Wednesday, June 2, 2010

When Jesus Stopped By for a Bier

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he 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. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. (Luke 7:11-17 ESV)

Ok, ok, Jesus didn't stop for a beer--he stopped for a bier (pronounced the same). Caught your attention, though, didn't it?

When you meet someone in a one-lane road, how do you decide who gets the right of way?
Is it the biggest vehicle? Or the one that looks like it would have the greatest difficulty in stopping? This is the story of two parades that met each other in the road. One was a funeral procession, and the other was a traveling party. In Virginia, funeral processions automatically have the right-of way when they’re traveling under police escort. But Jesus was not in Virginia. He stops the funeral procession in its tracks.

In this story, the parade of death gives way to the parade of life. Jesus is the central figure in one parade, and a corpse is the central figure in the other. He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life stops to give the gift of life to one who is dead. What parades of death do you have going on in your life? What celebrations of destruction have you joined lately? Are you willing to let Jesus stop you in your tracks, and give you His life?

Luke points out that the young man who had died was a widow’s only son. She had no husband to care for her, and now no son to look after her in her old age. This left her in a very dire situation. After Jesus raises the young man to life, Luke says Jesus “gave him to his mother.” This healing was a gift. Jesus wants to give you His gift of life as well. It’s available to you, if only you’ll receive it.

I can imagine the high emotional level of those people in the funeral procession. In Jesus’ day, people would hire professional mourners to wail and lament a person’s death. The commotion must have been tremendous! The procession had a momentum all its own. But Luke says that when Jesus touched the bier, the bearers stood still. Perhaps they stood still in amazement that Jesus was willing to touch a dead person. According to their tradition, touching a dead body made you ritually unclean for a time (Numbers 19:11,14). Jesus was willing to take on their uncleanness, so that He could bring healing. Jesus is willing to take your uncleanness upon Himself in order to save you, too. 1 Peter 3:18 (God’s Word Translation) says, “Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God. His body was put to death, but he was brought to life through his spirit.” What an awesome thing, that He’s willing to take on our uncleanness so that we can be healed!

This story also reminds me of the woman who received power when she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ garment (Luke 8:40-48), or the story of Uzzah who died from the shock of power he received from touching the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:2-7; 1 Chr 13:7-10). I wonder what kind of power they felt when he touched the bier. Something sure made them stop in their tracks! How have you felt God’s power in your life? Has it caused you to stop and pay attention, so that He can do something marvelous for you?

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I invite you to be still at the touch of Jesus. Let Him do something great in your life. He will cause your mourning to end. Let Him heal you. He will give you His gift of life.

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