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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Raising the Dead

This is a reflection on Luke 7:11-17 (when Jesus raised the dead son of a widow) While, like any story it can be read from several angles I offer two.

Situation of Woman in Jesus’ culture.
1.   Much like thrid world women today, we cannot overlook the powerlessness of women in this time. According to the Social Science Commentary, a woman’s primary relationship was with her son, whom she relied on to provide for her in her old age. In general, husbands were a decade older than their wives. Widows were at high risk. She was “voiceless” and had no resources for survival. Tracing the root of the word widow we see how it was understood.
a.    Widow in Hebrew.   
                                                            i.            Alam (v)= to bind, to be mute (root word)
                                                         ii.            Alman (adj) = to be forsaken, widowed
                                                      iii.            Almanah (n) = widow
b.   Widow in Greek
                                                            i.            Chasma (n)= void, emptiness (root word)
                                                         ii.            Chera (n) = widow, a city without inhabitants
2.   In light of this, the one being saved from death is the mother. Jesus is responding foremost to her need; this is in keeping with Jesus’ radical acceptance and attentiveness to women. We recall James states that true religion is helping widows and orphans
3.   Theological Point The compassion of Jesus expresses God’s mercy. YHWH hears the cry of the poor. God intervenes to save. This is central theme of the Ancient Covenant text (OT), not that God is in control, but that God hears, responds and saves. This salvation is GRACE. Sometimes in response to our cries to God, sometimes just to our crying…
4.   Missional Point The church is the body of Christ here and now. Our job is to be “on the lookout” for those in need. We are empowered by Jesus to continue His ministry. What He has done for us we do for others. Our time, talent, treasure are the tools we have given to Jesus in this work. We should be most attuned to the “voice of the voiceless” and hear the cries of those “with no advocate, no ally, no hope.”

Death Defined
1.   What is Death in Bible?
a.    The normal end of life. The end meant the end, too. There was no expectation of going to heaven. One lived on in the descendents and a good name.(Remember, some 25% of babies died and about 50% of the ancient population perished before age 10. Most adults were dead before 40, though some reached their 70’s.)
b.   Death is also the opposite of life.
c.    Death is seen as a destructive power at work in us. Humans are made of perishable material (dirt) and are cut off from the tree of life. Mortality is under subjection to death. It is closely related to sin as both a cause and a consequence. The power of death is an enemy
d.   Oldest OT texts see the realm of death as the absence of God. The dead cannot praise God in many of the psalms. Over time it was understood (revelation unfolding) that God has power over even death.
2.    With a growing belief in resurrection as the ultimate defeat of death, a new horizon emerges in Jewish thought concerning the future of God’s kingdom. Recall conservative Sadducees rejected the liberalization of the Pharisees and their beliefs in resurrection.
3.   Death expands in meaning to spiritual death (called the Second Death in the Apocalypse) and now it has two meanings: end of life and eternal damnation.
4.   Death is also a metaphor for sin, damaged relationships, emotional/physical/spiritual brokenness. Every wound and illness is a taste of death’s nearness.
5.   theological point Jesus exercises God’s power to give life. He does it literally for the man and metaphorically for the woman. In fact, there is reason to believe that she is the focal point of the miracle (he gives the son back to his mother). What He will do for everyone at the end of time He is doing among us now as a sign and promise.
6.   missional point We are called to trusting faith, to proclaim our faith in Jesus’ power over death in word and deed. At every funeral we must treasure in our hearts that Jesus has the power to undo death. He can and does this temporarilly (the boy and his mom are both dead today) through recuscitation and ultimately and completely in the resurrection of the dead at end of time.
1.Jesus is the power of God. He does what God does. He is the author of life. WE can trust Him and should trust Him.
2. Jesus is the compassion (splagnkizomai) of God. Love is fundamentally other focused. It is gracious. It improves the condition of the other. God is good.
3. Jesus takes on uncleanness (touches the dead) this is a foretaste/prophetic act of the cross. Jesus "grabbed" the bier which made Him ritually unclean. He is Victor over death, but it costs Him everything, which is why love is hard.
4. Jesus is our model. This is the church’s blue print for being in the world. Because we can trust Jesus for everything, and He has the power and the desire to save, then we no longer have to live protecting ourselves from others. We are freed to let the life of God flow through us.
5. A disciple life restores hope to the hopeless, life to the dead and dying. It provides for the needs of others. It is active in seeking out ways to pronounce salvation in word and deed.
6. The joy such a revelation generates leads to gratitude and worship. That is why we turn heavenward with a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, lived within the perfect self gift of Jesus the Son.

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