These stories of the dead brought back to life image God’s awesome power. Those who witness Jesus raising the son of the widow in Nain are fearful in its presence. “Fear seized all of them…” But, as with the widow whose son Elijah raises from the dead, the ultimate response of those who experience God’s life-giving compassion is to give the credit to the force that is beyond what we can comprehend. The woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God…”
Luke 7:11–17 deals with the raising of the widow's son at Nain, a story that is unique to Luke's Gospel. It is very similar to the story in the Old Testament reading for today, with parallels in structure and theme. A noticeable difference is that in this passage, there is a crowd present that is lacking in Elijah's raising of the widow's son. This crowd gathers in support and sympathy for the death of the only son of the widow of Nain. A similar difference occurs in the proclamation of a prophet in the midst: while the crowd proclaims Jesus as prophet, only the widow is present to proclaim Elijah as a man of God. Later texts in Luke will emphasize Jesus as the One who fulfills the words of all the prophets who have gone before him. Verse 17 testifies to the news of a compassionate Christ who would bring back a widow's only son. When read in context of the whole Gospel of Luke, Jesus is not merely a resuscitator—he is the One who triumphs over death and brings newness of life. – Sky McCracken
1 Kings 17:17-24
It may be tempting to get distracted by the intricate story of Elijah’s experiences being fed by a raven and sent into a drought-strained land, and if it serves the focus of these texts, so be it. But the lectionary in the 1 Kings reading zeroes in on the raising of the boy in order to emphasize power of God’s word as it comes to reside in the world of the finite––in the prayer, actually, of Elijah.
God's power and Elijah's prophetic-ness are finally tested as the widow who feeds Elijah and welcomes him into her home now finds her son dying and ultimately without breath. She finds herself understandably frustrated with Elijah, even though she simultaneously recognizes him as a man of God. As Elijah ministers to the boy and cries out to God, the son breathes again. Elijah's role as a prophet is further strengthened, and Elijah's God—the God of Israel—is not only the LORD of the rain, but is also the LORD of life. – Sky McCracken
Paul makes it clear that his revelation is. . . a direct revelation from Christ, which most authorities agree is a testimony informed from his Damascus road experience, when God “was pleased to reveal his Son to me.” This was a radical departure from his former life of being a persecutor of Christians as well as a leave-taking of his ancestral tradition as a Pharisee (as well as the son of a Pharisee). More radical is Paul's prophetic call to proclaim Christ to the gentiles, which again came not in discernment with any human being but came from God who had ordained him to the task before he was born. He is an apostle, as he claims at the beginning of Galatians: sent not by human commission or authority, but by God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Whether one believes Paul was called or converted upon meeting the risen Christ, one homiletical task is to explore Paul's call/conversion and how an authentic encounter with the power and grace of God can change us regardless of our past or present manner of lifestyle or conscience into a life of Christ. – Sky McCracken
Here again is a direct invitation to the preacher to proclaim the power of God’s Word. What we receive when we gather for worship is the very power of God––present in our midst through scripture, preaching, prayer, and singing––to create strength from weakness, renewal from despair, life instead of death. Look at what God’s Word accomplishes in each of the readings for this day.
Sky McCracken is a United Methodist Church pastor and District Superintendent in Paducah, Kentucky. His blog is at revdsky.blogspot.com.
Homily Service 43, no. 3 (2010): 13-22.