Pastor Edward Brouwer 3-18-18 “Traveling with Jesus: to Nain” Luke 7:11-17
Life Facing Death
Traveling with Jesus: to Nain
We continue our series in Traveling with Jesus, as we go with him through the gospels to various places for spiritual encounters with people. Know this: the people Jesus met were never the same. In our story today Jesus faces down death in the village of Nain. Think about Jesus and his popularity. Many times he does something amazing/dramatic and instructs that person not to tell anyone. In this story Jesus has attracted a large crowd and he seems to be very popular at this point in his ministry. That got me thinking about PR campaigns. Are any of you familiar with the Dos Equis commercials “The Most Interesting Man in the World”? Listen to some quotes about him: “when in Rome, they do as he does! His tears can cure cancer, it’s just too bad he never cries! He once ran a marathon backwards to see what it felt like to come in second place. One hour with him in conversation is like 16 years of college (nothing against Haywood Community). Once, he was pulled over for speeding, but he let the officer go with just a warning.” We laugh at this because we know it’s impossible—there is no such thing as such an amazing man. Or is there? In the story we are about to read, Jesus is the perfect man, the One who knows are needs, who cares deeply, the One for whom nothing is impossible.
Read Luke 7:11-17
Jesus is in Galilee and just the previous day was in Capernaum the regional capital on lake Tiberius and performed a great miracle. The servant of the Roman Centurion was miraculously healed. Jesus was traveling with a crowd of people that day and was walking to the little town of Nain. Luke, the Greek, and classically trained doctor, explains that Jesus’ crowd and another crowd ran into each other at the gate of the town. The other crowd was for a funeral of a young man. The only son of a widow. I am going to tell you something that would have been immediately clear to Jesus: Jesus understands her devastating situation. He knows her needs and (by extension) our needs.
Think how devastated this woman must have been. Her husband is dead, now her only son has died. Unspeakable tragedy. She must have truly felt “I’m all alone in this world”. Yes there were family and friends from the community who came out to show their support. But it is possible to be lonely even in a crowd. This woman was bereft of the people that she loved: the people also who represented social and financial security. Now she would be at the mercy of others in her life and this must have been a great weight to her. Even though the Bible had careful provisions for caring for the widows, all too often their treatment was sub-par. We find it hard to imagine in our society but this was true even not so long ago in our own circles. My grandmother had a sister who’s husband abused her and was mentally unstable. He landed up in the mental hospital. Some years later the doctors determined that he was well enough to be released and my great-aunt was terror stricken. All her brothers (but not my grandma) said that as a Christian she was required to take her husband back—which she did, but within weeks she fled her situation. So much for distant relatives looking after you! Fortunately she had children who took her in. This woman here in Nain, doesn’t even have that. She must have felt very alone.
Are you in a situation where you feel alone in the world? Remind yourself of this: Jesus knows your situation. Jesus saw this funeral and instantly knew what was going on. Do you wonder whether God knows what you’re going through? He does. It is good that we remind ourselves of this. Then Jesus showed his concern for this widow by approaching her and, being moved with compassion for her, said, “Don’t cry”. Seems, on first blush, odd. It’s appropriate to cry here. But Jesus isn’t just patting her on the shoulder and saying some sympathetic platitude. She does not know this, but the man in front of her, this Jesus, this God-man—well there is nothing that is impossible for him. He goes over to the coffin and touching it he says “young man, I say to you get up!”
Imagine that you are one of the pallbearers. You just got the shock of your life! Imagine the mother! Imagine the young man! Imagine being one of the eye-witnesses to this totally implausible scenario. You would wonder WHO is this person?
All sorts of things come to mind—was this young man really dead? This is impossible! But the bible tells us that Jesus is God Incarnate. The Creator of the heavens and the earth. Is anything impossible for God? The One who spoke all of life into existence, why yes he is able to call the dead back to life.
But why did Jesus do this? There are only three recorded instances of Jesus bringing the dead back to life: This young man, Jairus’s 12 year-old daughter and Lazarus. What we learn from all three is that Jesus Christ has the power over life and death. Jesus himself is the resurrection and the life. Jesus came to conquer sin and death, and he proved that he was indeed God because he laid down his own life and took it up again on the third day. By giving his life on the cross he once and for all broke the power of sin and death. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 5 as he explains his authority:
21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
In the very next chapter in John 6:29 people ask Him “so what must we do to perform the good works of God”? And Jesus says simply: “believe in Me and the One who sent me”.
I believe that even as Jesus called this young man to life he had his own death and resurrection in mind—the very purpose for which he came and to which everything he did, pointed. And we who believe in Jesus are called from death to life—and not just for this short span of years we may enjoy on earth but forever in His presence—eternal life.
We don’t see miracles like this— that doesn’t seem to be the way the Lord works—and (after all) it is appointed for all to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9: 27). We will all die. But what Jesus does is give us new life. Ephesians 2:5 says “we who were dead in our trespasses have been made alive in Christ”. Through the power of His indestructible life, he has the power to give us new life.
But you may ask, I have new life in Christ but I still experience worries, pain, hurt, shame and relational brokenness. There seem to be “dead places” in my life. Jesus cares, there is nothing impossible for Him and He wants to bring life to those dead places. Maybe there is a relationship that is on life-support or for all intents and purposes dead. Ask Jesus to breathe life into that. Pray and listen. Lay this out and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. There may be things that you must do in obedience so that Jesus can restore life there. Or perhaps you despair and wonder if God still has anything left for you to do. He does! Until the day he calls you home he has good work for each of us to do, and He will craft every situation for His glory and our good.