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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 7:1–17

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country. (NRSV)

The two miracles recounted in this passage of scripture tell of Jesus’ power over disease and death. In the first story, Jesus heals the slave of a centurion. In the second story, Jesus brings to life a widow’s son. In both stories, Jesus is moved by compassion to make someone well.

Ironically, Jesus conducts miracles that bring life to others at the same time that he will begin to speak of his own impending death. It is no wonder that Jesus’ followers paid more attention to his life-giving deeds than to his death-forecasting words. If Jesus had power great enough to heal disease and raise people from death, why wouldn’t he use this same power to save himself? I imagine that Jesus’ disciples, once they eventually fully grasped his death, raised this very question. How could they make sense of Jesus’ inconsistency?

To be sure, there is inconsistency between how Jesus handled the suffering and death of others and the suffering and death that he himself underwent. And yet, as far as Jesus was concerned, he was being consistent, absolutely faithful, to what really mattered to him, for in every case, Jesus acted out of compassion. Compassion was what directed his use of power. The compassion that moved Jesus to heal and resurrect others was the same compassion that led him to suffer and die upon the cross.

God, there are many things in life that do not make sense to us. When we are confused and confounded, call us to look again to you. Let the love with which you lived and died illuminate our lives and reveal what we need to know. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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