When Life Meets Death
Scripture: Luke 7:11-17
Lesson Goal: To better understand Jesus’ power over death.
Introduction: Following the healing of the centurion’s servant, Luke shifts the setting to the town of Nain, which was located southwest of Capernaum and just a few miles from Nazareth. It was a very small, seemingly insignificant, village. But in spite its small population and obscurity, a crowd gathers on this day.
(V11) Jesus now goes to the city of Nain, followed by many of His disciples and a great number of other people. This is the only time Nain is mentioned in Scripture.
(V12) Usually small towns and villages had a central entry point. This entry point served as a gathering place to transact business, have conversations, and for visitors to gather needed information.
As Jesus nears the city on this day, He is met by a funeral procession. The processional of people is leaving the town for the purpose of burial. Charles Swindoll shares some great information on the funeral and burial customs of Jesus’ day:
The burial custom of the Jews called for the family to wrap the body of the loved one from head to toe in strips of linen soaked in as much as 75 pounds of aromatic spices and resin to counteract the smell of decomposition. On the day of burial, friends of the deceased placed the wrapped body on a ‘bier,’ a lattice frame supported by horizontal poles, which they carried to the family’s burial cave, hewn from a limestone wall. The family sealed the entrance of the cave with a large stone. Sometime later, perhaps upon the death of another family member, the family would gather the deceased person’s bones and place them in the family ossuary along with those of his ancestors.
In verse 12, Luke gives us several details concerning this funeral procession. The body is that of a “dead man.” This man was “the only son of his mother; and his mother was a widow.”
As we look at these details, we can gain some insight into this event. “The widow must have been well known and highly respected in the town, for a large crowd of the townspeople walked in the procession with her” (Pentecost).
Underlying this story is the fact of the woman’s hopelessness. Without a husband or a son to care for her, she would have no means of support. In her grief, she and the townspeople are headed to the cemetery when the procession meets Jesus.
(V13) “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”
Let us remember that compassion does not mean pity or sympathy, but a genuine loving concern that brings one alongside another to share the heaviness of a load. On this occasion, no one comes to Jesus asking or seeking help. No one comes imploring Him to help on behalf of another. Jesus responds upon seeing the desperation, hopelessness and grief of the woman. With compassion, He simply moves to her. Jesus’ heart is touched by this woman’s pain and grief.
Speak and write the blessing of knowing that Jesus has compassion on us in our pain and grief. How does this fact bless your life?
Please read Isaiah 53:3a. What does the phrase “acquainted with grief” mean, and how does it relate to this passage in Luke?
(V13) “Do not weep.”
Jesus is not being insensitive to her, nor is He being cold and calloused to her situation. The command “Do not weep” is given with the understanding of anticipation of what is to follow.
(V14) “Then He came and touched the open coffin.”
Once again we see Jesus doing the unthinkable and touching the untouchable. According to the Law, anyone “who touched a dead body or anything associated with that person became unclean” (MacArthur). This is Jesus whose touch of the unclean does not render Him unclean; rather, Jesus’ touch renders the unclean clean.
(V14) “Those who carried him stood still.”
May I share with you a wonderful and glorious truth of Scripture? Jesus interrupted every funeral procession He ever met. On this road leading into the city and on this road leading out of the city, death meets life, and life meets death. On this road leading into the city and on this road leading out of the city, two ‘only sons’ meet, one son who has been overcome by death, and one Son who is the overcomer of death. On this road on this day two enemies meet (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). Please read 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and Hebrews 2:14-15.
On this day, Jesus demonstrates the truth of John 11:25a: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
(14b-15) “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
At that very second, life filled the young man’s body. That which was dead is now totally alive. As evidence of life, the young man, the one who was totally dead, “sat up and began to speak.” Jesus had raised this young man from the dead. He was immediately restored to life and strength.
“And He presented him to his mother.”
What must have been the emotions and feelings of this mother?
How would you have felt if you had been the mother of this young man?
Heart to Heart
Through the years, there have occasionally been times when I prayed for life; I pleaded for life; I even begged for life. I know the Bible is true, and I know God is faithful, so I pleaded my case before Him for life. I am absolutely persuaded that Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life,” so I cried out in intersession to Him. I made my heart’s plea to Him. But death came. Death came anyway.
On those occasions, in my weak flesh, I can so easily get down. I can become discouraged so quickly. I can feel that death robbed me and the outcome of death has overwhelmed me. But then in the midst of what seems like real defeat in my life, brought by the darkness of death, I remember that Jesus has given me the words of Luke 7:11-15 to show me that death does not win. For this mom on that day, Jesus presented her son back to her, and, oh, what a blessing it was. But let us all remember that this page of Scripture points us to the reality and assurance that every time death, the enemy, challenged Jesus, death lost! Jesus won! I must remember on those occasions that my victory day may not have come as I prayed for life to win over death, but I have been assured by God Himself that my victory day will come. Death does not win! Jesus wins! And because Jesus wins, I win, you win. WE win!
(V16) My response is not that there has been a great prophet among us, but that Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life”! God’s presence and God’s power overwhelm us. For some who were present on that day, the sad truth is that they missed it.
Have you missed it? Have you missed the truth of who Jesus really is?
Who is this Jesus?