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JESUS RAISES A WIDOW’S SON

Luke 7:11-7:17
Key Verse: 7:14

Thank God for teaching us the life and faith of the centurion, his true humanity and humility. True humanity comes from fearing God and true humility, from having the correct view of Jesus and oneself. This view led the centurion to have faith in the authority of Jesus’ word. Today’s passage is about Jesus’ raising a dead person. A dead man came back to life at the word of Jesus’ command. This is a demonstration of Jesus’ resurrection power and a preview of Jesus’ own resurrection. May we look up at this Jesus and hear his word as we study this passage.

First, “Don’t cry” (11-13). Verse 11 says, “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain…” Here, “soon afterward” refers to soon after the authority of Jesus’ word was revealed through the centurion, healing the centurion’s dying servant without his presence. Nain was situated 10 km southeast of Nazareth and 40 km southwest of Capernaum. Capernaum and Nazareth were well known towns in the New Testament: Capernaum the base camp of Jesus’ messianic ministry, and Nazareth as the place where Jesus grew up. However, Nain appeared only one time in the Bible, here, and was an unknown town. In this nameless and humble town Jesus was going to do an amazing work that had never taken place in history until that time. Jesus went to the town of Nain. His disciples and a large crowd went along with him.

Look at verse 12. “As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.” Here Luke makes a contrast between the two large crowds, one large crowd with Jesus entering the town and another large crowd coming out of the town, for no burial was allowed inside a Jewish city. The large crowd from the town was a funeral procession full of sorrow under the power of death, whereas the large crowd with Jesus, we can say, the gospel procession, was full of expectation for life and hope in Jesus. The ESV says, “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…” The evangelist Luke, by writing, “behold,” wishes to draw our special attention to the contact of the two processions.

In this description Luke stresses the sorrowful situation of the woman: “A dead person being carried out—the only son of his mother and she was a widow. There are many sorrowful stories in the world, but what can be more sorrowful than this? This woman was left all alone, left to live all by herself in the world. It seemed that disaster after disaster came upon her. Even losing one’s husband is hard enough for any woman. On top of her husband’s death, this woman had to see her son’s death, not that of one of the sons, but of her only son. Certainly there were many women whose husbands were alive along with their children. As for her life seemed to be unfair. But the constant message of the Bible is that God is good. He can make the best out of the worst situation.

Look at verse 13. “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” In Luke’s gospel, this is the first time the evangelist himself used the term Lord to describe Jesus. Thus far, only other individuals (Simon Peter, a leper and the centurion) called Jesus the Lord (5:8, 12; 7:6). This was the sincere and remarkable confession of faith of each person. As for Peter, when he caught a great number of fish through the obedience at Jesus’ command, he could see Jesus as the Lord, who is in control over even the fish of the Sea, in truth over all God’s creation. A man who was covered with leprosy called Jesus Lord, because he believed that Jesus could make him clean. The centurion came to the point to call Jesus Lord, who is above all authorities and so could his dying servant by the word even regardless of his location. In this passage we will see that Jesus is the Lord over life and death. This Lord saw the widow. Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” The LORD is firm and strong like a rock, yet he is also compassionate. In the Old Testament the LORD is the God of the fatherless and the widow (Ex 22:22; Dt 10:18). When the Lord saw the widow, his heart went out to her. And he said, “Don’t cry.”

We know that we should be careful about what to say to those who are in extreme sorrow. In many cases not saying anything, but just keeping a sympathetic silence is more helpful to the sorrowful and grief-stricken. The large crowd with her walking in the procession and sobbing together wordlessly were good company for her in this situation. Merely saying, “Don’t cry,” could aggravate the situation. To let the sorrowful cry seemed to be better. Then what does it mean when Jesus said, “Don’t cry”? Humanly speaking, she had enough reason to cry over the death of her only son, especially in her widowed situation. But spiritually speaking, she had no reason cry anymore, because of Jesus, the Lord. When Jesus said, “Don’t cry,” Jesus wanted her to stop crying and look at the one who spoke to her, “Don’t cry.” In John 20 Mary Magdalene was crying, standing outside the tomb of Jesus in the garden. Even when the risen Jesus was speaking to her, “Woman, why are crying? Who is it you are looking for? “(20:14,15), Mary still cried in sorrow, thinking the one who spoke to her was only the gardener. When one is overwhelmed by sorrow, it is not easy to see beyond that sorrowful situation. Yet, when Jesus said to the widow, “Don’t cry,” he really wanted her to hear his voice and look up at him beyond herself. No one in the world could say to her, “Don’t cry” in a true sense, but Jesus.

Ever since, death came to all people through one man Adam, the world became a sorrowful world. Sorrow is an evitable, powerful factor of death. As we studied, godly sorrow is good and leads us to repentance. But sorrow under the power of death is detrimental. This sorrow begets sorrow and spreads. Jesus wants us to really know that in him, we have no reason to sorrow and cry-- in Jesus who is the Lord over even death. This is in accordance with Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke 1:79, “…the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death…” At his word, “Don’t, cry,” we should reject self-pity and any kind of sorrow which is not godly. Revelation 21:4 says, “…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” This is true because of Jesus. May we accept his word, “Don’t cry.”

