Third Sunday after Easter Morning Prayer (8 May 2022)
Elijah was very powerful prophet in Israel and could confidently proclaim that he stood before the Lord God. King Ahab and the queen Jezebel led the people to worship idols. Baal was the most common idol in and around Jerusalem. Baal was a Canaanite deity represented by a ram or bull. Israelites knew that the LORD Jehovah created the whole world and blessed them. But when they started worshipping idols, God spoke through prophets. He called them to repentance and to turn to their LORD God. But the people did not listen to the LORD God. Baal was considered as the god of harvest and fertility. So prophet Elijah told the king, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). The LORD God wanted to reveal the truth to Israelites again. When prophet Elijah told these words before king Ahab, the LORD God shut the doors of heaven. There was no rain or even a dewdrop in Israel. There was a great famine in Israel. The palace and the people put their trust and belief on the god of harvest and fertility. Their belief went in vain. The LORD God shut the rain and the harvest for three years. But the people’s eyes were not opened. The famine got worse. King Ahab knew about the LORD God but he chose to listen to his wife and please her. He knew that the LORD God shut the blessings of heaven because of idolatry. But he also blamed the prophet for the famine. He is not turn from his wicked ways and please the LORD God.
Today’s sermon is based on both our Old and New Testament readings from 1 Kings 17 and St. Luke 7. Both the passages are familiar to us. 1 Kings 7:17 reads, “And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him”. The verse says ‘After these things’. This incident happened when there was a great famine in Israel. God sent Prophet Elijah to the brook Cherith. There he was fed by ravens and drank of the brook. When the brook dried up, God said, “Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee”. When Prophet Elijah reached the gates of the city, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked her for water. As she was going to fetch it, he asked for food. The woman replied, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die”. She had no source to continue living her life after that meal. Prophet Elijah replied, “Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 17:13, 14). When she did as Elijah said, the LORD God was true to His promise. The barrel of meal did not go waste and the cruse of oil did not fail. We don’t know how long prophet Elijah stayed in the widow’s house.
But after this, the widow’s son fell sick and there was no breath left in him. She asked prophet Elijah, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” Prophet Elijah carried her son to the upper room and cried unto the LORD God. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah delivered him to his mother. “And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.”
In the New Testament reading passage, we read about Jesus Christ performing a miracle and raising a widow’s son from the dead. Jesus went to the city called Nain with His disciples. When Jesus came near the gate of the city, He saw a dead man being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, who was a widow. Jesus had compassion on her and said unto her, Weep not. He then touched the bier and said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. Immediately the dead sat up and started to speak. Jesus delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
The common event in both the readings is a dead son of a widow being risen from the dead. I would like to meditate on those involved in these two miracles.
The Lord God: When the famine came, the Lord God fed Elijah. Challenging a king was not an easy task, but because Elijah did as the Lord commanded, the Lord took care of him all through the famine. When the widow obeyed the prophet, the Lord blessed her house. The meal and the oil did not get empty because it was a real blessing from heaven. When Elijah cried out to the LORD God, He honoured his plea and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. The Lord God used prophet Elijah as a tool to show the difference to the king about His chosen people.
The Widow of Zarephath: The widow did not know anything about the prophet. A stranger asks for water and she immediately went to fetch it. When he asks for bread, she tells of her situation with a prefix “As the Lord thy God liveth”. When Elijah replies in the name of “the Lord God of Israel”, she simply obeyed. The LORD God had prepared her to feed the prophet. She accepted the prophet in her house and fed him. By this time, she knew Elijah was a man of God and enjoyed heavenly blessings. But when her son was sick , she did not bring her son to Elijah. When her son passed away, she asked Elijah, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?”
Elijah: One of the most powerful prophets of Israel, Elijah fearlessly told Ahab the Lord’s message. He was not afraid of authority. He had to go through tough situations, but he endured it all for the Lord God. When the Lord asked him to go to Zarephath, he did not question. He simply obeyed. When the widow’s son died, he cried out to the Lord God until he received an answer from the Lord.
The Widow of Nain: The widow mentioned in this passage did not expect Jesus to rise her son from the dead. She must have lost all hope in life and was on the way to bury her dead son.
Jesus: In the passage Luke, we read that Jesus was moved with compassion. He told the weeping mother “Weep not” and raised her son from the dead.
We can see some similarities between Prophet Elijah and Jesus Christ. Prophet Elijah is considered as the precursor of the LORD Jesus. Like Jesus, Elijah also performed many miracles. Prophet Elijah had the word of God. Jesus came as the WORD. Elijah carried the dead son to the upper room, cried unto the LORD God and raised him from his death. Jesus went to the upper room to celebrate Passover meal, prayed and blessed the bread and wine. Elijah brought the dead son to life. Jesus gave his life to save us all from everlasting death. When the son was brought to life, the widow of Zarephath witnessed “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” When Jesus brought the son alive, the people glorified God saying “That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.”
The Lord God who fed Elijah is true to His promises even today. If we do as He commands, He is faithful and just and will take care of us. How is our attitude today? Are we following what the Lord tells us like Elijah and the widow of Zarephath? Or are we looking at situations and doing only what is convenient for us? Are we pleasing the Almighty Father like Elijah? Or are we pleasing those important to us like king Ahab? We are all enjoying heavenly blessings in our lives. When the situation is not comfortable or favourable, do we turn to the Lord in prayer like Elijah? Or are we blaming others like the widow of Zarephath? When we cry out to our Lord, He will answer us. Our lives and the situation that we are may be hopeless like the widow of Nain. But if Jesus walks into the situation, even a hopeless situation will receive life. When people around us are going through tough situations, are we moved with compassion? Do we support them? We may not be able to do much, but are we at least saying “Weep not”? Are we telling or reminding them about the Jesus who can bring the dead alive? Jesus raised the son only when those who carried the bier stood still. There may be times when we have to be still for Jesus to work miracles in our lives. Are we willing to be still in the presence of the Lord? Or are we trying to help the Lord Jesus by doing what we think is right? Jesus came and gave His life for us. He also rose again from the dead. Are we reflecting the resurrected saviour in our lives? How is our life today? Do others witness saying we are men and women of God?
1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” The Lord expects us to obey Him in all situations. Hebrews 13:15 and 16 read, “Therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” The Lord expects us to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanks with our lips in all circumstances. He expects us to do good when we are able. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. When we take everything to our Lord in prayer, He will answer and do His will in our lives.
I pray we obey our Lord Jesus and our Lord takes care of us even when the situations are unfavourable and challenging. I pray we offer praise and thanksgiving continually with our hearts and lips and take our petitions to our Lord. I pray we stay still in the Lord’s presence and allow Him to work His miracles in our lives. Above all, I pray we live to witness the Lord who laid down His life for us. Amen!