The Day Jesus Stopped A Funeral
I wish now to read for you these verses from the 7th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. This is the Word of God.
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain. His disciples and a large crowd went along with Him. 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. When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her, and He said, “Don’t cry.” Then, He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 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.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
May God bless to you, the reading and the hearing of this portion of His holy Word.
Pray with me, please. Give me Jesus Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest, just give me Jesus. Amen.
Christians, only Christians, can laugh in the face of death. Because that’s true, I thought you might enjoy this little story. It seems that there was an old preacher who lay dying. He had a message sent to his banker and his lawyer asking them to come to his home immediately. When they arrived, they were ushered into the bedroom. With diminishing strength, the old preacher motioned them to sit one on either of the bed in a chair. And then the preacher reached out and with his hand took hold of the hand of each one of them and held tight. He sighed contentedly, and he stared at the ceiling. Nothing was said for a long time. The banker and the lawyer were quite flattered that the old preacher had asked them to come and sit at his bedside in his final moments on earth, but they were also a little puzzled because the old preacher had never given any indication that he particularly liked either one of them. Finally, the silence came to be too much. The banker leaned over the bed and said, “Preacher, why did you ask us to come and sit beside you and hold your hands in this critical time?” And with his very last breaths, the old preacher said, “Jesus died between two thieves and I want to do the same.”
With very serious apologies to all of the wonderful bankers and lawyers in this great church, let me say it again: Christians, only Christians, can laugh in the face of death. And why is that true? Because Christians hold fast to a death-defying, death defeating, death destroying Christ. Think about it, please. Jesus took great delight in stopping every funeral He ever attended. When Jesus attended weddings, He behaved himself with quiet dignity. When Jesus attended worship services, He conducted himself with the proper decorum and devotion. When Jesus attended dinner parties, He was a welcome guest. The life of the party. The center of attention. But funerals, oh, let me tell you that was an altogether different matter.
When Jesus attended a funeral, He stopped it. He stopped every funeral he ever attended. He stopped the funeral of the daughter of Jairus. He stopped the funeral of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. He even stopped his own funeral. What kind of Christ is this who just couldn’t sit still in the presence of death? Who had to stop every funeral He ever attended? Well, to help us to frame an answer, I want us to look at the day Jesus stopped His very first funeral. The story is told for us in Luke chapter 7. Here is what Jesus did that day. Luke tells us that this incident occurred just outside the gate of the town of Nain. Well, the town of Nain is no longer there. It’s gone. But back in Jesus’ day, Nain was actually a lovely town. It was located not far from Capernaum, the place where Jesus began His ministry and the place where Jesus and His disciples were based, at least at this point in time.
And so Luke tells us that on this particular day Jesus and His disciples set out, headed toward the town of Nain. And Luke notes that a large crowd—that’s what Luke says—a large crowd accompanied them. Understand, please, that this was early in the ministry of Jesus. It was before he wound up taking so much flack and criticism when he angered and aroused such hostility and opposition. It was before all of that. At this point in His ministry, Jesus was actually riding the wave of great popularity. He was acclaimed and admired and affirmed and applauded and appreciated. In fact, it was actually a really good thing just to be seen in Jesus’ company.
And so when Jesus and His disciples set out toward Nain, this large crowd went along with them. As they approached the town of Nain, suddenly they encountered coming through the gate of Nain another large crowd. It was actually a funeral procession. Luke tells us that there was a coffin and there was this large number of mourners following the coffin outside the city gate. There, my guess is, that this great crowd accompanying Jesus, when they saw that funeral procession, they fell silent. You know, that’s the way it is, isn’t it? Whenever we see a funeral procession, we tend to get quiet. We tend to get silent. Why? Because that procession reminds us that every life, including our own, has a beginning and an ending. That all of us, sooner or later, have a rendezvous with death. And so my guess is that, yes, this great crowd following Jesus, when they saw that funeral procession, they became very quiet.
Of course, it’s always a sad thing, isn’t it, to see a funeral procession? But there’s something here I want you to notice. Luke incorporates three significant little details in his account of the story. And those details help us to see quite clearly that there was a particularly acute pain and poignancy to this funeral procession. Notice with me.
In the first place, Luke says, “The person who had died was a young man.”
That’s what Luke says. A young man. Death is always an intrusion into life, but when that intrusion takes the life of one who is young it carries with it a very special and profound pain. Nothing cuts across the grain of our human sensibilities and sensitivities like the death of those who are young. And so Luke tells us that the coffin was bearing the body of a young man.
The second little detail that Luke gives us is that the young man was his mother’s only son.
That’s the word he uses. Her only son. I have to tell you. I do not have the mind to understand, nor do I have the words to explain the unique and powerful bond that exists between a mother and a son. I do know that there is an old Arabian proverb which speaks to that. The proverb says, “When you are dead, your sister’s tears will dry as time goes by, your widow’s tears will cease in another’s arms, but your mother will mourn you until the day she dies.” I cannot tell you why this is so, but I can tell you that I’ve lived long enough and I’ve seen enough to know that it is absolutely true. And so this young man was his mother’s only son.
The third little detail that Luke gives us is that this woman was a widow.
Do you understand that she, therefore, had already had to bury her husband, and now she was having to bury her only son? Her grief would have been intensified, amplified, magnified, multiplied. And especially because in that day and time you have to understand that when a woman was widowed it was the son in the family who became her source of security. The son became what we would call her social security program. And therefore, this woman who had already lost her husband now losing her only son was therefore losing her support for her older years. A devastating occurrence. And so when you take the three little details that Luke gives us and weave them together, you begin to understand that this woman’s grief was overwhelming.
