I hate, hate, hate death! Now there’s a headline!
The pain of death is muted to some extent when it is a person who has lived a long life, only to suffer at the end from extended illnesses and body failure – the eventual death granting the individual and his or her family a sense of relief and release.
But when there are other circumstances and events that take the life of a person prematurely, the pain is so much more profound. In my pastoral years I have had church family friends lose a child to SIDS, and we remember the sadness of Chris Lewis passing as a little boy. Several times I have had to preside over the vehicular deaths of teenagers. And we could all make quite a list of folks from just our own church family who have passed away early due to cancers and a host of other deadly maladies. The palpable pain can almost be cut with a knife.
There are few passages in Scripture that so vividly speak to the emotional side of the soul as does this one today about the raising of a widow’s son. An evenly more particularly emotive text is the account of the raising of Lazarus as recorded in John 11. In both passages, we see that Jesus cares deeply; he is moved also by the evil of death and the separation and sadness it brings.
In John 11, twice in the passage it references that Jesus is deeply moved: once when he sees the weeping sisters and others, and then secondly as he walks into the tomb. I have often said at funerals when referencing this account that it may well be that the shortest verse in the Bible can have the longest meaning in the moment of sadness … John 11:36 – “Jesus wept.” He knew he was going to momentarily turn their sorrows into joy, yet his heart of compassion moved him deeply to empathize with their pain.
And in our passage today in Luke, we see the same emotion within Jesus. The sight of a widow who is in the process of burying her only son touched him deeply, and the text says his heart went out to her…
Yet death happens … to everyone. God is not in the business of solving that problem here. But He is in the business of solving it for eternity. The raising of this young man (and of Lazarus later) was to demonstrate the power of Christ over death. The news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country that a great prophet had come among the people and the nation. But Jesus was more than merely a prophet, he is also the great high priest and the king of kings.
News ought to spread about Jesus, and not just then, but now especially. Through the work of Christ, the everlasting life that is offered is so much better than raising a boy or raising Lazarus – both of whom died natural deaths eventually. Jesus has solved the greater death issue of eternal separation from God.
News of that sort had ought to spread! And who should be telling it? Here is the answer: go to that room in your house filled with plumbing and look into the shiny thing on the wall above the sink.
Luke 7:11 – Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.