I am not a morning person. I wish I was. I have learned to get up early out of necessity, but I don’t like it and I still need a bit of an onramp to get my day going. Of course, God in His wisdom, had me marry a bright and cheery morning person. Not easy.
More serious than my sluggish body in the morning is my battle with a sluggish spirit. I don’t think that I am alone in this. Coming out of Covid, many of us have struggled to find our spiritual footing with God. If that’s you, I think this little miracle story might just be for you.
In this series, we have taken a deep dive into this obscure story from Luke 7, the raising of a widow’s son. Last week we looked at the profound compassion of Jesus toward this grieving mother expressed in a powerful Greek word.
This week, I want to highlight a second Greek word in this story that I find very hopeful. It was pointed out to me by my friend George DeJong, who leads wonderful study tours to the Middle East through his ministry, Under the Fig Tree.
14 Then [Jesus] went up and touched the bier they were carrying [the dead man] on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” -Luke 7:14-16 (NIV)
The word occurs twice in this passage. The first time, Jesus uses it as he speaks to the dead young man. As Luke describes it, Jesus walks up to the funeral stretcher and says, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” He uses the Greek word: egeiro, which means literally, “wake up.”
Jesus treats the young man as if he is not dead, but asleep. He tells the dead man to wake up, and he does. We are also told that as soon as the young man wakes up, he starts to talk, which seems like a funny detail. He is most definitely a morning person! And don’t you wonder what he said?
But the word is used once more in the passage. Luke tells us that when the crowds see what Jesus has done, they are filled with awe and praise God: “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” (vs 16)
That word, “appeared”? It is the same word. Egeiro. Wake up. Literally, the people were shouting with joy: “a great prophet has awoken among us.”
So this passage is about two awakenings. The first is the young man, on his way to his grave, woken up by Jesus and returned to his mother. And his awakening leads to this second awakening.
The crowds of people wake up to the presence of a prophet in their midst. This very ordinary-seeming man has turned out to be absolutely remarkable, able to turn heartbreaking funerals into celebrations of life.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the NT writers adopted this word, egeiro, as their word for “raised from the dead.” For example, the angels said to the women at Jesus’ empty tomb: “He is not here. He has awakened (risen)!” (Luke 24:6)
Here in Luke 7, near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the people had no idea what they were saying when they shouted that a prophet had awoken among them. But we who know the whole story know what it means. Jesus is awake! He is alive! Which means that as our awakened Saviour, He has come to help everyone experience their own awakening.
I would say that just like some people are morning people and some aren’t, the same is true spiritually. There are classic sudden awakenings like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. These make great stories from the stage. But, there are also many awakenings that take months, years, maybe even decades to unfold. Less exciting from the outside. But still real and miraculous.
As with ordinary waking up, spiritually there are also morning people and night hawks and some in between. I love what the theologian NT Wright writes:
“But the point is that there’s such a thing as being asleep, and there’s such a thing as being awake. And it’s important to tell the difference.” (Simply Christian, 205).
My question to you today would be: how would you describe the state of your spirit? Are you awake or asleep?
As someone called to church leadership, I know that I regularly need to experience the miracle of Jesus’ healing touch and words of awakening. I need to intentionally receive his compassion toward my spiritual lethargy and invite him to speak life to my spirit: “Kevin, wake up!”
As you reflect on this profound miracle, I urge you to take the time you need to ask Jesus to embrace you and speak a miraculous word of awakening to your spirit. And isn’t this also a good prayer for your church?
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So very true. We personally can fall asleep with our faith as well as congregationally. We all need that ‘morning’ coffee to help us ‘wake up’.