Reflections: The 16th Sunday after Trinity

Today’s Reading: Luke 7:11-17

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 3:1-29; Matthew 7:1-12

As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. (Luke 7:12)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Whenever I read Luke 7:12, I imagine that classic Dr. Seuss story called The Zax. It is a story encouraging children to compromise. You see, a North-Going Zax finds himself facing a South-Going Zax. Neither of them is willing to take a step east or west to let the other pass. And so, the two stand there, stubborn and stuck, until a highway is built around them!

Jesus and His disciples come to the city gate of Nain. Just as they are about to pass through, a funeral procession begins to come out of the gate. If Jesus was the compromising sort, He would realize that He must step aside to let the funeral procession pass. If He doesn’t, they cannot get out of the city and Jesus cannot get in.

Well, Jesus won’t compromise with death. When death faces Him, Jesus won’t take a step to the east or the west. So, what does this mean? Are the two equals, doomed to sit there, stubborn and stuck? Has an unstoppable force met an immovable object?

No. Death is not Jesus’ equal. During His earthly ministry, Jesus will restrain Himself and live under death’s reign, but in truth death is not His equal or superior. Jesus is the Son of God, after all. Death cannot take away Jesus’ life, although for our sake Jesus will hand Himself over to death.

As if to prove that death is not His equal, Jesus doesn’t move. Instead, He grabs the bier—before the funeral procession gets any ideas about backing up—and Jesus says, “Young man, arise.” The young man takes a breath, opens his eyes, and sits up. And there is nothing that death can do about it.

This confrontation between death and life is simply a prelude of what is to come. Like I said, Jesus will give Himself over to death and for a time it appears that Jesus is stuck. He’s not. Jesus lays down His life in order to take it up again. And He takes it up again, in order to share His life with you! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O Lord, we pray that Your grace may always go before and follow after us, that we may continually be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 16th Sunday after Trinity)

-Pastor Alexander Lange is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Albany, Oregon.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.