When Stories Collide
11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
Happy stories collide with sad stories for a reason
Jesus had traveled with the disciples and many others with him about 25 miles from Capernium, where he had previously healed a centurion's servant. He then travelled to a town called Nain. The name Nain means lovely or pleasant and Jesus is now making this 25 mile journey in a processional or with a parade of people with him. There is no doubt in my mind that this procession was one of celebration and anticipation of what the Lord might do in Nain that next day. Smiles on faces, songs perhaps being sung. It truly was a joyous storyline that had been unfolding. But when He got to the gate of the city and there was another procession of people. It was a different Story line altogether where they were carrying a dead body wrapped up in a basket, a basket for the purpose of transporting a person to their place of burial. It was the son of a widow and that procession was that of a funeral procession. Not a procession of rejoicing, celebration and anticipation but a procession of tension, distress, anxiety, desperation and death. Ring any bells in your story?Here in this story, I see a divine collision happening as the procession of Jesus and many people with him are traveling into the city when at the same time there is also a simultaneous procession of many people going out of the city. This collision of story if you look closely demonstrates that there are always two or more unique and very different story lines happening at any given moment.
There are many with stories of celebration and anticipation and at the same time there are many with stories of death, consternation, loss and desperation going on at the same time. Jesus sees this precision along with this Mother who had lost her husband and now only living son and it says in this passage that Jesus not only saw her but he had compassion on her. He had compassion on her in the way that he has always had compassion on everyone of us in that he took her pain in his heart. This was a realization for Jesus because it wouldn’t be very long before his mother Mary who was a widow at that point, Joseph having died when Jesus was yet a teenager Mary would encounter her own son, the only begotten son being led out of the city, as she wept. He could see no doubt that this was the desperation and consternation of this woman's situation. He sees the anguish, confusion, depression, and realizes prophetically no doubt that this is the same thing that his very own mother will be experiencing in the not so distant future.
Now watch what Jesus does coming from a story of anticipation and celebration as he collides with a story of pain and tension here in Nain. It says that He had compassion on her and tells her “weep not.” How is that compassionate you ask? It sounds crazy! How is what you are asking compassionate the mother might say. We are burying my son, there is loss, I have nothing left! We are carrying him to the tomb where He will be laid to rest and you say weep not! But Jesus knew what he was about to do not just in this circumstance but on behalf of you and me. It was in anticipation and celebration of the Joy that was set before him. It was for us who have been ravished by sin and death that he proclaims weep not and resurrects this young man in the same way that after having been laid to rest himself, He would provide life for all of us who have been sentenced to death, ravished by sin, experienced loss, despair, disdain and the inane.
The story of our life is short! We can simultaneously experience joy and celebration in one moment and at the same time experience loss, and despair. The real key to seeing the plot of our story have a glorious ending is by having our stories collide in a place that is altogether lovely and pleasant. His name is Jesus and he is the reason that our stories collide simultaneously! Weep not! Let not your heart be troubled!
The Divine collision of scripture
I would like to give you just a couple of examples of how stories, types, and names collide across the span of scripture and then leave you to your own discoveries of how they unfold throughout the bible and even in your own story.
The Name Game
These guys were important not merely for who they were but by what their stories tell and what there names meant.
Peter - His name means "Rock". Not The Rock, as in Petra. That is in reference to God but Peter’s name references a small stone. You remember how dogmatic Peter had a tendency to be. Oft remembered for lopping off the ear of the centurion in the presence of Jesus. Peter is a picture of the Stone tablets that the Law of God or Ten Commandments were written on.
James - His name is Jacob in the Hebrew. In both cases, James or Jacob both mean “Supplanter" or “Replace”.
John - His name means "Jehovah has Grace" in both Greek and Hebrew.
Combine the stories of these three guys together and you will realize why that when they were called apart by Jesus from the other twelve that it is always in the order of Peter, James, and John. No exception!
The “Stone” or Law has been “Replaced” by “Grace”.
The Law has been superseded by grace and these three men knew it more than anyone else!
Propitiation and the Mercy Seat
One of my favorite collisions in scripture is the correlation of the Mercy Seat of Exodus 26:34 and the work of Propitiation that is mentioned in Romans 3:25. If you are not one who goes deep into the stories of the Bible then this is a huge collision that is frequently missed in our churches unless you are in a place of fellowship that meets frequently for the purpose of the exegetical study of God's Word. I say this because I firmly believe that this kind of study is of the highest priority in the day and age we live in. I went through much of my life and most of my ministerial training without ever hearing about the connections that cover the whole span of scripture so, allow me to explain to the best of my ability the story of how Jesus put a lid on it!
Jesus Put a Lid On It!
As you may very well may know, God Himself became a Man and absorbed the wrath of His own indignation. The mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of propitiation is
that God actually inflicted death on a cross upon Himself.
Now we won’t go into the deep theological perspectives of grace, justification, and propitiation here. Let’s not forget, I too am a commoner, and a sinner. That being said, the custom of many is to dissect Romans in such a way that we will get bogged down in theological debate rather than simple application. So, allow me at this point to throw out this one big word for a moment and define propitiation so it is simple to apply to a common pinhead such as myself.
The word Hilasterion, or “propitiation”—A word we don’t hear much today—is used only five times in the entire New Testament: Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1–2; 1 John 4:10; and Hebrews 9 are four of them. The Hebrews reference is really cool because it gives us insight and understanding. You see, in describing the mercy seat, the author of Hebrews uses the word hilasterion. The mercy seat, or hilasterion, covered the ark of the covenant. It was like a lid. The ark of the covenant contained the law. Now, this is where it gets interesting because, through the mercy seat, God says, I know you’ve broken the law. I know you deserve to be consumed because of it. But I’m going to put a lid on it through the sacrifice of My Son. He is the helasmos, the mercy seat, the propitiation. It’s not something He gives. It’s who He is!
Whoa!… This is Melting My Brain!
If you are getting what I’m laying down then you now understand that Jesus has come between you and the broken law. The wrath that the Father should have vented on me and you was instead placed upon His Son, who died in your place.
The fifth use of the word “propitiation” is found in Luke 18:10–14. It is a brief illustration, concerning the prayers of a Pharisee and a tax collector. If you look at verse 13: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” It begins with “God” and ends with “sinner.” The middle phrase, “be merciful”—the verb form of hilasterion stands between God and sin. Every one of us is in one of two categories. You’re either the self-righteous Pharisee, or you’re the tax collector, grateful that Jesus is standing between God and your sin.
When I first began to understand the work of propitiation I finally gave in and gave up on the idea that something I was doing would appease the wrath of a Righteous Judge. Wow! Talk about a game changer and major impact on how my personal story plays out!
Propitiation adds an entirely different dimension to what Paul calls “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). It’s not just the Father saying, “I’m going to settle mankind’s problem judicially.” No, He deals with it personally. That God would love me so much He would actually become the object of His own wrath frees me up in a profound way. Not only did He put a lid on it, He became the lid!
I know I’m a sinner. But because He absorbed the anger that should have been poured out upon me, I can walk throughout the rest of my days, weeks, and years because the story of God is being perfectly planned and played out in my life personally and for the first time in my life I can recognize the divine collision of God’s Story with my story and the Old Testament Pictures with their New Testament Truths and counterparts. Furthermore! I recognize that the tensions and difficulties that come into my story are there by divine providence!