our place.

This scene is so similar to what Jesus will endure.

And Jesus alone must endure it.

He is the only-begotten Son of God—Mary’s son and Mary’s Lord.

It’s His burden to see His mother weeping for Him.

His burden for the considerable crowd to see Him carry death, our death, in His own flesh.

It’s His burden to die.

It’s not this boy’s cross to bear to die for the sin of the world.

It’s not this mother’s cross to bear to see her son carry our death in his flesh.

Jesus knows His passion and death are coming.

He knows His cross to bear is His and His alone.

He has compassion on the widow, the mother, because He goes to Jerusalem to die in the boy’s place, in the mother’s place, in your place, and mine.

The types of Christ are similar to Jesus in most ways—but they do not die or stay dead for long.

Consider Isaac—and Abraham who stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. The Angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven saying, “Abraham! Abraham!”, staying the knife (cf. Genesis 22:10-11).

Isaac was the son of the promise.

The only son.

The command had come for the only son to die at the hand of his father, and though he bore on his back the wood of the sacrifice, it wasn’t a cross he carried but Abraham’s test.

Then—the ram the Lord provided died in Isaac’s place so that there’d be no question as to who was the Christ. 

Today—the Lamb the Lord provides stays the procession and hand of death, raises the boy to life, and journeys to Jerusalem to die in his place—so that there is no question as to who is the Christ.

The types of Christ are similar to Jesus in most ways—but they do not die or stay dead for long.

This side of the resurrection, we don’t receive our children back from death—and yet—Jesus gives us all a reason not to weep.

As He spared the woman her grief, he doesn’t spare His own.

As He stayed the procession and hand of death and brought back the boy to life, Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem and marches on—to cross and death and passion—and to our peace.

What He spares them—and us—He endures.

That we would see and receive and rejoice with all those we’ve lost—Jesus goes to cross and death for us.

Not that we would be spared grief and death on earth but that we and all believers in Christ would be reunited, found together, with son, daughter, husband, wife, and brother—in heaven.

This is the Christian’s hope.

Not things temporal but things eternal.

This is the Christian’s hope.

That Christ our Lord will sustain us all until and through the Last Day unto eternal life.

This is my hope.

The gift and sweet exchange that God has made for us. At Nain and at Calvary.

Because on the Last Day, Jesus will not say, only, “Young man, I say to you arise” (Luke 7:14).

On the Last Day, He will raise me—and you—and all the dead, and give eternal life to me—and you—and all believers in Christ.

This is most certainly true.

On the Last Day He will say to all—“Arise.”

And we will. Brother. Sister. Husband. Father. Wife. Mother. Son. Daughter.

Together.

Again.

And forever.

This is the Gospel—the report—that is to be spread about Him through the whole of Judea, all the surrounding country, and all the world.

That all would know what we know—and rejoice.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 16 Sermon, 2021
Luke 7:11-17
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

After the Fall, Man’s response to sin is fleeting—a half measure.

When the serpent deceived Eve, and she ate—when Adam listened to the voice of his wife, and he ate: “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (cf. Genesis 3:7).

Fig leaves don’t last, and neither do Man’s attempts to cover sin.

Then, God intervenes.

He speaks to the serpent, promising to crush its head. He speaks to the woman and to the man, informing them of what life will be like now that sin had entered the world. And then: “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Animal skins last, but notice—God didn’t make them out of nothing, like He did the rest of Creation. He made them garments—of skins—from skins—from one of the animals.

This first bloodshed and first sacrifice foreshadows the day when the Seed of the woman crushes the serpent’s head as He sheds His blood and covers the sin and wretchedness of Man—not in a fleeting way and not a half measure but once and for all.

Man would make the bad thing go away.

Out of sight is out of mind, but that’s not peace.

God forgives the iniquity and remembers the sin no more (cf. Isaiah 43:25), and what God does lasts.

In the 1928 folk song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” the hobo’s idea of paradise is a great example of Man’s attempt to ignore sin without having it forgiven.

