She was invisible.
Because she was invisible, the widow would soon have nothing.
I am not sure that anyone else around her realized this; but while she walked beside the men carrying the body of her dead son…weeping bitterly for her son…she also wept for herself. You see, her son’s death also meant her own death.
No, this is not the part of the world where she would need to jump into the fire along with her dead relative, though she might want to. Nor, will she be put on a floating iceberg and sent out to sea to meet her fate. The fate of this lone widow will not be that dramatic.
She will simply go home after the funeral, find the last bit of money and food that her son had left her, and slowly die from starvation and neglect because there is no one left to care.
Her husband always saw her, with his beautiful eyes and strong presence. With him, she was not invisible. But, he is no longer around.
Her son always held true to the commandment, “Honor your Father and your Mother,” but he no longer sees her either.
Her problem is that she has faded into the shadows of the world, and she will no longer be noticed. Is that not what we all fear in old age, that we will be forgotten?
Given the circumstances, is it possible for things to get worse? As anyone who has lived a real life can attest, yes, of course things can get worse.
In the middle of the funeral procession, the traditional movements are disrupted by a man from the crowds. As if things were not bad enough, now even the funeral will be sent into the gutters with the lunatic ravings of an approaching itinerant preacher.
This is like when your cousin Earl stands up in the middle of the funeral service, interrupts the pastor, and asks “If anyone today has accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, please come forward!”
The man walks up, and quite literally stops the funeral procession in its tracks and does the unthinkable. He reaches above the funeral bier and touches the dead body.
Now understand that this act is disgusting on a couple of levels for the people of the ancient world. There is the interruption of ritual, of course, which is disgusting socially, but touching the dead body is enough to send you into dry heaves.
It is like intentionally touching a piece of road kill. Everyone looks away immediately, except for one person. One person does not look away. One person always sees, even when others do not. One person does not let people get lost in the shadows.
Let me quote the text at this point because I want to get it right:
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
The Lord saw her. The Lord loved her. The Lord provided for her by giving back her son. Two people were brought back from the dead that day, all because the Lord “saw her.”
With the Lord, no one gets lost in the shadows for good. The Lord sees, the Lord loves, and the Lord saves.
That could be the end right there. I would feel confident in finishing up this reflection right now if it were not for a confirmation student.
When this bible story was read in a confirmation class some years back, the students were asked whom they identified with in the story. Some said the woman of course, others said Jesus, or one of Jesus’ disciples, or simply one of the crowd watching, but one beautiful young woman piped up smartly, “I think I’m the dead guy.”
Of course everyone laughed, and she did too, but only after a quarter second’s hesitation.
In the world of caring for others, it is those quarter of a second hesitations that matter. They are the gaps that reveal truth hiding below the mask that is presented for all in the world to see. That quarter second’s hesitation revealed that she really did identify with the dead guy.
After confirmation, she was asked if she was serious about being the dead guy. She stood silent for a while, deciding if it would be OK to take off that mask that protects exposure of the truth.
She took off the mask and spoke, “I feel bad, because I let people down…not just a little, but a lot. Sometimes I’m not there when people need me. No that’s a lie, a lot of times I’m not there when people need me. So, it’s true, I’m the dead guy.”
If more followers of Christ would be willing to take off their own masks more often, girls like her would know that she was not alone.
A lot of times, we feel like the dead guy. We know that we should rise and help, but we do not. No let me revise that; we know that we should rise, rise to the occasion, rise up in our standards, rise up to the challenge, or simply rise and be heard, but we cannot. We are dead. We have lost the spark of life. We are the dead guy and we cannot rise up to help our mother, or friend, or neighbor.
“As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Now rise, you have been healed by Christ. Rise and walk.”
These were the words spoken while hands rested on the forehead of the teen. The words were healing ones that fed a dead soul. The words were healing ones that allowed a smirk to come upon a dead face. The words were healing ones that allowed the teenage woman to skip away and be who God was calling her to be.
There are people out there who need you to not be dead.
I am reminded of a friend during my last year of seminary who…in the middle of class…stopped us all in what we were doing and said, “There are people in a church somewhere, praying right now that we might come and serve them.”
It was a remarkable revelation.
It is just as true for you. There are people praying right now that you will come. But, dead people cannot walk. So, find healing in the love of Jesus Christ. Christ invites you to come, be healed, and rise.