Grace For The Journey
Most ministers will tell you that they would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding. Weddings are largely parties. Folks who gather for them aren’t really all that interested in spiritual things. They’re looking at the bride’s dress and remarking on how well the groom cleaned up. And, of course, everyone’s looking forward to food and cake at the reception! Funerals, on the other hand, present an opportunity to share the gospel with people who are more inclined to be listening with spiritual ears. People who are hurting. Grieving. As such, people who are more likely to be open to hear from God.
In Luke 711-17, Jesus breaks up a funeral. Literally. He interrupts a funeral procession. The passage describes the converging of two crowds: one crowd is heading into the city (verse 11) and one crowd is heading out of the city (verse 12). The crowd walking into the city is the crowd with Jesus. The crowd walking out of the city is the crowd accompanying a mournful widow; a sad crowd on their way outside to bury a young boy.
Put another way . . .
One crowd mourns for one who had died
The other crowd follows One who brings life.
Death and life intersect at the city gate of Nain. In this account, we learn several truths:
1) We See Christ’s Providence In The Details.
Nain is about 20 miles south of where Jesus had healed the Roman centurion’s servant in Capernaum. Incidentally, Nain is still around today. It’s a small town of some 1,800 people. There are a number of tombs in Nain that date to the early New Testament era, the first century in the year of our Lord. But here’s something to think about . . .
Jesus leaves Capernaum and walks
An entire day’s journey
With the 12 disciples and other followers,
Walking 20 miles to a place
That really isn’t on the way to anywhere else.
It’s out of the way. A small, insignificant town.
Why does Jesus go there? The answer, of course, is that . . .
He went there knowing
He would meet with
This widowed woman
Who would be
Burying her son.
2) Never Cease To Be Amazed By The Providential Ways Of Our Lord!
God’s providence is the means by which God governs, or superintends, all things. He rules over all things in such a way that all the intricate details are managed by His precise and perfect timing so that His perfect will is done. Jesus is God in the flesh. He knows all things. He knows the precise moment the funeral procession will be at the city gate. So, Jesus moves steadily along, without hurrying, knowing exactly where He will need to be and when He will need to be there.
It is often said that . . .
“Jesus is never in a hurry,
But He is always right on time.”
There is a comfort here in this doctrine of providence. Jesus knows all the future events you will face today. He knows all the future events you will face this week. He knows all the details and He knows just when you need Him most.
We don’t always know why He permits the bad things to happen – why the job loss, the sickness, or even death – but we know that God is at work through all of these intricate details and nothing escapes His notice.
Believe in Him to work
Through all the details of your life
In such a way that it results
In your good and His glory.
3) See Christ’s Pity for the Disheartened.
Luke tells us that this woman is a widow. That means she had been through similar suffering when her husband had died. A woman losing her husband in New Testament times meant more than the immediate emotional pain. There was tremendous social and economic hardship, as well. Women did not work as many modern women do today. A woman in New Testament times was totally dependent upon the care and support of her protector and provider, her husband. This woman has already been through the pain and suffering of burying her husband, now she is going through the pain and suffering of burying her only son, her only child.
We imagine her getting up that morning to prepare for her son’s funeral. Many of us have done similarly. A loved one dies and we grieve as we have never grieved before. We cry as we’ve never cried before. And this crowd is mourning and crying. We can only imagine the looks and the sounds of this crowd proceeding out of the city to the cemetery.
But . . .
Here the crowd of hopelessness
Converges with the crowd of hope.
That which is imperfect
Meets that which is perfect.
Verse 13 tells us, “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” I love the way verse 13 begins, “When the Lord saw her.”
The woman was not looking for Jesus,
But Jesus was looking for her!
Jesus has His eye on the brokenhearted.
He sees her. In the same way, He sees you right now. He knows your hurts. He knows your needs.
How many times has our Lord blessed us when we weren’t even looking for Him? We weren’t seeking Him, but He was seeking us. He set His eye upon us and had compassion on us. Perhaps you are praying for the salvation of your children. You are praying for your lost children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces. You are bringing your children to the very one who sees your hurt and has compassion on you. When reading about Jesus always remember that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Jesus is the same Lord today as He was in the city of Nain 2,000 years ago. He loves you and His heart goes out to you today. Others may not know what you are facing, but our Lord knows. He sees you and He whispers, “Do not weep.”
Jesus Christ is hope for a hurting world. He may not raise your loved one from her sickbed or bring to life a dead child from a funeral procession. There were thousands who had died during the ministry of Christ, but He raised only three of them from the dead. He may not raise your loved one from sickness or death, but He promises to be with you and His heart goes out to you in the depth of your sorrow. Our Lord loves you. He cares for you.
4) See Christ’s Power over Death.
The larger theme in this narrative is Christ’s authority over everything, including death and the grave. Because He is God, Jesus Christ holds the keys of death in His hand. If He has authority over death, He has authority over life. And if He has authority over life, He has authority over every living thing.
Verse 14 states, “Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’” Christ speaks to the dead and the dead listen! Verse 15 goes on to say, “So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.” The young man sat up and began to speak, offering proof that he was, indeed, alive. And then Jesus presents the young man to his mother. Small wonder verse 16 reads, “Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us;’ and, ‘God has visited His people.’”
Yes . . .
A great prophet had risen up among the people!
Yet this person was more than a prophet.
God had indeed visited His people –
Visiting them in the flesh as Jesus Christ,
Second person of the Holy Trinity,
Fully God and fully man.
Does it strike you that Jesus speaks to the dead and the dead listen? Is this not a demonstration of the truth that while the body physically dies, the spirit lives on? Jesus talks to the living spirit of the young man. He speaks to the young man’s soul. When we die our soul will live on in one of two locations, either in heaven or in hell. The body dies, but the soul lives on.
Without being asked, and in His own power and might, Jesus approaches the open coffin, speaks the word, and the dead is raised.
Charles Wesley wrote:
He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
In Ephesians 2:4-6, the Bible speaks of our spiritual death this way, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Much as we may not like to think about it . . .
We are all in a procession of death.
We are all in a crowd of spiritual death,
Marching inexorably toward
An eternal cemetery of hell.
We all stand in need of someone
To come “interrupt the procession.”
Jesus Christ comes to interrupt
Our march toward death.
And as the unique,
“Only Son” of the Father,
Jesus offers Himself
To save us from death
And bring us to life.
Think of it . . .
Jesus is the living only Son who would die
So that this widow’s only dead son would live.
In order for this woman’s only son to be returned to his mother, the Heavenly Father had to give His only son away. And as a Perfect Father, He knows the pain of burying His only Son. He knows your pain, too, and He brings hope and life. Jesus is the greater only Son who comes back to life never to die again.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”