Adult Object Lesson: The Widow of Nain


The Value of A Miracle

Luke 7:11-17; 1 Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30

Today’s object is a dollar bill or an assortment of paper money of different values.

Today’s Gospel mirrors an Old Testament miracle in 1 Kings 17:17-24.

In the New Testament, Jesus raises the only son of a widow. In the Old Testament, Elijah performs a similar miracle.

There are differences in the stories.

Elijah resurrects the dead son of a widow who has shown kindness to him. The widow is wracked with guilt. She holds her son to her bosom and examines her soul for her sinfulness that cost her the life of her son.

We don’t know if similar thoughts were going through the mind of the widow of Nain. But we can guess that she was feeling just as desperate.

In the New Testament story, Jesus is a stranger passing by who senses her distress. The widow is not looking to him for help. She is wrapped up in her own misfortune. Jesus sees through her agony and intrudes on a funeral procession. He raises the dead young man. The son sits up on the funeral bier and speaks as his body is being carried to a tomb. He was probably wrapped in a funeral shroud, his gray skin coated with fragrant oils and dusted with spices. He is dead beyond doubt. But he sits up and speaks. Dramatic!

What value is there in these two miracles? Hold up your paper money and ask your congregation to answer this question in today’s terms. What is the value of a resurrected life?

There is a dollar value (denari value). The social order of the day provided no Social Security. The son was the provider for the mother—the only provider. As she grieved for her son, she faced destitution.

There is value in the fact that she need no longer question her sin. Whatever divine power had judged her and taken her son from her had just reprieved her. Foreshadowing of a resurrection yet to come! Every writer knows the value of foreshadowing!

There is value to the young man and society. He will earn a living, marry and enjoy his own family, and contribute to society.

But the focus on this story is the value of the miracle itself. Each story has a similar ending.

The Elijah story is more personal and private.

So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

When Jesus resurrects the son of the widow of Nain the value of the story is in that it is witnessed by the village. The village is joined in grief.  Together, they witness a miracle.

The value of that miracle begins with economics and ends with “buzz.”

Buzz leads to belief. Belief leads to faith.

Here are verses 16-17.

Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

How do we look today look upon our works as a community of God. Do we measure them for their monetary value? Do we measure them by their ability to witness?

This is an important question for today’s church as we increasingly rely on the funding of secular programs to do good things in our society.

Our choices are often driven by economics. A church’s dollar seems to go farther when it is pooled with government dollars or well-funded and publicized not-for- profits.

But missing from these good works is an important value that has a less obvious value monetarily. The work of the church can be a compelling witness beyond the value of the deed. The work of the church can bring people to faith. Faith-driven people can do wonders, practically and economically.

You can finish with the closing verses of today’s Psalm.

Psalm 30:11-12

You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

photo credit: via photopin cc