The first story in our text today is one of the more familiar healing stories of Jesus’ ministry. The healing of the servant of a Roman Centurion is related in both Matthew and Luke. (Matt. 8:5) Contributing to the familiarity of this text is the fact that the words of the centurion (with minor alterations) are repeated everyday throughout the world as the mass is celebrated. People pray the “Centurion’s Prayer” prior to receiving the sacrament, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.”
The story shows the dramatic healing power and the authority of Jesus. Central to the story is the faith of the centurion, and the ability of Jesus to heal from a distance. As our text continues, Jesus moves from Capernaum to Nain, where he performs an even more dramatic miracle; one which shows the power that Jesus holds over both life and death. In stark contrast to the story of the centurion, no request is made of Jesus to do anything. Even more striking is the fact that this miracle is not the result of anyone’s faith in Jesus. The motivation for this miracle is the compassion of Jesus for a woman in the throes of grief. We are told that “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
Notice that as the story of the raising of the widow’s son in Nain begins, there are two large crowds headed toward each other. Jesus and his disciples have attracted a large group of people who are traveling with them, as they travel from Capernaum to Nain. As they approach the town, they meet a large crowd of mourners who are traveling out of the city. What is revealed in these converging crowds are two kingdoms on a collision course.
The crowd coming out of the city is following the funeral bier of a young man. He was the only son of his widowed mother. She now has nothing, for as a widow the expectation would have been for the son to care for her. This is a crowd of depression, darkness, despair and death. This crowd reflects the power of the prince of this word, Satan.
Marching toward this crowd is the large group that is following Jesus. The crowd with Jesus has been listening to his words of life and truth. They have witnessed his miraculous healing powers. This group is marching in the light, walking in joy and with hopeful expectation. It would not be possible for this crowd to be more different than the mourners they are about to meet. They are like matter and antimatter. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are about to collide.
When the two crowds meet, Jesus “touched the bier they were carrying him (the young man) on, and the bearers stood still.” With the touch of his hand, Jesus stops the entire procession coming out of the city. Then Jesus says, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” With this simple phrase he not only raised the young man to life, he also restored the life and hope of the widow. Even more dramatically, he destroyed the very reason for the existence of the other crowd. There was no more depression, darkness, despair and death. The kingdom of God in Christ Jesus was victorious.
The same Jesus who stopped the funeral procession with a touch and drives back the powers of darkness and death by the power of his word, abides within you. Each day when you go out into the world there are two kingdoms on a collision course. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we carry Jesus with us into the world, and his light rolls back the darkness before us. The kingdom of this world is halted by his presence, and the kingdom of God marches on. (In us, with us and through us.)
“When Worlds Collide” (1951) is a science fiction thriller that has the destruction of the Earth, with a happy ending…rated 4 stars.