The Corpse Arises (Luke 7:11-17)

In the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus, we frequently see the Lord performing astounding miracles of healing or acts of power without the slightest effort or fanfare. What is almost as remarkable is the matter-of-fact tone with which these astonishing acts are related by the gospel writers. What do you think? Does stopping a hurricane with the sound of your voice warrant at least a little notice and maybe a headline? But for Jesus, this was completely routine. When you are the Creator God, there is no act that requires effort.

In the seventh chapter of Luke, there is another such miracle that occurs, this one in the midst of a funeral procession. As we set the scene, we see that Jesus is entering the town called Nain. He is followed by His disciples and also by a large crowd. As this huge entourage enters the city, they are met by a funeral procession coming out of the town. You can imagine what kind of a hush falls over the crowd traveling with Jesus as they meet this funeral procession. Here is a sad and hopeless situation. The only son of a widow is being carried out of the city to be buried. The widow has lost her husband and now has lost her son. Thus she is left with no real hope for the future. How is she going to survive when her husband and her only son have died? The path ahead is black indeed.

But there is no situation that is hopeless when Jesus Christ is there. What happens in Nain? First, Jesus sees the situation and has compassion on the woman. Imagine this, that we have a God who is compassionate toward hurting, desperate people. Jesus not only sees the situation, but He also decides to do something about the situation. But what can be done? The son of the widow has died and no one but God alone can overcome death. There is no human who can overcome the finality of death.

Instead of sadly walking away, however, and showing respect for the dead and the grieving, in the presence of the entire funeral procession and His own large entourage, Jesus walks up to the coffin and stops the funeral procession. The people must have wondered what Jesus was going to do. “Jesus, the guy is dead. Please don’t do anything embarrassing or silly. Let’s just go on and let’s not bother this poor widow.” At this point there is no one in the funeral procession or in the large crowd following Jesus who is not perfectly aware that the young man on the coffin is dead. After all, that’s why they are going in the funeral, to bury this dead young man. “It’s over. Let them grieve and let’s move on.”

What happens next is beyond remarkable and beyond astonishing. In the presence of all these people, with them all hearing His every word, Jesus speaks to the corpse and commands the corpse to get up. Try to grasp what is going on. A flesh-and-blood human being is standing there and is speaking to a corpse, telling the dead man to get up, much like you would tell your sleeping son to get up on a Saturday morning. All the people, who know with absolute certainty that the young man is dead, hear Jesus speak to the corpse. “Is He out of His mind? The boy is dead. There is nothing that You can do, Jesus.”

Instead of submitting to hopelessness, Jesus Christ assumes control of the situation. “Young man, I say to you, ARISE!” The Lord of the universe speaks and none can resist. The One who rules over all and who is sovereign over life and death, commands the boy to get up. Death must yield its grip. His spirit returns to him and the corpse sits up and begins to speak.

How do the people respond when they realize that God is in their midst? They are filled with fear and begin glorifying God saying, “God has visited His people!” Jesus has performed yet another miracle.

LESSONS:

  1. Jesus has compassion on those who are desperate and grieving. He calls those who mourn ‘blessed.’ (Matt. 5:4; Luke 6:21) We have a Savior who is compassionate toward ordinary people. “He knows our frame and He is mindful that we are but dust (Ps. 103:14).” Jesus has suffered, so He can understand how painful it is when His people also suffer (Hebrews 4:15; 2:18).
  2. Jesus Christ is more powerful than death. Death is subject to the commands of Jesus. Just as He raised the son of the widow of Nain, and just as He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43ff), even so He will raise us from the dead when He returns. Because of Jesus Christ, death has no victory and the grave has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55). The power of death has been broken by Jesus’ death on the cross (Hebrews 2:14-15).
  3. The proper response to Jesus Christ is to fear Him with a reverent fear and to glorify Him as our great God.

SDG    rmb   4/18/2016

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