11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
If Menards can have Christmas decorations out already and if the Hallmark Channel can do nonstop Christmas movies in July, then the Church can certainly have Easter in October. In fact, we have to celebrate Easter because this text screams Easter – loud and clear. But always before Easter, there is Good Friday. Before resurrection, there must be death. Good Friday sadness is a prerequisite to Easter joy. We have to see that first.
Yes, Easter joy is the climax of this text, but Good Friday sadness gets more words. Yes, the young son of this woman is raised, but Luke spends much more time telling us about the sad estate of his mother. She was a widow, but now she is really alone. This son of hers that has died is her only-begotten (μονογενής same word used in Jn. 3:16) son. A great crowd follows her sharing in her grief. Jesus sees her and speaks to her first. This woman is drowning in Good Friday grief. But Jesus He won’t allow it.
Jesus isn’t very good at funerals. He always ruins them. Remember when Jairus’ little girl died (Mt. 9:18-26; Mk. 5:22-43; Lk. 8:41-56), Jesus sees all the mourners weeping and wailing and tells them, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping,” and everyone laughs at Him. But then Jesus goes into the house, takes the girl by the hand, and says, “Little girl, get up” (Mk. 541:). And she does. Or, remember when Lazarus died. Jesus came when Lazarus’ corpse would have been ripe and stinky. Then, Christ tells them to roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb and says, “Lazarus, come out” (Jn. 11:43). And out He comes. Finally, remember Jesus’ own funeral. Our Lord didn’t behave properly then either. Jesus leaves before His funeral is finished. He didn’t stick around in the grave long enough to have a proper burial.
Well, here in this text, Jesus ruins another funeral. Jesus is leading a great crowd. And as they reach the city of Nain, they meet another crowd who were going out of the city to bury the boy. These two throngs of people meet at the gate. Imagine this. One crowd is leaving the city and following death, and another crowd is entering the city lead by the Life of the world (Jn. 11:25, 14:6). And these two crowds get mixed up together in this bottle neck.
Proper etiquette and manners would dictate that Jesus and His crowd would step aside and allow the funeral procession to pass by. But, remember, Jesus is no good at funerals. Instead, Jesus marches right up to the front of the funeral procession. He does this, Luke tells us, because when He saw the mother He had compassion on her. Literally, Jesus’ guts were being wrenched and all twisted up inside.
He walks up to the woman and says, “Do not weep.” This sounds absolutely callous. Weeping is the right thing for this woman to be doing – her son has died. When you are saddened by the death of someone and find yourself weeping, you are doing what is right. Your actions line up with how God feels about death. Jesus, who never sinned, Himself cried when He was at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). Now, the text doesn’t tell us this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus had tears in His eyes as He approached the widow. Remember His guts are wrenched. But He tells her to stop crying because He is about to intervene. Jesus could have reversed the order. He could have raised the young man first, then told the mother to stop crying. But He doesn’t. He tells her to stop crying because it isn’t going to be necessary in a moment. This command to stop crying is a call for her to trust in Him.
Then, Jesus walks past the pallbearers, straight up to the bier, touches it, and says, “Young man, I say to you, arise,” as though He was waking up a sleepy teenager late on a Saturday morning. The boy gets up and begins to speak. I wonder what he said.
Jesus gives the boy back to his mother and everyone glorifies God saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” And, “God has visited His people!” They were right. God had visited His people. God had taken on flesh to deliver His people from death and sin, the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:54-56).
Dear saints, today is October 6th, but today we celebrate Easter; we celebrate the resurrection. Yes, we await the resurrection on the final day when Christ returns and raises up the dead and grants eternal life to all who believe in Him. But the resurrection has already begun. Jesus, your Savior died, but He lives. He is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20). Whenever Jesus contends with death, death looses.
And that is what you need because this morning, you were part of a funeral procession. Because you are a sinner, the stink of death hangs around you. Young and old – man, woman, and child – we all dragged some dead thing here with us today.
Is it your relationship with your spouse that is slowly dying? Is it the skeleton of disobedience to parents? What dead thing have you brought with you?
Is it the rotting remains of your finances that cause you to worry and doubt, or simply discontentment with what God has given you? Is it the cadaver of lust that flames within you? Is it the carcass of pride that is so inwardly focused that you do not notice the needs of others? What dead thing have you brought here with you?
Maybe it isn’t even your fault. Maybe it is just the fear of what might happen in the future. Maybe it is anger for how you have been wronged in the past. Maybe your dead thing is your own sick, crumbling body. What dead thing have you brought here with you?
Jesus marches toward your funeral procession, and He does not stop or yield. Jesus does not give way or defer to death. Instead, Jesus defeats death with His death and resurrection, each and every time He meets it. Jesus meets you here today as you plod along in your personal funeral procession and gives you life. Jesus meets you at this altar to give you His living Body and His life-giving Blood.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.