Obedience of the Dead

The Open BibleLuke 7:11-17  Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd.
12  And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.
13  When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
14  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.”
15  So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.
16  Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”
17  And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

I want to look at a few aspects of this passage with my focus on what occurs in verses fourteen and fifteen.

From preceding verses, we see that Jesus had been in Capernaum which is a coastal town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Looking at a map of ancient Israel will show you that Nain is a small village around ten to twelve miles south southwest of the Sea, a couple of miles from Nazareth.  The text tells us that He approached Nain with many of His disciples and a large crowd.  They either followed Him from Capernaum or perhaps joined Him near Nazareth, if He went that way.  I’m not familiar with the exact topography of the area, so I’m not sure exactly what path He would have taken to get to Nain.

Jesus arrives at the gate of the city and encounters a funeral procession.  This procession has a particularly sad note associated with it.  We’re told the young man who had died was the only son of his mother, a widow.  Widow’s usually had a hard go of it during ancient times.  Men were the providers.  Once a woman’s husband died, if they weren’t fairly well off financially, she would have trouble with a livelihood if her husband hadn’t been able to save something for her or she would be dependent on her children.  In this case, the woman had lost her husband and now her son.  She would have no one to depend on.

I like the fact we’re told Jesus had compassion on her.  We wouldn’t expect anything less from Jesus, but I think the writer has made it a point to stress the extra sadness of the situation and Jesus understood that.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Just because He wants us to live the truth doesn’t mean He doesn’t understand how weak and fragile and clueless we are.  He deals with us through His great love and compassion for us.  Even though we get some things a bit off center, He deals with us as with children, knowing we’ll understand more as we grow in Him.

Now we come to my focus.  Notice in the last part of verse fourteen, Jesus merely says to the body of the young man, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  I can see the Hollywood version of this now.  Low, rumbling music, the ground shaking, Jesus with His arms outstretched, His eyes rolled back in His head, and at least five to ten seconds pass before the dead man very slowly sits up in his coffin.

But Jesus isn’t the Hollywood type.  He didn’t mumble some mumbo-jumbo, or wave His arms about, or start some chant or incantation.  And there was no show about the young man rising, no hesitation on his part.  Jesus spoke and the dead man immediately obeyed.  “So he who was dead sat up…”  Just like that.  What power a person would have to possess to be able to simply say to the dead, “Get up,” and the dead suddenly come to life and get up.  That is the Jesus we serve.  God Himself.  Creator of all things in the universe, including us, and the universe itself.

The people were astounded at what they witnessed, obviously.  They mention a great prophet must have risen or that God has visited His people.  Understandable.  Both are references to what had happened in Israel’s history and which hadn’t happened to them in a long time.  And they were close in their statements.  Jesus was something of a prophet, and God was indeed visiting His people.  But unfortunately, they didn’t see the full truth of the situation.  God Himself had visited His people.  He hadn’t sent just another prophet, He had come Himself.

I think this is one reason Jesus would often caution people who had experienced or witnessed His healing power to not spread word of Him to others.  He wanted the gospel of His coming, the good news of salvation and redemption to be the primary focus of His ministry and the word that people spread.  All the miracles in the world won’t save us.  Only belief in Him.  That young man who came back to life would someday die again.  But if he believed in Jesus for his salvation, he would someday rise to never die.

May we be as obedient as that young dead man.  When Jesus speaks to us, may we answer His call, first to salvation through Him, and then to whatever service He requires of us.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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