There was a crowd around Jesus. By this time in his ministry, I think there was probably always a crowd around Jesus, except when he deliberately escaped. I mean, twelve men is a lot, and there were the women, and in addition there were the people who were more on the fringes. It’s like any group of people, there’s those who are in the centre, and those who are on the edges. It says a lot of Jesus that people were attracted to him, that large crowds did follow him. People wanted to hear what he said, to watch what he did, to see how he lived. People wanted to be near Jesus.
The crowd coming out of Nain, on the other hand, probably didn’t particularly “want” to be there – in the same way that none of us “wants” to be at a funeral. We all know those funerals that we “should” be at, the ones of those we loved, the ones of people loved by those we love, the ones where we have to show up because it is expected. It’s a very different attraction, and I suspect that the mood of the crowd coming out of Nain was very different from the crowd around Jesus.
The crowd around Jesus will have been filled with expectation, excitement, interest, curiosity – where will he go next, what will he do, who will he heal, what will he say?
The crowd accompanying the Widow of Nain, already bereaved when her husband died, now twice bereaved by her son’s death, were probably asking some similar questions about her – what would she do, where would she go, who would she ask for help? She was alone, in spite of the size of the crowd. And that crowd was probably not filled with expectation, excitement, interest, although maybe there was some curiosity there.
And so, the two crowds met, and Jesus acted. Jesus sees the grief of the widow, he sees her need and he acts.But the point is not that her pain and sorrow was brought to an end, the point is not even that life was restored. The point is that the act fueled the spread of the news about Jesus. The Gospel, the Good News, was alive, active, visible. Those crowds, the ones full of expectation and the ones with no expectation at all, both saw the same things, and reacted the same way. Everyone there witnessed the miracle of life restored. And everyone came away with a story to tell.
We’ve heard something of Paul’s story too in our Epistle. He reminds the Galatians of how he was converted, not by teaching or preaching, but by experiencing Jesus Christ, by encountering God crucified, died and risen. And his reaction was not only to be converted, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as his saviour, but to preach, to tell people his story.
Stories are powerful, stories change us when we hear them. When do you tell your story? Who hears it? Which crowd are you part of?
[For Ampfield only]
Yesterday I was part of the crowd here at St Marks. We gathered, on the face of it, to raise money for the operation of our parish church. But we did other things too. We were, I hope, a welcoming crowd, seeking connections with those who hold the church in some esteem, but who are perhaps on the fringes. There was an air of expectation and excitement. And in the races, in the competitions, in the conversations stories were told. The story of our own community was written just a little bit more, the connections beyond what some might see as an “inner church circle” were strengthened. People came to serve not just the church, but their local community. And never doubt, that by serving the community, we serve God.
Jesus knew that “his crowd” were not the only ones who needed the Good News, and so he reached out to those beyond. Paul experienced Jesus Christ, and was compelled to share the Gospel. The same is true for us as church in our community. – we are touched by God, and we are compelled to share the Gospel.
Who will you tell your story to? What will you say? How are you changed? How will that change others? May you always tell your story in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Proper 5 Trinity 2 Year C: Galatians 1:11-end (Paul’s response to Gospel and calling) Luke 7:11-17 (Jesus raises the Widow of Nain’s son from the dead)