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11And 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.
12Now 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.
13And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
14And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
15And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
16And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
17And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
I think in so many ways, the story of this woman, this widow of Nain, even though we don’t know her name, and yet it seems to be very outstanding and undoubtedly serves a tremendous purpose by being included in the accounts of the great miracles that Jesus did. Especially those times that he raised somebody from the dead. Three times are recorded and this is one of them, where Jesus raised someone from the dead. I want us to look at this story somewhat from the point of view or perspective of the woman herself, because I think it is really her story that we really want to talk about tonight.
What we see here is a tremendous scene, a great procession of people coming into a small city at the gate and a large procession of people coming out of the city to the gate and converging or meeting at that point. One procession is a funeral procession, a procession of death. The other one is a procession of great triumph, victory, and life. The central figure in the one procession may be a young man who is dead. But the central figure in this other procession is none other than the Son of God, who not only is the master of death, but also as the Bible teaches us over and over again, is the source of life. Here is the truth that we need to learn from this story, and that is indeed that Jesus Christ is the master in every situation, including death. He is the source of life, including eternal life.
Three scenes really stand out in this story that I would like us to look at that help us to understand the truth that is presented here in this passage. First of all, I want us to look at this woman’s ultimate sorrow. Here is a widow who has already walked this lonely road before. Following the casket borne by friends of her own husband. Somewhere outside the gates, there must be a cemetery and they are going there. The woman knows it well. She has been there often because that is where her husband lies. Now then, she going to take her only son to place him there in that cemetery, perhaps alongside her deceased husband.
Taking her son to burial has caused her to have perhaps come to the lowest ebb of her hope and strength that she has ever known in this life. Because, you see, it was so important for a woman to have a son and the first-born son in particular had responsibility for caring for his parents and showing them love and care as long as they would live. And here was not only her oldest son, but her only son, who had not lived to take care of her after her husband’s death. As long as her husband had lived, he would take care of her and she would have a home. She would be provided for. She would have loving care. She would have a companion. She would have understanding. But when he died, she still had the comfort and even the joy of being able to lean back upon her son, knowing that in the Jewish tradition and knowing that in the best of any biblical tradition or any historical tradition, the son would be there and he would look after his mother. He would provide for her and protect her. He would care for her and show love for her. She would be a part of his family, whatever his family might grow to be. But her hopes were shattered when he died. All the hopes that she had for a future in this world where somebody would love and care for her, these were gone. She would have to make it on her own from here on out. She would be faced with ultimate sorrow and hopelessness as long as she would live.
Quite frankly, I am at a loss to understand how she must have felt. Even though I have been a pastor many years, and I have gone to the graveside with many women who have laid their husbands there, yet I do not know, even as a preacher I do not know how to understand what this is like. I know in this church we have a number of widows and some of you are here tonight. Perhaps if we could sit for a while and let you talk to us, we might begin to understand what this is like, to have to say goodbye to your companion and not have that strong heart to lean upon. Not have that companion to look to and someone to share your life with. You live with memories and you hold on to the beautiful memories, no doubt. But I think it would take someone who has walked this road like she has to understand what that’s like.
Then on top of that, faced now with the death of her only son. Again, I can’t comprehend the multiplied sorrow that must come upon parents who have lost a child. All my five children are living. I cannot comprehend that. I saw my father and my mother grieve for years over the loss of one of my brothers who was killed in Lorraine, France about the time of the Battle of the Bulge or a little after, during World War II. I saw them, but I still could not comprehend the sorrow of losing a brother and certainly not from the point of view of a parent losing a child. Perhaps some of you in this house have experienced that. And if you have, you begin already, you know full well the ultimate sorrow that she is going through and what she is facing as she walks in this solemn funeral procession behind the casket of her only son.
All of a sudden, this procession comes face to face with a procession of life, as I’ve already indicated, headed up by Jesus Christ. Because many of his disciples are with him, and many, many people other than disciples are following him. And they meet. In all the crowd, Jesus sees the widow. He saw her. Now this scene really shifts and it shows our Lord’s ultimate compassion. No greater compassion was he ever experienced that we can understand than when he stood here and he saw this widow and her only son dead. He had the same kind of compassion when he raised the little girl and spoke to her. And when he stood at the graveside of Lazarus and wept. This is the ultimate compassion.
