Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Raising from the Dead

Our Scriptures this week are 1 Kings 17:18-24, Psalm 146, Galatians 1:11-24, and Luke 7:11-17.

I am most interested in the parallels between the passage from 1 Kings and Luke. Both tell the story of a widow's son being raised from the dead. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah has received help from a widow. She has fed him from her meager store of meal and oil which miraculously lasts for many days. Then when her son falls sick and dies, the widow blames Elijah. He takes the boy, stretches himself over the boy 3 times, and calls out to God. God hears him, the boy is brought back to life and returned to his mother. The widow then praises Elijah as a man of God. In the Luke passage, Jesus sees a the funeral procession of a widow's only son. He sees the mother and has compassion for her. He commands the dead body to rise up and the man comes back to life. The son is returned to his mother. The people being to glorify God and call Jesus a great prophet.

You can see the overlap in the stories: the dead are the only sons of widowed mothers, the man of God miraculously brings the son back to life, the son is returned to his mother, praises are sung. But the differences between the stories are telling too. You get the sense that Elijah is a little desperate, exclaiming, "O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?" And he has to work at it to bring the boy back to life- both prayers and physical actions are needed before "The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came to him again, and he revived." And note that it was because the Lord listened that the boy was brought back to life. Elijah is powerful because he can get God's attention through his prayers, not because he can work miracles all by himself.

In the story from Luke 7, Jesus doesn't have to work that hard at all. He doesn't even touch the dead man but only the funeral bier. (Look at the passage that proceeds this one and you see Jesus doesn't even have to be in the presence of the sick to heal them.) And Jesus does not pray to God, asking God to bring the man back. He just orders the man back to life--He has the power in his own right. Not only that, but his action of bringing the man back from the dead is not an act of desperation, but one of compassion upon seeing the mother's grief.

I think these differences are telling. Both men are hailed as prophets or men of God by the people who observe the miracles, but the subtle differences in the stories tell us that Jesus is not a prophet in the mold of Elijah. Jesus has a power all his own, one that is activated by his compassion for our suffering.

See you Sunday,

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