Summary: Death has lost its sting only because Jesus defeated it on its own turf.
Title: The day that Death dies
A few weeks ago three sisters from this congregation, Suzanne, Charlene, and Donna, sang a beautiful song called the Shepherd Medley. But before they sang the song one of them, Charlene, gave a testimony telling the rest of the congregation just what this song meant to them, and the comfort that the shepherd of Israel had given to each of them when their mother died. But even though each of them found comfort in the knowledge that their mother had gone to be with the Lord there was still sadness, because death and the memory of it always brings sadness to the survivors. Along the same lines, not too long ago my wife Sheila told me that hard times were coming. And by that she meant that in the not too distant future we were going to have to bury our parents, perhaps our children, and maybe even each other. And when I stopped to consider what she said I realized that she was right, hard times were coming and the thought of what the future held was not a pleasant one. And the reason such thoughts trouble us so is because as far as our humanity is concerned there is nothing more heart- wrenching than to stand by helplessly and watch as the life slowly drains away from one that we love. And yet in spite of our natural tendencies the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4:13 that we should not sorrow over the loss of loved ones as do those who have no hope. Now what did Paul mean when he said that, and just what hope does the Christian have when Death finally comes calling? Well the answers to those questions can be found in our text for today. So if you would please turn with me to Luke 7:11-15.
“Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her; He had compassion on her and said to her, do not weep. Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, young man, I say to you arise. So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.”
The name of the town was Nain, a name that meant pleasant or delightful. And it was pleasant for it was a town that sat among rolling hills, hills that gave it a wonderful view. But the view was not the only thing that made Nain pleasant for there were the fig trees and olive groves, not to mention the bubbling brook that ran along side of it. Yes Nain was a pleasant place but on this particular day the town was not a picture of delight. Oh, everything that contributed to its postcard like beauty was still there, but today its pleasantness was obscured by something dark, something ominous, and something fearful – for today Death had come to town.
And like every other place that Death had ever visited in the past, tears and misery would be left behind because Death never leaves a town, village, or a city empty-handed, and the town of Nain was to be no exception to this rule. For just as it had done so often in the past, Death would claim yet another victim from among the inhabitants of Nain. But this time its victim wouldn’t be old or sick with the diseases that attend old age, but he would be young and in the prime of life. He would be a young man who would have his whole life before him, and yet, he would also be a man who would know the burden of responsibility. For you see his mother was a widow and he was her only son.
And as this young man lay dying no doubt this responsibility weighed heavily on his mind as thoughts of his poor mother and what would happen to her after he was gone consumed him. She had no husband, she had no other children that we know of, and in those days women as a rule did not work outside of the home as paid laborers. There was no welfare, social security, or any other type of government program aimed at alleviating the needs of the unfortunate. Why? Because politicians of that day didn’t consider such programs as being necessary. Instead it was believed that the welfare of a family rested with the individual members of that family not with society. And we can relate to that can’t we? For even today government is trying to cut its ties to the needy and to the destitute. And if it were not for individual families, or the Church, many would suffer for want of basic necessities.