Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, 10/2/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity16 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
Because this is such a familiar story to us, it might be easy to read over certain words; especially if those words don’t seem to impact the story.
But we should avoid that. The Holy Spirit did not merely inspire the sense of the Scriptures, i.e. the message, but also, the particular words employed. Which, among other things, means that the words matter – even a word which functions to draw attention away from itself.
“Behold,” Luke writes. Look at this. Consider it. Meditate on it. Something wonderful is happening.
It’s such an important word – if you would actually “behold,” you would see: it calls your attention to God’s glorious works so brilliantly, that you could sum up the Gospel just using the sentences where it appears in Luke.
After telling Zechariah about the upcoming birth of John the Baptist, and after being questioned by Zechariah on the logistics of it all, Gabriel tells him, “[B]ehold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:20)
It’s not a great start, but, behold, it gets better.
The angel said to Mary, “[B]ehold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31)
And she later celebrated with Elizabeth, singing, “[B]ehold, from now on all generations will call me blessed…” (Luke 1:48) And she was not alone. Mary’s joy was to be shared:
For the angel said to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
That Savior, that son of David born in the city of David, would comfort those who were beat down and dismissed, like those first shepherds who came to visit. In his most famous sermon, Jesus foresaw the persecution of his disciples, and said, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…” Luke 6:23
And then, as the cross drew near, at the Mount of Transfiguration “Behold, two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah… “(Luke 9:30)
Jesus would later cast these disciples out into the word with a warning: “Behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:3)
Of course, the wolves would get to some of them. Jesus said, “Behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me at the table.” (Luke 22:21)
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Being only in chapter seven, some of that has not yet occurred. You get the point, I’m sure. So, behold this strange and awesome sight.
As [Jesus] 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…
At this point in Luke, a resurrection is the only prophetic miracle Jesus hasn’t done. And it’s a big one. It is the ultimate statement that he is the final end-times prophet; that he is the fulfillment of the OT prophetic hope; and that the messianic age has dawned. This, indeed, is something to behold.
What is demonstrated here is not only that Jesus is the Messiah, and that He has power over death, but that He alone has power over death; because this man was, behold, dead.
Like Marley in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, he was dead: to begin with. There was no doubt whatever, about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner… He was dead as a door-nail.
He had in him no reason or strength by which he could believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord, or come to Him. He had no reason or strength by which to pray, or breathe, or hope, or dream, or trust. And so, behold, nothing is said of his faith.
This work belongs entirely to God alone. Jesus speaks the man to life. Jesus speaks breath into his lungs. Jesus speaks him into new life. And so, this man begins to speak as well.
And behold, Jesus gave him to his mother.
Of course, Jesus is merciful. But, behold, there is something more here. You know by now that with this miracle, Jesus is re-committing Himself to the cross. For without His death and resurrection, there is no resurrection for anyone else.
What Luke would have us behold is this: that Jesus is there to trade places with this young man. Behold, Jesus would be led out of the gate of the city to Golgotha. Behold, His mother would weep, as the only-begotten Son, her Son, is taken away. Behold, a considerable crowd, outwardly pious, mourning and wailing.
And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
Three days later, being perplexed because they couldn’t find Jesus in the tomb, “[B]ehold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel… Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:4-6)
And so, behold, the only-begotten Son is returned to His mother, before ascending to His Father.
Finally, of course, that resurrection had to find its way to you. And so, at the Ascension Mount, Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
Behold, Jesus has called you out of death and spoken you to life.
Behold, Jesus has restored you to a family – the household of faith.
Behold, by belonging to Jesus, you also belong to one another.
Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.
Brothers, behold your sisters. Wives, behold your husbands.
You may weep and mourn over the evils we suffer in this world. But you will not always be weeping. Behold, You have been restored to God, and to one another – now and in the age to come.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.