Let me say to you a little something about compassion. There is tremendous force and energy and power wrapped up in compassion. As a minister, for years I have always been tuned in to this particular clue. If while I am ministering the word or praying, I am suddenly overwhelmed with the compassion of the Lord, that is his way of saying, “I am looking at somebody that I want to help and I want you to make it available.” I know that his power stands ready to be exercised to bring healing and deliverance in the lives of people. The same way with you. When you are touched with compassion, you are filled with understanding. When your heart starts reaching out and the burden is great and you feel not just pity but you feel deep godly compassion, you know that God is at work in your heart. He is at work where you are and something beautiful and wonderful is about to take place. Isn’t that marvelous how his compassion changes us, transforms us into people of faith and action and power? He saw her.
Our Lord is one who is always attentive. His eyes are always glued in upon somebody who is broken hearted. The pain and suffering of the human heart is an attraction to the attention of our Lord. When you suffer and when you have a broken heart especially, just remember, you will be drawing his affection and his attention and his divine love. Your pain may be so severe until you’ll be blinded at the moment and not realize it. You may have physical pain and you wonder Lord, where are you? Lord, have you really forsaken me? Physical pain and broken heartedness can blind you to the fact that he is right there with you and that he sees you. He sees you in your broken heartedness and that compassion moves him not only to see you but to act. Compassion is a powerful driving force.
So he went to the woman. He stopped the procession and he spoke to the woman. He said, “Weep not.” Now, if I say that to somebody, they may or may not hear it. I know from experience as a pastor and experience in funerals that most of the time, people can’t pay too much attention to what you say. They are so filled with their grief and with their own hurt that they don’t hear many times what you are really saying and it is hard to get through. It takes the Spirit of God to come and bring the comfort and bring the help that people need in those times, because what you say perhaps is not nearly as important as merely being there in love and care and compassion. Frankly, regardless of how much you try to study to give pastoral care in crisis situations, the fact remains you meet with situations over and over again where you are indeed speechless. You don’t know what to say and you just have to show love by being there and helping to walk that road that people walk.
But when the Lord Jesus speaks to you and he says, “Don’t grieve! Don’t weep!” It’s different. It’s different than when I say or the pastor says don’t be afraid or don’t weep. When he gives you a special instruction, “Don’t be afraid. Fear not. Grieve not. Weep not.” I want to tell you, he has the power to do something about it in a very wonderful and glorious way. You can listen to him. You can stand up in faith and say, “Speak, Lord. I’m listening to you even through my tears or through my sorrow, through the pain. Yes, I’m hearing you, Lord.” Because you know he has the power to do something about it. He says, “Weep not.”
Then, that brings me to the last scene of not only the Lord’s ultimate compassion, but of his ultimate power. Jesus came and contrary to the Jewish tradition, he touched the coffin. Stopped the people who were carrying him, touched it, and then spoke directly to the young man. And he said, “Young man, I say unto you, ‘arise.’” Now that’s kind of a weird thing to do. Jesus spoke to this young man as if he could hear him. Doesn’t he know the man is dead? And yet, he is talking to him as if he can hear him.
I want to tell you, Luke is slipping in one great theological truth to us hear on the side that we just kind of pick up on the side. That is, Jesus knows how to communicate with the dead. Because they may be dead to the body but they are still alive to his voice. They still hear. Praise God! They hear him. They may not hear you, I don’t know about that. Some people deal in supposed communication with the dead and pretend that they hear their voices from the other world and so on. Sometimes that is a mockery thing done by evil spirits. The Bible gives strict orders to not engage in such thing as that. But Jesus knows how to communicate with the dead, because to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. That’s what Paul said.
If you are present with the Lord Jesus, he can talk to you and you hear him. He talked to this young man as if he were alive. He said, “Get up!” As a matter of fact, the real person never does die, it’s just the body. And when the Lord speaks to the real person who is already gone into that spirit world, that person has the ability to obey the Lord Jesus. To do whatever he says. That’s what he did each time he raised the dead. He told the little girl, “Tabitha, arise,” and she got up. He told Lazarus, he said, “Lazarus, come forth,” and he did. The Lord knows how to be in communication with your loved ones who are gone on. He is in talking relationship with them. He could tell them and instruct them to do something and they could make an appearance if he so desired.
