How I Experienced New Life

 

Photo taken by Ted, and shared on Flickr

Photo taken by Ted, and shared on Flickr

I’ll never forget that day. The day I received a fresh start. The day I experienced new life.

When I arose that morning I never would have expected for it to end the way it did. I awoke with a pit in my stomach. The feeling you get when you know you have to walk through something – but you don’t want to. When you would rather do anything else on that day, but that which lies before you.

This wasn’t the first time I awoke with that pit. It was about five years ago when I first experienced that feeling. The day I buried my husband.

He was not old. He was far too young to die. A freak accident they said. Their explanations did little to ease my pain and my fear. What was I to do now – a young widow with children to care for? How would we survive? How could we possibly go on?

It was that day I no longer was called by my name – Rebekah. On that day – when everything changed – I simply became known as “the widow”.

But I did go on. I did. Every morning when I awoke, I remembered the words of YHWH, blessed be He: You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry.

God’s people – my people – they came around my family and supported and encouraged me. They did not abuse me. And God heeded my cry. And slowly, day by day, I survived and went on. And that awful pit receded a bit.

My children grew. Soon my daughters were married and joined their husbands’ families. They were happy and cared for. And my son, my only son, became a man. When his father died, he was but a boy. But now, he was a man. A man who loved and protected his mother. A man who promised to always do so.

And then, the unthinkable happened. Have you ever thought to yourself – maybe about your own situation, or someone close to you – how much can one person take? Why does life seem so unfair?

Me too.

My son – my only son – my only source of care and protection in this life – died.

And it was on that day when I had to finally say goodbye – when the little village of Nain gathered around to also say goodbye – it was that day we met him. Or I should say – he met us.

I had heard of a great prophet who was traveling around the Sea of Galilee. He was teaching the words of YHWH – calling back those who had fallen away and forgotten their God. They said the crowds that gathered around him grew larger everyday. And there were rumors of his powers – they said he could heal, cast out demons, and even challenge hatred with love.

I had never met this man. But around the well each day in our small village, and in the synagogue each Sabbath, I heard about him. It seems people were always talking about this man. Jesus.

Never did I expect to meet him. Certainly not on that awful day when I awoke with the pit in my stomach. But as I had heard in synagogue read many times before from the scroll of Samuel, God’s ways, although perfect, sometimes surprise and delight us:

This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? The God who has girded me with strength has opened wide my path. He made my feet like the feet of deer, and set me secure on the heights.

As I made my way out of Nain that day, leading the mournful crowd who carried the dead body of my son, I saw another crowd coming my way. They were not from Nain, but before I could greet them as was customary, he approached me.

He looked at me and saw me. It seemed his eyes could lovingly pierce through the brokenness in a way that no one else could. He knew. And he met my pain with compassion. He knew my story – and he cared. With tears in his eyes, he quietly told me, “Do not weep.”

Do not weep? Had any other person told me not to weep, I would have been angry. Not weep? I buried my husband five years ago, and today I bury my only son, and you tell me not to weep?

But his words did not provoke anger. They were encouraging and hopeful, and for the first time since I gazed upon my son’s dead body, the despair lifted a bit.

Do not weep?! It was as if he offered to carry some of that burden and pain. I can’t explain it, but joy welled up in my throat. For the first time, I smiled and dared to think about the tomorrow’s mercies and future. Do not weep!

If he had done nothing else, this interaction with the man I later found out was Jesus, would have been enough. Do not weep! In my suffering, I could endure. And as I endured, my identity of being a daughter of the LORD would grow, and I could have hope. And that hope would not fail, because I had encountered a love with Jesus like none other.

But that wasn’t all he said. He went over to my son. He touched my dead son, and the crowd stopped. “Young man,” he said. Oh he was so young. Such a life he had before him.

“Young man, I say to you, rise!” Rise? My people believed in a resurrection at the coming of the age – on the Day of the Lord – but now? Now was too early. Now was not possible.

And yet – he did rise. My son – the one who had died – sat up and immediately began talking. It was just as I had pictured the scene when Elijah raised the widow of Zarephath’s son from the dead. Or Elisha raised the son of the woman of Shunem.

But it was Jesus. And it was my son.

My son was alive. He had new life! He was asleep in the Lord, but now he was awakened. Alive. Again.

It was just as our prophet Isaiah had spoken: The Lord will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

And then Jesus turned to me, still showing the same love and compassion, and gave me back my son. The one who now lived.

That was the day when everything changed. It wasn’t just that my son was raised to life. It was an encounter – that would forever change everything. I had new life – life filled with hope, with love, with value. Everything that my people believed and prayed and strived for – was somehow caught up in this one man, this prophet, this Jesus.

Perhaps you too have a new life encounter with Jesus. Do you?

Perhaps you also mourn and weep and suffer. You awake with a pit in your stomach. With love and compassion, Jesus says, “Do not weep.”

Perhaps you have fallen asleep or dead – you have lost what it means to live. With hope, Jesus says to you, “Arise!”

Perhaps you have lost something – or had something unfairly taken from you – to that Jesus renews and restores, and says, “Here is your son.”

And to all of us who experience new life, he says, “Proclaim! Spread the news and glorify the Lord. In Jesus is new life!”

This first-person monologue about the Widow of Nain, found in Luke 7:11-17, was preached on Easter Sunday 2016 at Northwest Free Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. The raising of the widow’s son was the first of three resurrections that Jesus performed during his ministry. Some creative license was taken with the widow’s story, as Luke’s account provides only limited details.

  • Jay Plank

    Have not heard the story in this form before now. Thanks, Kristen!

    • Kristen

      Thanks Jay! I’ve only preached a couple first-person sermons, but they are a fun way to engage someone’s story from Scripture. Today’s post is the start of a 3-part series on Mary Magdalene. There’s a lot more to work with for her story – the Widow of Nain took a little creativity to expand into a full story.