We have done a deep dive into the obscure miracle story in Luke 7. In our final look at this passage, I want to highlight the final phrase, shouted by the crowds who have just seen the most incredible thing: “A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people.”
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)
Why the NIV does not put a dozen exclamation points in those sentences is a mystery to me. I can only imagine the dancing and singing that was going on when that dead young man sat up and began talking.
Two things strike me about what the crowds are celebrating. The first is that they immediately connect this miracle to the story of their faith. “A great prophet has appeared among us!!!”
When Jesus tells this young man to wake up from the dead–and he does, they right away think of Elijah and Elisha who also raised the dead. They see the connection to the Great Prophet, the Messiah who was promised, who would come in the spirit of Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6).
I love how this little story ties into the grand narrative of the Bible. And I am impressed by this crowd, who lived with such anticipation of the Messiah, that as soon as they saw this miracle they knew what was going on: God is on the move!
The second thing that strikes me about the crowd is that they see this miracle as a sign of God’s presence among them: “God has come to help his people!!!” They are not alone. Luke tells us that this miracle happens in the village of Nain and as far as I can tell, this is the only time that Nain is mentioned in the whole Bible. Even in a quiet unknown place, Jesus shows up. His heart breaks for them. He helps them. He is there.
I read a lot as a kid, but I never actually read the story of the Wizard of Oz. I knew the basic story from movies and picture books, but I didn’t know the original. A few years ago, I came across something by John Eldredge, where he unpacks the story of the Tin Man from the book. Let me close this series by making a connection here.
In the original fairy tale version of The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Woodman had once been a real man who was in love with a beautiful girl and dreamed of marrying her. The witch hated their love, so she cast a spell on him so that one by one his limbs had to be replaced with artificial tin arms and legs.
But the tin limbs allowed him to work like a machine. So, in love with his girl and with an incredible ability to work, he was living a full life. But the witch hated their love, so one day, she made the Tin Man’s axe slip and he cut himself in half.
Although a tinner was able to put him back together, his heart went missing. So he says to Dorothy: “I lost all my love for the girl, and did not care whether I married her or not.”
The rest of the story is quite familiar. Caught in a rainstorm, the Tin Man rusts and gets stuck in one place, until Dorothy comes all the way from Kansas to rescue him and take him along on her journey to Oz. When he gets to Oz, what does he want more than anything else? A new heart.
This is what Eldredge writes:
“Notice there was a man who was once real and alive and in love. But after a series of blows, his humanity was reduced to efficiency. He became a sort of machine-a hollow man.” (Eldredge, Waking the Dead).
When we experience hard things–whether personal loss, cultural tensions, disconnection from our community, discouragement in our churches, it is easy to become like the Tin Man. Especially as church leaders, we can fill our lives by being busy, productive, efficient, and even very religious. But we are missing our heart.
But what a difference Jesus makes. I keep going back to this story in Luke 7 because in it I see all the glory of Jesus: his deep compassion for me and the people around me. His power to awaken me and his Church. And his presence with me. With us! Our great Prophet has appeared among us! God has come to help his people! He awakens us! He gives us a new heart!
As leaders in the Church, may we embody the hope, anticipation, and power of this message.
Director of North America Regional Teams
Resonate Global Mission
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