So get the picture, please. Here is Jesus, his disciples, a large crowd, headed toward Nain. Suddenly, they encounter outside the gate of Nain another large crowd. A funeral procession. And in that encounter, there then occurred an incredible sequence of events. I want you right now to do something for me. I want you to use your imagination. I want you to see in your mind’s eye. I want you to imagine for just a moment that you are this Widow of Nain. Your son, your only son, has died. You’re numb with grief. The funeral is under way. You think you’ve cried every tear you could ever cry and suddenly a whole new wave of tears courses down your cheeks. You stare in despair at the box, burying the body of your boy, and you wonder how in the world you’re ever going to make it through this.
And then suddenly, a man you’ve never seen before steps in front of you and says, “Don’t cry.” “What?” You’re reeling in shock. You cannot imagine what’s happened. Before you could even say anything, this one who’s appeared out of nowhere suddenly reaches over, grabs the coffin, and in a voice loud enough to wake the dead cries out, “Young man I say to you get up.” What is happening here? What lunatic has invaded my grief and my space? But before you could cry out, suddenly there is a guttural sound from down inside the coffin. The pallbearers, startled, drop the coffin on the ground. Good thing, because the lid of the coffin popped up. Oh, just imagine what the Widow of Nain must have felt at that moment.
I don’t know that I can tell you what happened next mainly because I don’t think you’d believe me. And so maybe, maybe I’ll just let Luke tell you. Yes! Luke. The dead man sat up and began to talk. Ha! I don’t think that hit you. Luke. The dead man sat up and began to talk. Come on? Still? What? Maybe it would help if we actually said the words out loud all together. Say them out loud with me now. The dead man sat up and began to talk. Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Wait a minute. Dead people don’t sit up. Dead people don’t talk. Dead people don’t walk away from their own funeral. I mean, if there is anything predictable in life, it is how a funeral ends. Unless, unless, Jesus is there. Just ask the Widow of Nain.
Well, that’s what Jesus did on the day that He stopped his first funeral. But now here is why Jesus did what He did that day. I like the way Max Lucado says it. Max Lucado says, “Jesus didn’t raise the dead for the sake of the dead, but for the sake of the living.” Yes. That’s it. Jesus didn’t raise the dead for the sake of the dead. I mean, come on. Jesus understood that on the other side of death is Heaven. Why would Jesus ever want to call somebody from life in Heaven back to life in this world? It doesn’t make any sense. And besides that, everyone He ever raised would just experience a temporary return. They ultimately all died again. No, Jesus didn’t raise the dead for the sake of the dead; Jesus raised the dead for the sake of the living. Jesus wanted us to understand something.
There is a great message wrapped up in this miracle. Jesus knew that the one thing all of us fear most in life is death and therefore Jesus wants us to know, to understand, that His power is stronger than the power of death. That’s why Jesus did what He did. He did what He did because He wants us to be honest about death. Yes.
I mean, we’re living in a society that teaches us almost inexorably to deny death. To ignore it. To put it in the back of our minds. To do whatever we have to do to try to postpone it. To pretend that it’s never going to happen. But Jesus wants us to be honest about death. He’s not calling us to be weird or strange or morbid or odd. No. He’s simply calling us to be honest. To acknowledge that yes, death is real. To acknowledge that yes, we all have an appointment to die. To acknowledge that what great King David said is true. That all of us are just one step away from death. Jesus wants us to be honest about death. And Jesus did what He did because He wants us to be comforted at death.
I don’t know if you caught it in the reading, but it says that when Jesus raised the young man up, listen, it says, “Jesus gave him back to his mother.” I love that. Jesus gave him back to his mother. Jesus wants us to understand that death cannot separate us one from another. He wants us to understand that the day will come when Jesus will give back to us all of those who have preceded us in death. What happened outside the gate at Nain is a hint, a glimpse, a foretaste of what will happen inside the gate of Heaven. Jesus is going to go around Heaven putting us all back together again.
If you are widowed, having lost a husband or a wife to death, make no mistake, in Heaven, Jesus is going to give that person back to you once more. If you are a son who has buried your father, count on the fact, fear not, your father will be yours again. If you are a mother who has lost her son, you may know beyond any shadow of a doubt that in Heaven, Jesus will give your son back to you once more. Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Jesus wants us to be comforted at death, and Jesus did what He did because Jesus wants us to be prepared for death. I’m amazed at how thoroughly we prepare for so many things in life. A school exam or a job interview or a sales presentation or even, for that matter, a dinner party or a golf game. We prepare so rigorously. But we prepare so little for our ultimate departure from this earth.
So let me ask you flat out. Are you prepared? I’m not trying to manipulate your emotion here. I’m simply asking you a dog-honest question. Are you prepared? Are you really ready? You don’t know the time. I don’t know the time. But we can be prepared. How? Paul has the answer for us. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul says, “The Lord himself will descend from Heaven with a cry of command and those who die believing in Christ will rise. ” That’s it. Those who die believing in Christ will rise. So how do we get prepared for death? We die believing in Christ. And how do we die believing in Christ? We live believing in Christ.
My beloved people believe, believe, believe, believe, believe in Christ. Yes. Believe in Christ alone.
Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory. Amen and Amen.