Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Give thanks for the blessing of the Lord's day. Give thanks for public worship, albeit its unusual circumstances. Pray that the Lord would open the door soon for those who are able to return to being together, that we might properly fulfil his command that we worship him corporately. Give thanks that Christ is ruling over all his creation as Mediator King, and the kingdoms of men are ultimately subservient to him. A fact that will be revealed when he returns.
Confess the sin of not understanding the extent of Jesus' authority as Mediator over creation and the world, a fact which impacts our trust in him. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable us to process and understand the implications of this reality for our lives and the lives of others.
Let's read Luke7:11-17.
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
V11. The Funeral.
This account of the raising of the dead is peculiar to Luke's Gospel. The city where it took place is Nain. A town about a day's journey southwest of Capernaum on the slopes on Little Hermon. John Calvin says, "the naming of the city enhances the certainty of the story." I include that because when reading and studying God's Word, we can sometimes forget that these things happened. Because we just expect extraordinary things to happen in the Bible, we tend to think little of them when they do. To guard against that, we almost need to consciously remind ourselves, every time we come to God's Word, that the remarkable things we are reading actually did take place.
Note again, the great crowds following Jesus. The man must have lived his life devoid of any time to himself, except for when he got up early and went off to a quiet place to pray – what a demanding life he had.
The story is simple and clear. As Jesus and those following him approach the town gate, they are met by a funeral cortège. Death is the last enemy, an unpleasant reality. Funerals are events marked by sobriety and either silence or wailing, depending on the culture. When people die in old age, it doesn't mitigate the sense of loss for their relatives, but there is generally an understanding that we all must die, and that the individual had lived their life. The death of a young person is more challenging. This particular death is even more harrowing because the closest relative, the young man's mother, is already a widow, and he was an only child. There's not only the grief due to the loss of an extremely close relationship, but there are the implications of the loss of future protection and provision. The fact that this would have meant the end of the family line was also something of consequence for a Jewish family. Not that this widow would have necessarily been thinking of that, as she walked with the funeral bier. So, there are numerous emotions and distressing implications tied up in this death. A fact underscored by the presence of a large number of people from Nain at the funeral.
What term does Luke use to refer to Jesus? This is the first time that Luke, in his gospel, names Jesus as 'Lord', a designation that speaks of Christ's authority and power. It is a term Luke will go on to use frequently. When the two crowds meet, Jesus moves towards the funeral procession. Why does he not simply step aside and lead those following him to do likewise, and let this funeral continue on its way? What happens? Jesus reacts to what he sees before him. He sees the woman either in front of or directly behind the bier. She is alone, yes, followed by a large crowd, but her solitude says it all. Jesus immediately realizes that she is a widow without any immediate family, and what he sees moves him. He is filled with compassion, pity and genuine concern for this woman. His life is busy, full of people, overwhelmed with demands, continually being followed by great crowds; yet he is alive to the world around him. He sees and is impacted by it.
This is certainly an unusual time in our lives due to the current restrictions. For many, this is generating increased demands in life. Some of us are finding that our reservoirs of emotion are being drained low. When that is the case, we need to be careful to avoid becoming cold and withdrawn in an attempt to cope. That is why time with the Lord is essential. Remember his request to us, "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29. We need to do so, not only for ourselves but also for those immediately around us and others, for these are days when we need to be particularly mindful of the hurt of others and be moved. On the other side of the equation, when we are the ones in difficulty, in distress, we need to be graciously careful when reading the reaction of others to our plight. For, while some will respond with tears and an instant show of emotion, an evident pathos, others, although equally moved, may be more measured and thoughtful in their response. We need to be aware of this. For in our hurt, we tend to look for people to show us instant empathy, and sometimes we can, incorrectly, read a lack of it as a sign that the person doesn't care, when the opposite may be the case. The fact that people don't react the way we expect or want them to, does not mean that they do not care. It may mean that, because of their character, they are going to express that care in a different and equally beneficial way, if we give them the space to do so.
V13,14. Do not weep.
What does Jesus tell the woman to do? Much has been made of this, as though Jesus is thoughtless in telling this woman to stop weeping. It is difficult for a man to tell a woman who is in distress, to 'stop crying'. It can come across as though – 'so you don't care, you just want me to stop crying'. Even in writing that, I had a twinge of fear at the possibility of being misunderstood. So why does Jesus say what he does? Was it really necessary? Jesus speaks to gain the woman's attention, and then moves instantly forward to do what he is going to do. His request, born of love, is to get to see and experience what is going to happen. Jesus walks forward and touches the bier, causing the pallbearers to stop. This touching is deeply significant. It wasn't merely to get the men to stop. By doing this, Jesus was polluting himself under the ceremonial laws. It wasn't that he was breaking the law, but his actions meant that he would now be deemed ceremonially unclean. For Jesus, though, identification with the cause of this woman's grief far outweighs the resulting consequences of his action.
Up to this point, while his words and action may have been slightly unusual for a stranger, nonetheless, they were within the realms of the understandable. What Jesus does next is beyond the realms of normality on anyone's spectrum. He speaks to the corpse. He tells the dead person, the young man, to rise. No drama, just words. But what words! Instantly the dead young man sits up, and he begins to speak. Picture it. And what does Jesus then do? He presents the young man to his mother – the power of Jesus' spoken word accompanied by the compassion of his actions.
Do you believe in the power of the Word of God in your life? The promises he has given you, to be your God, to protect and provide for you, if you cease being anxious and seek first his kingdom. Matthew 6:33. We have to stop living as much as we do by sight, and become more engrossed in living by experiential faith. We must cease trying to lean on our own meagre, flawed, understanding and throw ourselves trusting on the Lord with all our heart. Proverbs 3:5-6. He does love you; he is your good shepherd. He will protect and provide for you no matter what, if you will own him by faith.
V16. Fear seized everyone else.
Fear, awe, wonderment, gripped those in the funeral procession and those following Jesus. Their words speak of a great prophet visiting them and glorifying God. The crowds cannot envisage of anyone being higher than a great prophet, so they are giving Jesus the highest accolade they know, even though it falls far short of who he is, the Messiah. Nonetheless, the word spread far and wide of what had happened. The story of Jesus' raising the dead son of this widow in Nain, becomes known throughout Palestine. Jesus was now a nationally known figure. Within several years he would become internationally known and within a few decades globally so, and at a time when word of mouth was the means of communication.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 84B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
'Hiding' the Word of God in your heart will bless you in ways you will never expect.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ,"
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 46 - What is required in the first commandment?
Answer - The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God and our God, and to worship and glorify him accordingly.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you find proof texts.
Thank God for the love and compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that we might know that he loves us, by dwelling on this truth. Pray that, by the help of the Holy Spirit, we would increasingly live in this truth and the freedom it affords us to delight in obeying God.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley