“Jesus and Funerals”
Pastor V. P. Oliver
Luke 7:14, 15 (11 – 17)
“And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And He that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.”
Luke, the writer of our text presents two subjects for our consideration. He informs us that, as He entered into the town of Nain, Jesus came upon a funeral in progress. Jesus, the Giver and Sustainer of life, encountered a funeral - the final occasion that marks the end of ones life. Luke presents this clash of total opposites, Jesus and a funeral, as the backdrop for another opportunity for a supernatural demonstration of Jesus’ deity. The combination of Jesus and funerals will always result in unexpected and life-altering changes.
Luke says the woman in the story was attending the funeral of her only son and that she was a widow. Life is filled with its share of disappointments and heartbreaks. May I suggest to you today that Jesus has a way of reversing conditions as well as attitudes when He encounters some of our own personal funerals.
1. JESUS RESTORES HOPE.
First of all, JESUS RESTORES HOPE. Luke tell us in this text, that Jesus, His disciples and many people entered the gates of the city of Nain. They met this woman in the midst of a funeral procession and many people were with her. They were on their way to the graveyard, carrying her only son.
Here, we see two groups of people standing in complete juxtaposition to each other; two groups on the same street going in two different directions; two groups, one is playing a funeral dirge; the other celebrating the fact that the Rose of Sharon is in their midst. This encounter was ripe for a miracle.
The woman in the text had lost all hope; there was nothing else in her life to rejoice about. Her husband was dead; her only son had just died, and she was on her way to the graveyard to deposit his remains into a cold and unforgiving grave.
But on her way to the graveyard, she ran into Jesus. On her way to lie to rest the remains of her only child, she ran into Jesus. She was on her way to bury the last of the family bloodline; as she was about to bury all that she had left in the world, she ran into Jesus. The Bible says, “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.” With two little words Jesus restored her hope.
Notice that this is one of those miracles performed by Jesus when the recipient of the miracle does not actively seek it. God’s grace is at its best when human initiative is not a factor. The woman in the text had resigned herself to her pitiful predicament. She had long since buried her parents and now she had accepted the fact that walking through graveyards would be her lot. Life for her had lost its meaning and hope was all but gone.
Nowhere in the text does it say that she sent for Jesus. Her friends had not introduced her to Jesus. But in the midst of this hopeless and hurting situation, she ran into Jesus.
Someone here today who is going through a painful and hopeless situation, needs to hear me when I say that Jesus is on your street. I know you came to hear the choir sing, or to serve at the door, or simply to enjoy the fellowship, but the real reason that you are here today is so you could run into Jesus. He’s here right now; He’s in the vicinity of your pain; He’s in the vicinity of your problem; He’s in the vicinity of your predicament, your brokenness, your failure, your crisis…
Somebody here is in the middle of a dead situation, and like the widow of our text, you’re in the middle of a funeral, you are on your way to the Graveyard. No, not ( the name of your local cemetery) or ( another local cemetery), but the Graveyard of despair; a graveyard called divorce; the graveyard of “I just don’t care anymore.” But I come to tell you that your despair does not line up with your destiny. Your sorrow and hopelessness is no match for His sovereign help.
I wonder, which way are you headed today? Are you headed to the cemetery? Maybe I need to tell you that what you’re carrying to the graveyard to be buried is not dead like you think. It might look dead, someone may have even pronounced it dead, but whatever it is that seems to have no more life is not beyond the reach of the One Who specializes in breaking up funerals. Be careful before you start giving up on things that appear to be dead. Jesus wants to restore your hope.
2. JESUS REVERSES GRAVEYARD SITUATIONS.
As He restores your hope, JESUS REVERSES GRAVEYARD SITUATIONS. The Bible says that Jesus stopped the funeral. After speaking words of hope to the woman, He proceeded to stop the funeral procession. Listen to verse 14a: “And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still…” He spoke to the situation and He stopped it. When was the last time you spoke life to something that was dead? We are called to touch and reverse dead situations. We are not call just to cope, but to conquer. If you are here today and you are going through a graveyard situation, I need you to know that Jesus wants to reverse your graveyard situations. God’s permissive will never out-distance His sovereign power. God’s permissive will is just for a season, but His perfect will is your destiny. As a child of God I need you to realize that your condition in the world can never eclipse your position in the Kingdom of God. The woman in our text did not know Christ, but she happened to run into Him. But as His child, you should realize that it is no accident that God is on your street. Therefore, you have a right to expect God to work on your behalf.