“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains / All the cops have wooden legs / And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth / And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs…

“In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, / The jails are made of tin / And you can walk right out again, / As soon as you are in / There ain’t no short-handled shovels, / No axes, saws or picks, / I’ma goin’ to stay / Where you sleep all day, / Where they hung the jerk / That invented work / In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”

That’s the hobo’s idea of paradise, but he aims too low.

Paradise wouldn’t have cops, because no one would want to break the law—ever.

That sounds great as it is, but imagine not wanting to speed while driving. Imagine not being in a rush or pressed for time. Imagine rejoicing in what is—not would was or might be if…

Bulldogs wouldn’t have to have rubber teeth, because we would have no fear of animals, and they would have no fear or dread of us.

Paradise wouldn’t have jails.

We won’t want to sin against God and get away with it—we’ll serve God gladly and rejoice in the Lord always.

The hobo aims too low—just like Adam and Eve.

But that’s all that Man understands—temporal solutions to everlasting problems.

Now, I say all of that so I can say this:

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus raises the only son of a widow and gave him back to his mother.

In 2016, this was the Gospel lesson appointed for the day after my brother died—and so—it’s important for me, the other son of my mother, to do with this miracle as I ought for all of the miracles, to teach what Jesus is saying—as well as what He’s not.

What Jesus is promising—as well as what He’s not.

Miracles are not promises for what to expect in your daily life.

What mother doesn’t want to see and hear and feel her child again?

But this miracle is not a promise that Jesus will stop our funeral processions on the way.

Experience has taught us this.

But a mother’s grief is ignorant of the world and knows only her child.

You need to know—the grieving mother needs to know—that this miracle isn’t wonderful because God gave this one son back to this one mother.

This miracle is wonderful because God has power over death—Jesus is the Christ, the promised Seed, who will be bruised—and in being bruised, He will crush the head of that ancient serpent, the devil.

Man is always looking for a temporal solution to everlasting problems.

Receiving her boy back to her is still a temporal solution. He might die again. He did die again—maybe even before her.

We know Jesus knew this woman. “He knows all people and needs no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knows what is in man” (cf. John 2:24-25).

“When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7:13).

He’s not saying, “Stop crying, you ridiculous, emotional woman.”

I’ve heard people say, at funerals, “You’ll get over it. It’s okay. Give it time.” Jesus isn’t saying that.

He’s saying, “I will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (cf. Revelation 21:4).

Not because of temporal solutions thought up by man, but because of eternal solutions put in place and proclaimed by God.

The comfort of this miracle is that “[Jesus] came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak” (Luke 7:14-15).

With simple words, “Young man, I say to you, arise,” Jesus makes the enemy, Death, look foolish, not fearsome.

That’s your God.

“He’s by our side upon the plain / With His good gifts and Spirit. / And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, / Though these all be gone, / Our vict’ry has been won; / The Kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656:4).

One little word fells the devil and calls forth life where there was just death.

That’s your God.

He touched the bier.

The coffin.

The casket.

The death shroud.

The tomb.

Our phrase is to say that He wasn’t afraid to get His hands dirty, but it’s more than that.

Jesus says, “No one takes [my life] from me. I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (cf. John 10:18).

For this charge and responsibility, for this task and time, for this purpose Jesus has come to this hour (cf. John 12:27).

To stop the procession of death where it is.

To say to death, “Thus far have you gone, but no further.”

That’s your God.

Who laid down His life on the cross—and took it up again on the Third Day.

That’s Your God, the Seed of the Woman, the Child of Eve, the Lord, who crushed the head of the serpent, and with His blood and sacrifice covers the sin and wretchedness of Man—not in a fleeting way, not as a half measure, but once and for all.

In Christ, God forgives the iniquity and remembers the sin no more.

In Christ, Death is swallowed up by death, and on the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

Mother and child included.

This is most certainly true.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 16 Sermon, 2020
Luke 7:11-17
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt