Text Lk 7:11-17
3rd Sunday after Pentecost, June 16, 2013
“Miracles and questions,” that’s what I’ve titled today’s sermon. We have all pondered these issues often with grieving hearts. People earnestly ask, “Why don’t we see miracles today like we see Jesus doing in our Gospel lesson?” Why don’t we see miracles performed like we see the apostles performing in the book of Acts? A simple and perhaps trite answer is as follows: You and I are not Jesus, and, nor are we apostles.
But more can be said. In the fourth chapter of Luke Jesus has just healed the first Pope’s mother-in-law—Peter’s mother-in-law. She had been gravely ill with high fever and simply by a spoken Word Jesus rebuked that spirit, and she was instantly healed.
All illness has at its root: sin, Original Sin. Whether it is the common cold, or allergies to lilac bushes, to severe forms of cancer, they all have at their root a spiritual basis. At the same time we thank Jesus for the advances of the medical community for it is Jesus who gives us the ability to unlock mysteries hidden in the earth to alleviate our suffering.
The widow of Nain is in route to bury her only Son. Our Lord has compassion, and so he stopped the funeral procession, touched the bier, and said, “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Lk 7:14). And he did for life defeated death and purity overwhelmed disease.
But this young man who was say twenty or maybe fifty would again breath his last and return to the dust from whence he and all are made by the breath of the Lord. The first Pope’s mother-in-law would in time become ill and the ravages of a fallen world would claim her.
So, back to our original question: Why don’t we see miracles today like we see Jesus performing and those that flowed from the apostles’ hands (Acts 5:12)?
Jesus answers this question a little later on in the fourth chapter of Luke after he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. By then people were flocking towards our Lord imploring him to have mercy like they had just perhaps seen and certainly heard about.
And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Lk 4:42-43).
Jesus was sent to preach the good news. And the good news he preached reaches its culmination when our Lord was glorified. And Jesus was glorified when he was lifted up from the earth (Jn 13:31-32) to draw all people to himself (Jn 12:31).
It is through our Lord’s innocent bitter suffering and death that Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil. As our substitute Jesus suffered our punishment for all the sins we have, are, or ever will commit in this life. Jesus did so for as our substitute he loves sinners and does not want any to perish. Through Jesus’ work on your behalf death no longer can hold you down; sin has lost its power to create guilt; and the devil is now toothless having no teeth to sink into you; no force of creation is able to keep you in the grave.
Jesus needed to preach the good news that through his suffering on the cross we have the full, complete healing of mind, limb, and spirit. And so Jesus performed miracles, yes, because he is merciful. But also to build—for lack of a better word—his resumé.
“Resumé building!” you say. “For what purpose?” you ask. To build his resumé of authenticity—that he truly is God in the flesh and that we may believe his words that our souls live and receive complete healing from his greatest act of mercy; Jesus’ death on the tree in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. This resumé building is proclaimed by St. Peter in his Pentecost sermon.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know … (Acts 2:22).
This was the same reason why the apostles performed their miracles. Yes it was because of mercy. But these acts of mercy pointed to the greatest act of mercy: preaching on Christ. It was to build their resumé so people would listen to apostles as they spoke by the Holy Spirit the words that Jesus gave them to speak (Jn 14:23). St. Paul says:
“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Cor 12:12).
Now let us turn to our Old Testament lesson for today. Elijah had just resurrected to life the dead son, again belonging to a widow (1 Kgs 17:9), of Zarephath. Could it be that he was her only son? We read:
And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, [Now listen carefully] “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth” (1 Kgs 17:23-24).
This miracle was resumé building on Elijah’s part so people would listen to the Word of the Lord he spoke. You and I have resumés that hang on our walls inside a picture frame. Jesus, as well as his apostles and prophets had living breathing resumés for the sole purpose of pointing people to the Word they spoke for faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17).
The crowds as well as the widow of Nain saw this living breathing miracle and …:
glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” (Lk 7:16).
Scholars are unanimous saying by this point in time Mary was herself a widow. The last time we hear of Joseph was some fifteen years earlier when Jesus was twelve and left-behind in the Temple. God’s only Son (Jn 1:14) whose mother was a widow chose to resurrect this only son of a widow as a sign of what was to come through God’s mighty act of salvation through the “greater” only Son of God. Little did the crowds understand what they confessed in saying, “A great prophet has *arisen* among us” (Lk 7:16) signs portending the resurrection on the third day.
With Jesus one like Moses has come. In Deuteronomy (18:15) Moses speaks about “a prophet like me” coming to deliver Israel (Gal 6:16). Certainly on the basis of miracles performed Moses stands head and shoulders above all Old Testament prophets. To fulfill the words of Moses Jesus performed an abundance of miracles so we could know he is the greater Moses who has redeemed us.
Contrast that to Muhammad as well as Joseph Smith who are distant from Moses. Joseph Smith was not a Hebrew, he was a Gentile and hence not one like Moses. Alvin Schmidt says of Muhammad, that, unlike Jesus, … [Muhammad] was not reared as a Jew, among the Jews. Stated another way, this verse [from Deut 18:15] says the predicted prophet would come “from your midst, from your brethren,” that is, from Jews, not Arabs. [endnote 1]
The greater Moses has come, he was born of Mary, and throughout his ministry and through this act of mercy at Nain he enhanced his resumé to point us to the greatest act mercy of all time: his being lifted up from the earth that he might draw all men unto himself (Jn 13:31). And in the Promised Land there will be no need of resumé building, miracles, or prayer; only praise and thanksgiving. For in the Promised Land He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).
 Alvin J. Schmidt, The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), 227.