Second, “Young man, get up!” (14-17). Look at verse 14. “Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still.” Numbers 19:16 says, “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.” So on this basis it could be argued that touching a dead body or even the coffin (stretcher) was defiling. But Jesus went up and touched the coffin. Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the end of the law.” All the laws and regulations would end in Christ Jesus. Ordinary people would be regarded unclean, defiled by such an act. But Jesus would not. Rather he could make unclean things clean. This is also the reason Jesus touched a man who was covered with leprosy and then made him clean. The uncleanness of defilement of death had nothing to do with Jesus.

When Jesus touched the coffin, those carrying it stood still. At this touch of Jesus they could not go further, but stopped. Then Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” Who in the world could speak, let alone say such a thing, to a dead person? A dead person is deadened in all their functions including the sense of hearing. Speaking to a dead person would be of no use. In the previous passage even the deadly sickness obeyed Jesus’ word. Now Jesus commanded a dead person. Jesus’ word would have power even to raise the dead. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up?” Here there is an emphasis on “who speaks to whom,” “Who is the one who speaks? And who is the one who hears?” The one who speaks is the Lord and the one who should hear is the dead young. Jesus said, “I say to you.” At this command of Jesus the dead man listened and sat up. This shows the absolute power of Jesus’ word of command. His word is truly limitless and boundless (Ps 119:96).

More importantly this reveals who Jesus is. Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life…” He is the resurrection and the life. In John’s gospel Jesus commanded a corpse in the grave, “Lazarus, come out!” (Jn 11:43). Then the corpse wrapped with clothes came out and walked. And all the synoptic gospels recorded Jesus’ raising a young girl 12 years old (Mt 9:25; Mk 5:41-42; Lk 54-55). In Mark Jesus said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”), and in Luke Jesus said, “My child, get up!” As we see, Luke recorded/wrote of two occasions on which Jesus raised the dead: : this young man, and a little girl. In this way Luke confirms Jesus’ power over death, his resurrection power. In the Old Testament on two occasions, prophets raised a dead child. But the way they raised the dead was different from that of Jesus. As for Elijah, he cried out to the LORD and stretched himself out on the boy and again cried out to the LORD. Then the boy’s life returned to him. And as for Elisha, he also prayed to the Lord. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands, and at this boy’s body grew warm. Then he turned away and walked back and forth in the room and repeated the same therapy again, and the boy finally revived. But as for Jesus, he raised the dead with his one command. These two events of Jesus raising the dead is the prelude of his own resurrection, he himself would rise after his death.

Look at verse 15. “The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Here it is written that the dead man even began to talk. This is the evidence that the young man was really and fully alive.

When we think about Jesus’ command, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” This is an absolute command. In Jesus we have every reason to get up, even in a deadened situation and live with a young man’s spirit. Youth can be the symbol of full of life and energy and vitality. Young people are to live energetically and vigorously. But there are many who are young but live like old people. It is not because their body is weak and feeble, but because of fatalism under the power of death. An 18 year old young girl became a depression patient under the power of death, after seeing her dear friend’s death. And a 17 year old young boy walked like an old man, because he had no hope and vision for his life. But Jesus wants all young men and women to live really as men and women of youth, and he wants all old men and women to live with the spirit of the young as long as they are alive, It can be possible in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” In Jesus there is no fatalism. In Jesus we can get up and challenge any unfavourable situation.

Verse 15b says, “…Jesus gave him back to his mother.” The mother lost the son to death. Death swallowed up the young life. But Jesus challenged death and got back and returned what was lost to the mother. This was the validation of Jesus’ word, “Don’t cry” and complete restoration of the family. How happy the mother must have been! In Jesus there is such a restoration.

The people must have been jubilant and overjoyed. Yet, they did not stop there. They were filled awe and praised God. This was none other than the work of God through Jesus. Most probably they were reminded of the great prophets like Elijah and Elisha who raised the dead. So they said, “A great prophet has appeared among us,” Certainly what Jesus did was much greater than a great prophet had done. Jesus is far greater than a great prophet. Then they went further and concluded, saying, ‘God has come to help his people.’” What they said was true. This is according to what God said in Hosea 13:14, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” The Lord Jesus is God. He proved this through his own resurrection (Ro 1:3).

Verse 17 says, “This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” The good news of Jesus’ resurrection and his resurrection power must spread throughout our campus and this city and country. Jesus’ resurrection is to be proclaimed over the whole world.

We thank and praise God for sending Jesus into his world. Thank God that he is the resurrection and his resurrection power is true. Thank him for his true comfort and victory. May we have victory over any element of death, especially sorrow and fatalism, hearing his words, “Don’t cry” and “Young man, I say to you, get up!” May we all live as young people or like young people full of life and vitality and challenging spirit through faith in Jesus, the resurrection.

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