God only speaks the Word and creation happens —
Creation, God’s commanding performance… a commanding word is spoken and all things that were not, suddenly are… Genesis One…
“Let there be light!” – and there was light! Something from nothing…
God makes the impossible possible with only a Word.
God’s is a commanding Word of authority and power — and the power of –
the WORD- is remarkable, immeasurable, AMAZING!
And Yahweh doesn’t mince words when God speaks. The Prophet Isaiah records the self-declared authority and effectiveness of God’s Word:
10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
It’s as though God is speaking and then saying… with conviction, “And I mean it!!!”
No doubt… a commanding performance… when God “speaks the Word!”
Commanding performances… they are IMPRESSIVE… whenever and wherever God speaks and acts it is impressive. But God is not the only One who performs in a commanding, admirable, and transformative way… God doesn’t limit commanding performances to God’s own speaking! There are two commanding performances to acknowledge, even applaud in our Gospel stories today. The first is the commanding performance of faith by the centurion. In fact, his performance of faith is so impressive even Jesus stands up surprised, — AMAZED! — But it’s not just his faith that is so amazing… To begin there is his extraordinary compassion, he feels for his valued slave who is “ill and close to death.” Unusual for a macho man to have such a heart…let alone show it.
And then there is his lavish generosity… he “built for the Jews their Synagogue,”
which is to say he has a heart not only for his valued slave… but this man’s man even
has a heart for those who most would consider his enemies. And then there is his astounding self-awareness and humility. He knows his place in relation to Jesus, declares himself “not worthy to have Jesus come to –let alone into- his house.” Powerful as he is, there is no presumption of even equality –let alone an air of superiority.
What is not to like about this invader, occupier, and enforcer of Rome? While everything about this worldly enemy of Israel should be offensive, everything about him is admirable… every action is gracious, every word is powerful, every feeling is humble and true!
And that brings us back to his AMAZING faith…
The centurion had SUCH FAITH—
— to risk requesting Jesus (a Jew) to heal his treasured slave.
He had faith— to risk Jesus had the authority and the power to heal.
He had faith— Jesus could accomplish this healing by “only speaking the word.”
And he had such faith— to risk Jesus would grant his heart-felt request —even from a distance, even though he was himself “unworthy.”
AMAZING!?! Jesus Himself was amazed — as He says, because “not even in Israel (among God’s chosen children— had He) found SUCH FAITH!”
What a commanding performance of faith… it commands both admiration and respect. We might even find SUCH FAITH intimidating, hard to believe, impossible not to envy!
This pagan outsider, this unclean occupier who has never even seen Jesus —believes in Him. WOW! AMAZING!!! It’s like… from out of this world amazing!
From where does SUCH FAITH come?
There must be something of God in it.!. Luke doesn’t even find it necessary to have Jesus speak the word… we are left to surmise He did, even if only in His mind or spirit, and the slave is found in good health. What is implied is that Jesus— with a word— has made the improbable not only probable, but done, fully accomplished!
Jesus has bridged an ethnic divide, acted as the Great Physician, loved His enemy,
as He Himself had preached, and defeated the threat of death.
And that brings us to the second commanding performance in our Gospel:
Jesus leaves behind Him a healthy slave, a grateful centurion, and a delighted people of the synagogue. He moves on from Capernaum to Nain where He springs into action. Before He even enters the city, He sees a widowed woman at the head of a
burial procession crowd, bereft of her recently deceased ONLY, and is immediately moved to “compassion.” Echoes of the Father come to mind and heart here,
Psalm 145 tells us, “The LORD is good to all, and his compassion
is over all that he has made.” (See also, Ps. 103:13)
What we would say is that Jesus’ “heart went out to her.” What the Biblical Greek wants us to hear is that Jesus “felt her loss in His very guts!” An ache, an emptiness, or a heaviness in His stomach or spleen or liver compelled and moved Him to act on her behalf — to bring relief to her pain and heartache.
Like His Father, Jesus “feels for her,” speaks a comforting word to her tears,
and acts to “save her” from her grief and exposure to hopeless destitution.
Jesus fully exposes Himself to become “unclean” as He steps past the barrier of propriety and legal protocol and having commanded her not “to weep,”
steps up and touches the coffin.
Here is where Jesus’ command performance gets really commanding,
He commands the lifeless to fullness of life… He commands the dead son to, “Rise!” And the dead man.?. — as if his dead ears can hear, he “sits up and speaks!” AMAZING!!! Only say the Word… Jesus only “speaks the Word,” ONE WORD = “RISE!” and the world of the dead man and the mother and the whole town of Nain
is changed, transformed forever!
A command performance.?. Jesus— with a word— creates the impossible possibility of life for a dead man and his “good as dead mother.” WOW! AMAZING!
So NOW! Now is the time… now what? — “Only speak the Word…”
Could God’s commanding performance of creation with God’s Word…
and the centurion’s commanding performance of faith…
and Jesus’ commanding creative performance of the impossible… could these be just the right Word for us today, here and now… to cause us… to cause you… to RISE!?!
What commanding Word of power does Jesus need “only speak” to us
to raise us to LIFE?
To the paralytic whose limbs were lifeless and useless, in Luke 5:24
Jesus only speaks the Word, “Stand up, take up your bed and go to your home.”
And he did!
“Stand up!” Jesus only speaks this word to those of us who are paralyzed by fear or doubt or what we perceive to be unbeatable giants, adversaries we are tempted to believe are too giant for us. Jesus speaks the word to us, “Stand up!”
And we are able!
To the sinful woman in Luke 7:48, “whose sins were many,” Jesus only speaks the Word, “Your sins are forgiven!” and she was! Forgiven and free!
“Your sins are forgiven!” Jesus only speaks this word to those of us who are haunted by guilt, shackled by shame, weighed down by our own tortured conscience.
Jesus speaks the word to us, “Your sins are forgiven!” And we are! We are able to move on in grace-filled freedom!
To the dead man on the coffin here in Luke 7:14 Jesus only speaks the word,
“Rise!” and he does!
“Rise!” Jesus only speaks the word to those of us today who for whatever reason are “good as dead,” numb inside… lifeless. Jesus only speaks one word to us, “Rise!” And we are able! Called to life by the commanding performance of the Lord of Life!”
To our Living Lord we pray, “Only say the Word Lord… and we stand, forgiven, risen to Life. By the power of His Word… Amen.