Skip to content
May 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 25, 2014 – Luke 7:11-17

From Death Into Life

Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. Luke 7:11-12

In conversation with my oldest daughter yesterday, we realized that we both have faced some interesting challenges recently. At one point she asked me, “Has everyone suddenly gone crazy?” I suggested that it could be an experimental toxin the government  released in the atmosphere over Orange County, but then more seriously answered, “We’re just seeing a different side of people that we thought we knew.”

I also explained how my dad’s death created a vacuum and since then a number of people have jumped in to try to fill it. Now this new, brighter light in which my dad lived has exposed characteristics that were not visible before. Some of these new discoveries have been disillusioning and heartbreaking.

Think of the variety of ways we know different people

Strangers – we only need to know the most basic facts
• is this person safe or unsafe?
• do I want or need to know these people better or not?
Acquaintances (neighbor, mail carrier, clerk)
• we know their names and a few of their traits and characteristics
Friends – we are familiar with a large range of their traits and characteristics
• also, we know something about how all these things fit together
• we refer to the composite of these qualities as “character” and “personality”
Family – we know all of the above, plus their background and “life-story”
• we also have some knowledge of the story they tell about themselves
• but we may not know their “inner life” as well as we assume
Lover, Spouse – (ideally) we know all of the above, but more intimately
• and we are known in the same way and to the same degree

The Lover is someone that was at first a Stranger
– we have come to know person better and our knowledge has been modified along the way
• we have discovered that some of our first impressions were wrong
– we discovered also their complexity and contradictions
• for example, “He is outgoing, but not all time or not with certain people”

The closest knowing of another requires years of experience
– it also requires interest, caring, and listening
– this is why we’re traveling with Jesus each Sunday
• and why this morning we arrive with him at this small village

Nain was not far from Nazareth (Jesus’ home town)

Situated in hill country approximately twenty miles from the Mediterranean Sea
– Nain was settled near a road that led to the major route on the coast
– the surrounding terrain is similar to fields of vineyards and farmland around Paso Robles

Jesus was coming from Capernaum–his headquarters on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee
– something remarkable happened there
• a Roman centurion connected faith and “authority” (Lk. 7:6-9)
– Jesus wasn’t alone, “His disciples “were going with Him”
• this defined what it means to be a disciple:
○ being with him
○ becoming part of his story
• they were there to experience his public teaching, private insights, personal example
– they had been joined by a large crowd

Nain had recently been hit by tragedy
– woman, already widowed, lost her only son
• there is a familiar scene in movies and television
○ a father leaving for a business trip or war, or perhaps he is dying
○ he tells his young son, “You’re man of house now, so take good care of your mother”
• this was the reality of Jesus’ culture
○ widows became dependent on their sons for their survival
○ with her son’s death, “..such a woman’s life expectancy was extremely short” (Malina and Rohrbaugh)
– I also imagine her grief and loneliness
• my grandmother lost husband and youngest son together in a plane crash
• friends would try to comfort her saying, “I understand. I lost my husband”
○ she told my parents, “But they don’t understand. I not only lost my husband, but my son as well”
○ and since they were the only two who had been living with her, the emptiness of her home was overwhelming

Jesus did not plan to arrive with his crowd at the village gate just as widow and her crowd were heading out to cemetery
– it was a coincidence
• no doubt Jesus and his group had to stop and stand to one side so the other group could pass
• as he watched, he immediately read the situation
– it was not just two crowds that met at the gates
• this is primarily about two people: Jesus and the widow
• there at the gate of Nain, immense loss collided with immense authority
○ in fact, for first time in this book, Luke refers to Jesus as “the Lord”
○ the one who exercises authority (as he had in the previous encounter with the centurion)

Vv. 13-17, What will happen when Jesus sees this woman?

He did not need a plan for this moment – “he saw…he felt…he said”
– Jesus spontaneously responded to a broken heart
• the Greek word for compassion is related to the “spleen”
• it represents an attempt to describe a person’s deepest feelings
– there was a purpose for many of Jesus’ miracles
• John wrote his gospel around only those miracles that served as “signs”
• there was no other meaning or purpose for this miracle other than his compassion

He went to her first, which stopped funeral procession
– he told her to stop weeping – two words, “Don’t cry”
• did he intend to comfort or reassure her?
• did she have any idea why this stranger would tell her not to cry
– I’ve known of Christians who told grieving widows not to mourn
• “Your husband is rejoicing in heaven!”
• but the Lord’s compassion was not for the dead, but the living
– it makes all the difference who is telling you, “Don’t cry”
• was there an authority in his manner, a tenderness in his voice that soothed her?
• did she immediately know she could trust this man? Did she stop crying?

He then went from the mother to the coffin
– like touching a leper, anyone touching a coffin would be contaminated
• but with Jesus, the energy of purity flowed one direction
• rather than being defiled, he made the leper clean and brought the dead to life

Jesus spoke more words to the dead than to the living
– we could have a long discussion about this young man’s return to life
• in many Intensive Care Units around the country, people hanging between life and death
○ what does it take to bring them back?
○ what sort of medical miracle took place here?
○ why doesn’t Jesus always do this?
– but rather than enter the discussion, all I want to register on our hearts for now is this:
• Jesus has the power to raise the dead parts in us
• dead dreams, dead hopes, our dead will and drive to be better

Even after the young man sat up and spoke, Jesus was not done
– “Jesus gave him back to his mother”

In Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh observe, “The critical point is when the passage reports that Jesus gave the young man back ‘to his mother.’ That is the moment of her resurrection.”

What happened afterward was the identical response to the paralytic’s healing (Lk. 5:26)

Returning to where we began

The better we know a person’s story, the better we know that person
– if I understand what Luke wants us to see in this story,
• it doesn’t merely tell me that Jesus feels compassion but that he is compassionate
○ he is caring, loving, gentle, and tender-hearted

But Jesus cannot just be a storybook character
– we need to talk with him, interact with him
• and we need to do so whether or not we see him or sense his presence

Take two minutes and silently identify what have you learned about Jesus in this episode?
– what does it reveal about Jesus?
– what does it reveal about people who met Jesus?
. . .

Now, can you take this with you into the coming week?
Can you use it to come to a deeper knowledge of Jesus in your everyday life?

Leave a comment