Consider that iron when brought into contact with fire produces the effect of fire and fulfills its function. The flesh of Christ also has the power of giving life and annihilates the influence of death and corruption because it is the flesh of the Word, who gives life to all. May our Lord Jesus Christ also touch us that delivering us from evil works, even from fleshy lusts, he may unite us to the assemblies of the saints. — Cyril of Alexandria
Both our Old Testament and our New Testament texts this week feature the plight of widows with dead sons. To might be good to rehash the state of social services and social security systems in ancient times and midwestern culture: There was none. To this day in some parts of the world the retirement plan of couples of child bearing age is: Have a son and he will take care of it. In some far eastern countries, China being one, this has become expressed in law. One will get a visit from the authorities and a fine if it is discovered that one does not visit one’s parents enough. So, in short, once all sons die, the elderly, both father or mother, are basically doomed but mom has the extra problem that she lacks any shred of status or rights.
The widow in the Elijah story has a strange interpretation of the death of her son: “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” (1 K 17:18)
As we read of the widow in the Luke 7 we might note that she has no speaking parts but the lot of both widows might well be the same. As might be the interpretation laid upon the event of suffering the death of the only son, the only security remaining. Is this punishment for what we have done? Not just our death but the death of our living right before us so we might have to witness it as our punishment?Yet, few, I would venture to guess, are the headstones on which Paul’s words are emblazoned: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 6:23)
Unlike our story about the Centurion’s servant from last week, today the initiative is with Jesus. He is the one who spots the funeral procession. He is the one who stopes the carriers by touching the brier.
When he does that, a few things come into focus: He has the power over death or better, the power of life. Killing someone is simple but brining them back to life is, well, a little more than even complicated, to say the least. As Cyril says, coming into touch with him stops the procession into eternal oblivion and begins the process of becoming one with the fire. Jesus has the power of life over sin and eternal perdition. That can never be said enough.
It also deserves remembering that the early church saw it her mission to be the keeper of the widow and the orphan. (Ac 6) The march into misery that is exemplified here is put to an end in keeping with the biblical theme that the Lord of Hosts was the protector of the widow and the orphan.
Both are signs. Signs of God’s favor that is with his people and that works through his people.
Where does this story fit? Well, it really speaks to the people who will show up in minute. The ones who ask: Are you the one or should we continue to search. The signs, says Jesus, are with you already. The dead rise, the sick are healed and good news is being preached. (Lk 7:22) “God has looked favorably on his people!” (7:16) It continues to speak to those who would ask that question: “Is this faith real or do we keep searching?” Mother church answers that with her living and sometimes she answers badly and sometimes she answers brilliantly but she answers best when she stops any procession into death and darkness and brings life there, like her Lord did here.