Can I meddle in your business long enough to suggest that you stop hanging out with the funeral folk? You’re on the right road, but you’re going the wrong direction. Remember those two groups I mentioned earlier? The weeping crowd is headed for the graveyard, but the Jesus crowd is headed in the direction of life and opportunity. Take off your graveyard clothes. Change the music of your life. That situation that you thought was dead and on the way to the graveyard will be reversed, if you let Jesus touch it. Jesus wants to touch what’s wrong in your life. There is life in His touch.
Luke said in verse 14a, “He came near and touched the coffin…” Notice that He touched the casket, not the boy. He touched the container, the depository of a life cut short. He touched the casket, but He spoke to its contents! It was against the ceremonial law for a Jew to touch anything dead, but Jesus touched the casket. And He’s not afraid to will break tradition for you. Stuff that wasn’t supposed to happen, will happen. Messes you were not suppose to get out of, He will transform into miracles. You will make it. He will touch your situation and He will turn it around. Jesus wants to reverse your graveyard situations.
3. JESUS WILL REVIVE THE DEAD.
Not only did Jesus stop the funeral procession, not only did Jesus touch the casket, but Luke 7:14b says, “And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” He spoke to the boy. He spoke to the dead boy. This is my last point: JESUS WILLL REVIVE THE DEAD.
The Bible says that the boy was dead. I do not know how he died, all I know is that Luke said he was dead. I don’t know if he was the victim of police brutality; I don’t know if he got shot in a drive-by. Maybe he overdosed on some bad drugs. It might have been that he had started hanging out with the wrong crowd and one day found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. His death may have been result of a congenital birth defect or a bad accident. All I know is that Luke said the boy was dead.
I don’t know who broke the bad news to his mother, but no doubt, her screams could be heard all over town. Luke does not mention the name of the funeral home that was called; his body was prepared for burial and wrapped in linen in the custom of the day; we don’t know where the funeral service was held, whether in a church or at the parlor. What happened at the funeral was not really the important part. The text does not say who the musician was nor who gave remarks. We don’t know if the obituary was read at the funeral. I don’t even know who gave the eulogy.
But I believe that the choir had sang their final selection, the preacher had given the eulogy, this weeping mother and the other mourners had poured out into the streets, and as they were making their way to the graveyard they ran into Jesus. “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. He came and touched the casket: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” Luke said that the boy who was dead sat up and began to speak. This is one of those rare times when the Gospel writer, Luke, is short on details. I really would like to know what that boy said when he sat up. Who did he say it to? His Mamma? To Jesus? But then the Holy Spirit asked me a question: “What do you say when you are just about to be buried and the situation is turned around?” “What do you say when you have been dead and you are given a second chance to live?” That’s when I realized, that’s not such a strange or difficult question: just ask the recovering addict; just ask the drunk who God has cleaned up; just ask the ex-liar; just ask me; just ask yourself! Whatever that young man said that day is not important, but you can be sure that he had a new attitude and a new outlook on life. What about you? Does your attitude and how you respond to the issues of life reflect that your situation has been turned around? Jesus knows how to turn your graveyard attitudes into second chance attitudes.
The text states that Jesus delivered the boy to his mother. The greatest evidence of divine intervention into human condition is restoration. The ultimate goal of ministry is not simply service, but more importantly, restoration.
The problem with Jesus and Funerals is that they cannot coexist. Look at the problems that Jesus created when He delivered that boy back to his mother.
- The gravedigger had dug a grave, but there was no body to place in it.
- The undertaker had already been paid for services not fully rendered, and some money needed to be returned.
- The mourners and the music makers had to change their tune.
- And Death had been denied one of its many victims.
I need you to know that there was someone else observing the proceedings that day in the city of Nain. Death was watching as Jesus restored hope to the widow by stopping the funeral and speaking life back into her dead son’s body.
I hear Death saying to Jesus, “I’m tired of you and all your stuff. Every time I get somebody tangled in pain and sorrow, you set them free.” Jesus responded, “Death, the feeling is mutual. I’m tired of all these little skirmishes we been having.
We’ve been battling every since the Garden of Eden. Let’s settle this thing once and for all.
You got Adam; you got Moses; you got Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. You got Job, the prophets, David and the Kings. Let’s settle this thing once and for all.
Meet me on a Friday right outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem around 12:00 noon. It’s a skull shaped hill called Golgotha. Meet me at Calvary.”
The holy record says that Satan took his best shot. They put a crown of thorns on His head. They nailed Him to a cross. They pierced Him in the side.
He told Satan, “I’m going to die now. But I want you to know that you are not taking My life, I’m laying it down. And If I lay it down, I’ll take it up again.”
He died… He died… He died… He died on a Friday…. But early Sunday morning…
He got up with all power in His hands…Power over life…Power over Death…Power over the grave!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future… And life is worth the living, just because He lives!