Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
July 23, 2017
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.
— Luke 7:11-17, ESV
What does your father do for a living? My Father is in the helping business. Every church is one of His branch offices, and every member is one of His ministers.
Of course, other people and places exist to offer help. In a natural disaster, thank God for the Red Cross. For affordable housing for the working poor, thank God for Habitat for Humanity. For basic needs, thank God for the food pantries, clothes closets, and homeless shelters in every city.
But when it comes to holistic and long-term (even everlasting) help, no one else can do what Christ and His church can do. Consider the ordinary and extraordinary help given by Jesus in this story, told exclusively by Luke. In the previous episode, people came to Jesus asking for help. Jesus did not even go into the place where help was needed, yet He helped by raising a sick centurion’s servant up from his terminally sick bed. This time, however, Jesus really showed off.
Christ initiated this contact, then reached out a helping hand, physically and emotionally and spirtually. In order to raise the ante on His claims of deity, Jesus did something only God could do. Instead of merely lifting a sick man to health, He raised a dead man to life.
Satisfaction is guaranteed in the Savior’s helping business. But can the church today, and every member of it, offer this same kind of sensational service? Remember Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (ref. John 14:12). So in some important ways, the answer is “yes.”
Jesus Helps By Showing Up
The first thing Jesus did in this story is just show up. Personal ministry requires personal contact, and help requires hands. Jesus showed up to these people at this time in this place to lend an especially helping hand.
The tiny village of Nain does not exist any more. When it did, it was just a tiny dot on a map twenty miles southwest of Capernaum, Jesus’ ministry headquarters, and five miles south of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown. Lying on the edge of Galilee, it was perhaps the most insignificant town in the most insignificant district in the most insignificant country in the empire of Rome. But no place, and especially no person, is insignificant to God. On this day, God showed up in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
When Jesus arrived He interrupted a funeral. The deceased body of a man who obviously died too soon was being carried to its final resting place. The situation was sad, like most funerals of young people, and particularly desperate for the widowed and now childless mother, whose only son was her only means of support. This dear lady really, really needed help, and Jesus was there for her.
This miracle tells us something about God's sovereignty and our responsibility. There were many other funerals that day in Israel, no doubt, but Jesus chose to show up at this one. There are only three people raised from the dead during the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, according to the Gospels: the widow’s son in Luke 7, Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8, and Lazarus in John 11 (although John’s Gospel does tell us that only a fraction of Christ’s works could be recorded, so there may have been at least a few others).
Why doesn’t God heal everybody? Why doesn't God break up every funeral by raising the corpse from the dead? Why doesn’t God just save everybody, since He has the power to do so? I do not know. I only know when God does reveal Himself to heal, to give life, to grant repentance and faith unto eternal salvation, it is a gift of His sovereign grace. It is undeserved, it is unmerited, it is wonderful, it is grace.
Grace personified in the public ministry of Jesus Christ could only be in one place at one time. How can we do “greater things?” The church has millions of locations and billions of members today. Here is what each one of us should set out to do first: show up. Half the battle of fighting the good fight of faith is just showing up. Show up to spend time with your spouse, show up and be there for your children, show up and always be a friend. Show up at funerals, at weddings, at the hospital, show up every Sunday for church. For if you are not there, you cannot help, you cannot encourage, you cannot speak or touch, you cannot minister. Since the Incarnation, Calvary, and Pentecost, God is doing greater things by showing up everywhere, through His people, the church.
Jesus Helps By Showing His Love
Whenever you show up, in whatever situation you are shown, be sure to show up with what Jesus showed at this funeral. Before He raised the dead, before He even touched the stretcher carrying the body, Jesus showed the lonely window that He loved her.
The first thing that is said of the Lord in this episode is, “He had compassion on her.” “Compassion” is a big biblical word. It is used thirteen times, only in the synoptic Gospels, only about God. It speaks of a love so powerful on the inside that it erupts on the outside. It can be seen in visible expression and tangible action. It speaks of God’s love for us, and it should speak of our love for God and one another. It was certainly on display on this day in Nain.
Jesus gave this woman the look of holy, godly, love. You know it when you see it. This dear widow knew it. Soon her son would know it. Soon everyone in the story would know it. Before He did anything to remedy her situation, this woman knew that Jesus loved her.
I do not think that God will do much of anything for anybody until they know He loves them. “For God so loved …, He gave …” (ref. John 3:16). “God shows his love for us … while we were still sinners …” (ref. Romans 5:8). Accepting God’s love is the first step to being a member of the body of Christ, and showing God’s love is the first responsibility for every member of the body of Christ.
Love goes a long way. I believe if Jesus had not raised this woman’s son, it would have been bearable. His compassion for her could have carried her the rest of the way. After all, Jesus does not break up most funerals, does He? Yet we who believe in Him can make it through any situation, once we grasp assurance of God’s love and care.
Remember, Jesus Christ was one person sharing God’s love. Today He is many, a large body of Christ, commissioned to look upon people with the love of God. So, in Jesus’ name, be sure to show up. Be sure to show your love. And, for the love of God, go ahead and raise the dead.
Jesus Helps By Showing His Power
Jesus showed up, Jesus showed His love, and, Jesus showed His power, the power of God, by raising this young man from the dead. In doing so, He gave life to the man, hope to the mother, and the gospel to us all.
There was a practical and a parabolic element to this miracle of Jesus. Practically, this was in the prerogative of Jesus to do, anytime and to anyone He wanted. It was a card Christ seldom played, however, and no modern Christian has this hand in his deck. Anyone who tells you that with enough faith you can do all the miracles that Jesus did is either a liar or an idiot. These televangelist and megachurch preachers perform staged miracles but never venture out to a cemetery, not even a hospital. Any of us can show up, any of us can show love, but none of us can raise the dead.
But, we can do “greater things.” I interpret every miracle of Jesus as a parable of the gospel, with raising the dead at the pinnacle. What could be better for this widow or any broken-hearted family member than having a loved one raised from the dead? The greater miracle is when a lost sinner, dead in their sins, is raised to eternal life by the grace of god through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ!
And, it happens every day. People repent and believe, every day. People are added to the church, every day. People are buried with Christ and raised to walk with new life every single day somewhere on this planet. This greatest of miracles will keep happening until Jesus comes again. So, let’s get in on it.
To experience spiritual resurrections, however, we’ve got to go where Jesus went, do what Jesus did, in order to see what Jesus saw. We’ve got to go to the dead people, the spiritually dead and lost people in our families, circles of friends, coworkers and neighbors. We’ve got to love them, unconditionally, whether they ever make a commitment to join our church or not. We’ve got to share with them the stories of Jesus and how the gospel can give them life that cannot be taken away, even by death.
You cannot help a person find eternal life just by showing up, not even just by loving them, but only by laboring for them to hear and heed the gospel. For the gospel is the story of the God who showed up, the gospel is proof of God’s love, and the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (ref. Romans 1:16).
People need help. So, show up, sow seeds of the love of God, and share the power of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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