Have you ever read the story in the Gospel of Luke of the widow who was on her way to bury her boy? It may not have been a boy. A closer reading recently changed the story completely for me. I have read this story quite a few times over the years. When I read it I feel sorry for the woman. She is a widow and now she is on her way to bury her son, that’s heartbreaking. I imagine the scene. The same people who buried this poor woman’s husband, possibly only a few years before, is now burying her young son. But the story doesn’t say anything about this son being a young boy. In fact, the literal translation is, “…a dead man, the only son of his widowed mother.” What if this was, in fact, a 22-year old man? What if his mom was 38, dad died at age 35? Does this change the story? It does for me.
With new eyes, I am able to put myself in the story. It is a great way to read scripture, especially Gospel stories. Read a short passage a few times and ask Jesus if you are any of the characters in the story. I did that and realized that I am the dead man. Not now as a 42 year-old man, but in my early 20’s I was dead and on my way to the grave. Read the story, seriously, take one minute, or maybe two and ask yourself if you are, or have ever been, the dead man in the story.
What I love about this, and most stories involving Jesus, is what Jesus does in the midst of an impossible situation. We are talking about death here, it doesn’t get much more impossible than that! “Then he (Jesus) walked up and put his hand on the casket… then said, ‘Young man, wake up!’” That’s what happened to me as a young man. I was making poor choices in my day-to-day life, addicted to work, caring way too much about what others thought of me, full of anxiety and fear, and Jesus walked up and put his hand on me and said, “Young man, wake up!”
I’d like to say that it has been easy living this new life as an “alive man” the past 20 years, but easy is not the goal. I can say that it has been, and continues to be an extraordinary, more full life than I ever thought was possible. Jesus’ words in this story are for any (whatever our age) who will listen, “wake up!”