Notice in each case, Lazarus, the young girl, and this young man, this is a raising from the dead. It is not a resurrection as such, theologically speaking. They were raised back to the state of their former life. Resurrection means you are transformed with a supernatural body like the Lord’s own glorious body when he was raised from the dead. That’s what resurrection is. It means when you’re resurrected you never die. Each one of them would come back and face death again. Unafraid, of course, knowing that Jesus would be right there.
You know, some of the doctors who have gotten involved with people who die and they are clinically dead for a few minutes and you know we had Dr. Rolands from Chattanooga come and talk to us about it here. He indicates that Christians who die, that sometimes they will fuss with you and fight with you when you’re trying to bring them back because they don’t want to come back. They’ve already got a glimpse in the other world. He said also that sinners that die, they will come back screaming, “Help me! Help me, doctor! Help me, doctor!” A whole different thing. It gives us a little bit of insight into the other side of this curtain that stands between us and death.
Jesus said to him, “Young man, arise,” and he rose up. He began to speak. I don’t know what he said. “Hi! Hello!” I’m not sure but I’m sure he didn’t talk like a Southerner. I’m not sure what he said, but he began to speak. He might’ve said, “Hey, John. What are you guys doing carrying me on this thing?” I don’t know what he said. My mind can just sort of run loose on the pulley and imagine many vain things. But he began to talk and then Jesus took him and delivered him to his mother. Oh, Hallelujah.
I could think tonight of testimonies of where Jesus has delivered young men and women not from death, but from the jaws and grip of sin and Satan and evil and delivered them to their mother or father. I imagine some of you have had experiences where the devil told you your child is gone. Forget it! Give up! But the Lord came and spoke to them and delivered them and brought them back to you. Amen! It’s just as easy for Jesus to do that as it is to bring someone back from the dead. It’s just as easy for him to bring someone back from the dead as it is to deliver your child, your son or your daughter from the clutches of sin. I’m glad that we have a savior who is compassionate and he looks upon suffering hearts with compassion.
Different things touch us and fill us with compassion. When I see a little child that I think is mistreated, I cannot handle that too well. I am moved with compassion. I saw a man and a woman and a little child walking the highway today as we were coming to church. I said to my wife, “Do you suppose they are homeless trying to go someplace?” They looked like it. And that little child walking with them. Different things touch our pity and our compassion. I want you to understand this truth if you don’t remember another thing I say tonight, that when you are hurting in your heart, the Lord Jesus is attracted to your hurt with his divine compassion. He has the power and ability to speak to you at that moment. You need to try to be sensitive and hear him. I know sometimes, as I indicated before, it’s hard to listen, but hear what he says. If he says, “arise,” if he says, “come forth,” if he says, “stand on your feet,” whatever he says, do it and his power will be manifested in your life.
May we stand together. The result of this great miracle was that a great fear came upon all the people and then that fear, reverence, awe led into the fact that they began to glorify God. They said the prophet is risen among us. And they said God has visited us. I want to tell you tonight saints, we have many reasons to reverence and fear our Lord. We have many reasons to glorify him. How many can testify by raising your hand that God has performed a miracle of restoration, bringing a son or daughter back to you, a loved one back to you from the power of sin or from some other place or from the doors of death? How many of you will raise your hand and say yes, I want to glorify God because of his miraculous power in my life? Would you raise your hand and let’s praise him. We magnify you, Lord. We glorify you. We give you honor. We give you praise. You are our light. You are our hope in this world and in the world to come. We magnify you, Lord, and we glorify you. We know you have visited us, oh God. We know you are visiting us tonight. Thank you for your visit of compassion and love upon us tonight.
This story is from the point of view or perspective of the woman herself. What we see here is a tremendous scene, a great procession of people coming into a small city at the gate and a large procession of people coming out of the city to the gate and converging or meeting at that point.
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