Christ Living in Us

Elisha Raises the Son of the Woman of Shunam by Benjamin West, 1765

2 Kings 4:32-37 (NRSV)

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and closed the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So, he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.

This is a bizarre moment in the story of Elisha. However, that is a loaded statement for a prophet. Bizarre moments are more rule than exception for the life for the prophets of God. Elisha’s actions here in 2 Kings are very similar to his predecessor Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24. Both prophets are presented with grieving mothers who have suffered the death of their beloved sons; both prophets lay upon the deceased sons; both prophets respond to their deaths by physically giving life to the lifeless bodies. These intimate actions of Elijah and Elisha cause us some discomfort because of how intentional they are—putting mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. It is the reality that the purpose of the prophets is to certainly speak for God, but that is not the end of their purpose. They are an embodiment of the promise of God. God speaks through them and God acts through them. The things they do are the power of God to bring life to those who suffer and freedom to those who are captive. 

In other words, the prophets are the power of God sent to declare the majesty and victory of God over the powers of evil, sin, and death. 

The prophetic CPR touches every aspect of the life of the son in 2 Kings. Not only does this child have new life, he has new reason to live. His words will be different. He will see things differently. He will encounter the everyday things with new energy and purpose. 

Perhaps the most bizarre inclusion in this passage is the seven sneezes. We may be tempted to skip over this detail, but we would be foolish if we did. Fun fact: Charles Spurgeon preached an entire sermon on this part of the story. Seriously. (Read it here.) Why does the author include this detail of seven sneezes? Spurgeon reminds us that sneezing is an involuntary reaction. We cannot sneeze because we want to sneeze. They happen whenever and wherever they happen. Sometimes we can fight a sneeze. Sometimes we can feel like we will sneeze, but we cannot force ourselves to do it and we lose it. So, it is with life in the Holy Spirit. We live it. Its an involuntary reaction to what God has done for us. Life is a crazy thing. None of us decided to be born. We are dragged dirty, kicking, and screaming into this world and we must settle into this little thing called life. It’s a bizarre thing indeed.

So, it is with the life of Christ. We were all the deceased child in our sins. Jesus gave his life for ours. Just as the prophets, Jesus intimately gives us his life. It is the life of Christ that becomes ours. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Praise be to God for this life that we have in Him. May we know and understand that Christ has raised us from the dead and given us his words, eyes, and hands to live and serve him. Amen.

Prayer: Merciful God, grant us the strength to live our lives trusting you. May we understand that we are to speak your Gospel to others, see people as you see them, and serve others in your name. May we do these things with the humble mind that we were lost and far from you, but you brought us into your family though your most precious blood. In Jesus name, Amen.

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