Signpost for Sunday 5 June 2016: 1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24); Psalm 146; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17.
The longest echo in the world was recorded in 2014 by scientists in Scotland. It lasted 112 seconds. Our Old Testament readings this week are there for us to hear the echoes that last for hundreds of years to reverberate in the Gospel – a widow, her son, a miracle and an extraordinary ‘man of God’. They’re not just long, they’re very loud echoes.
Beyond that though, the raising of the son back to life is what impresses us and the crowds so much that they can’t help spreading the news throughout Judea.
The ever-helpful John Petty points out “careful readers will note that the story is not set in Judea is not the venue of the story. The story takes place in Galilee, yet news of the ‘great prophet’ Jesus who has power over death is first said to go to Judea, the place where he will be killed.”
The suggestion here is that the author of Luke wants his readers/listeners to put two and two together and infer that Judea is ignorant of whom Jesus really is.
But concentrating on that echo of the miracle of bodily resurrection here tends to distract readers and listeners like you and me from other significant things about this story.
The main one being that the widow is by definition of the times about to lose her place in society. Any woman without a husband or a son had to live outside the mainstream of the community and struggled to survive without any means of supporting herself.
Far from seeing her as an outcast though, Jesus sees her, is moved with compassion for her and he speaks to her (v13). Then come the important words of verse 15: after raising the man from the dead ‘Jesus gave him to his mother.’
Not only has Jesus raised a man from the dead (miracle to impress the crowd) he has rescued this woman from becoming one of the ‘poor’ – he has brought her good news (as Luke is doing for his gentile audience).
So what about Galatians? Well, this is Paul’s impressive CV, his Linked In page you may well think, and it is. But there’s also an echo of some good news for those of us who, like Paul, have missed out on meeting Jesus in the flesh: finding our own way to understand the meaning of the life and death of Jesus Christ can take us to some very interesting places, both physically and spiritually.