Reflections from The Hill – In The Midst of the Valley – Luke 7.11-17
From time to time, events in The Bloke’s Story really stir the pot. Take the business of dying, for example.
Apart from his own Up-He-Came, there are just three occasions in The Good Book when The Bloke intervenes in someone’s death: his mate Lazarus: Jairus’ daughter; and the event in today’s Gospel Reading about a dead man, his mother and a funeral procession.
Maybe it’s something of a surprise that this list of three is as short as it is but it is full of significance, as we shall see.
I don’t suppose people back in Those Times felt any different from the way people feel today when someone shuffles off the coil, especially if the deceased one is a close relative.
What we hang out for in grief today is a sense of peace, a chance to grieve and to join in, as much as we can, with the loved one’s final journey. In one way or another, while cultures may do it slightly differently, these would be common expectations.
So it’s a bit more than a shock to the system when The Bloke interrupts a funeral procession. In any culture, even now, interrupting a funeral is a huge violation of propriety; you just don’t do it.
I wish someone had told the local police about propriety at funerals before an all-too-eager constable began to breathalyse the whole cortege on one sad day back in my home town. I believe he was posted out of harm’s way very soon after.
For The Bloke, well, he just added ritual uncleanness to his list of blunders by reaching out his hand and touching the bier. That little action was about as rude as what Constable Plod did.
The one difference between The Plod and The Bloke was that the dead person sat up and spoke. It’s not surprising to read that some of the onlookers were speaking by then as well.
It’s interesting and educational for us to recognise that The Bloke did what he did out of compassion for a person in need, out of someone else’s broken heart.
He wasn’t protesting against death and he wasn’t making a big song-and-dance about death. It was Jairus’ devotion, Mary’s tears and the Widow’s desperation that motivated him, nothing else.
Of all the people who The Bloke met, of all the people he prayed with, touched, preached to or just walked past, there were only three who were brought back from the finality into which they’d gone.
That challenges me. It challenges me because I’ve got this lingering belief that, as a Christian, I’m saved from all that. Healed and saved from death. It’s not huge in my array of life beliefs but it’s there just the same.
In those occasional madnesses, I can sometimes get to a point where I reckon that all I need do is shoulder my way in a bit closer to Him and He’ll pick me.
It ain’t like that, though, is it? What it is, however, looks as if The Bloke is pushing us to see that death is not the Spectacular Evil we think it is but is an ordinary, almost banal, happening in life.
The three people He raised from the dead will die again. No resurrection next time. Next time, death is final and permanent.
If you and I are to know the wonder of life in the midst of death, then somehow we’ve got to see that life is not about being a spectator, watching death proceed to the cemetery or wailing at the doorway.
Life is about being human, about having a heart that breaks, about knowing the difference between those decisions that increase the power of evil and those which restore life in the valley of the shadow of death.
When The Bloke is nearby speaking and touching and healing even the broken hearts, we’ll know we’re on a winner.