The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (7:11-16)
We often hear news spread quickly in our age of instant news and the advent of the internet. Sadly this news is usually not good news but various forms of bad news or tragedies that are happening somewhere in the world. The gospel reading today speaks to an amazing event. This event only happened three times in the history of the people of Israel until the coming of the Lord, our savior Jesus Christ. What was this amazing event? The raising of the dead back to life.
The first was when the great prophet Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead. The second was when His disciple the prophet Elisha (Elysias) raised a young boy from the dead. And finally, and perhaps most interestingly we have the story from 2 Kings 13 where a man is about to be buried and his friends spot a band of raiders headed their way. They are afraid for their lives and have no time to make a proper burial for the man so they quickly place the man in the same tomb where the prophet Elisha was buried. What happens next is amazing and is only really possible with an Orthodox Christian understanding of the saints and the glorification of the body. At the moment that the body of this dead man touched the body of the prophet Elisha, he came back to life! So much for those who deny the power of the saints and the power of holy relics. It is the power of God to transform humanity that is ultimately being denied!
So the point remains that this was a rare and isolated event in the life of the Jewish people. What happened that day in the city of Nain was a rather great event. This event alone would have caused the name of Jesus Christ to spread far and wide and many of the people would’ve been completely convinced that He was at the very least, a great and powerful prophet if not the Messiah they had been expecting.
In and of itself, the raising of one who was dead, is a great and wondrous miracle. Death is not easily cast aside. Death made mankind tremble with fear. Death had married itself to the human race because of our rebellion and rejection of God, which began in the garden with Adam and Eve. God desired that we should have great potential and in order to give us such potential, He allowed us free will out of His great love for us. This free will, we chose to use in a way that cut us off from God and from His teachings. In short we were cut off from life itself.
Our Lord Jesus did not simply have compassion on a widow who had lost her son. He had compassion on each and every son of man. He had compassion on our whole situation and context. He alone understood it fully. Yes, He does a great work for this woman and for her son. It is merely a shadow of the work He is going to do in the human race. He will not only conquer death in the body, He will allow us to have resurrection and restoration of the soul! That is why it is so important that we honor the saints, those who are pleasing to God. Because they prove that the Lord Jesus Christ has power over our fallenness and the death that was part of our human experience. The saints prove that we can be transformed and brought back from spiritual death to full health and strength and life through the giver of life.
The Lord did not have to do much to raise the man from the dead. He touched the bier and spoke His word “Young man, I say to you, arise.” There is a sense in which the word of God can also heal and raise us from deadness to newness of life. An encounter with Jesus Christ, through reading the 4 gospels, can impart the same miracle which this man received, to our spiritual lives. We can experience spiritual resurrection! Some of you might think that I was born wearing a stole and with a beard and ready to pray the liturgy. You would be mistaken. It is the encounter with Our Lord Christ through the gospels that brought me from spiritual death towards His light, by His grace. I am not sure how we as Orthodox Christians can be instructed in life without reading the 4 gospels. Let’s make it a priority to read one chapter of the gospels each and every day. God wants to impart life to our dead and decaying souls. He has many ways of doing this but one of the most basic and fundamental is through His teaching and preaching as found in the 4 holy gospels.
I’m sorry to say that some of us and some of our families and friends are on spiritual life support. We are one temptation, one storm, one trial away from losing everything, from losing our salvation, from spiritual death. Happy is the man who built his house upon the rock of faith in Jesus Christ. His house can withstand any storm because Christ our God is not moved by death, let alone our storms. Wise is the man who built his whole life upon the God-man Jesus Christ, not following the example of Adam and Eve but turning towards the example of those who please God. Blessed is the man who sees the Holy Church as the body of Jesus Christ, the pillar and foundation of truth. If we come with reverence into the Church as if we are coming towards Christ Himself, we become the most joyous of all people. We don’t want to become like the widow who was left with nothing because she had lost her only son. What use was his body when it was lifeless and cold? What use can we be if our souls are also lifeless and cold?
Come, my friends and my brothers and sisters to the One who raised and continues to raise the dead back to life. Come to the one who alone grants us spiritual resurrection and the promise of unending life in fellowship with Him. To Him who alone is our Resurrection and our Life, to Jesus Christ be glory, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages AMEN.