Summary: Jesus only raised 3 people (that I know of) from the dead. Why didn’t He raise everybody out of the grave? Why just people like this only son of the widow of Nain?
OPEN: One of my favorite radio preachers is a man named Tony Evans. I remember listening to him use an illustration about standing in a cafeteria line – and he made it sound intriguing and almost exciting. What I want to share with you this morning (copying as best I can Evans’ distinctive way of delivering his illustration) an illustration on death that I once heard him deliver:
It used to be that funerals were solemn but crude affairs. The dead were placed in a wooden box and lowered by ropes into a 6-foot deep hole.
BUT nowadays, it is a far more elegant arrangement. When you die, they take you to a beautiful mansion that employs experts at creating a tasteful presentation of your body. They have makeup artists that can make you look better in death than you ever did in life.
The casket is no longer a wooden box but a polished bronze bed with cushions. As you lay in that beautiful bed, people come for miles around… just to see you. And they say all kinds of nice things about you as they stand in line to honor you. At the ceremony, the preacher stands in front of you and speaks of what you’ve done in your life, and the lives that you’ve touched.
Then when the ceremony is over, you get to ride in a limousine down streets where police stop traffic for you and you run through red lights. Cars on the other side of the road pull over, just because you’re coming.
Then they pull into the cemetery and instead of crude ropes, they lower your body into the grave using silver toned winches. It’s all elegant. It’s all beautiful. It’s all impressive.
But you know – when it’s all said and done - dead is still dead.
One of the harsh truths of life is this: dead is still dead.
One day, you will die.
YOU will die. I will die.
Your friends and your family, your neighbors - everybody you know.
They’re all going to die. Sooner or later.
Unless Jesus comes first… none of us is going to get out of this life alive.
Psalm 49:10-14 tells us:
“… all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions.”
It doesn’t matter how clever you are
It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are
It doesn’t matter how many important people you know… everybody dies.
And so it would not seem unusual that, at least once in His ministry we find Jesus encountering a funeral procession like the one at the town of Nain.
Now there are those who believe that Jesus met this funeral on purpose. That Jesus had planned to be there for the specific purpose of raising this young man from the dead. In fact, they believe there is little in that Jesus did in the Gospels that was a coincidence.
And I can see that in many of the Bible stories:
* When Jesus met the woman at the well there’s every reason to believe that Jesus had stopped at that specific well and had waited, just for that woman.
* And when Jesus walks through the city of Jericho it’s obvious that He was looking for that tax collector Zacchaeus to be in the crowd. He even called him by name and told him to come down from the tree, because Jesus was going to his house that day. I believe Jesus was there just for that sinful man.
I believe there are many of the Bible stories where Jesus had planned to meet certain people for certain reasons. But this story about the widow of Nain doesn’t seem to be one of those kinds of stories. It just doesn’t feel like a deliberate encounter. The phrase Luke uses to describe Jesus’ reaction to this widow’s grief to be spontaneous and heart felt. Luke 7:13 says “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her…”
The word used in the Greek here is one of the most intense that could be used for this emotion. The KJV says “He had compassion on her”. But even that phrase doesn’t quite capture the depth of Jesus’ feelings at this point. I believe the translation called “The Message” actually says it best when it says “When Jesus saw her, his heart broke.”