The God Who Raises the Dead

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There’s an often-overlooked story in the Bible that moves me deeply although in all four Gospels it’s mentioned only once. It’s in Luke 7:11-17. In this story, two throngs of people meet unexpectedly and out of that meeting comes a never-to-be-forgotten miracle.

Jesus walks from Capernaum toward a walled village called Nain, a distance of 12 or more miles. Luke implies that the destination is deliberate.

Jesus is followed not only by his disciples but also by a large crowd of people. As he and the crowd approach Nain, coming out of a gate in the wall they meet a funeral procession.

A funeral at that time would be comprised of several sad elements: first a narrator who would speak of the good deeds of the deceased; then women assigned to chant and wail, attended by a flutist or two; then the funeral bier carried by friends and loved ones bearing the body of the deceased. All of these would be followed by family and a great number of emotional towns-folk.

As our Lord and his throng of followers approaches the scene he sizes up the situation quickly – on the bier, the body of a young man, an only son; following the bier, one lone woman, the mother who is obviously widowed. This meeting is intentional.

Jesus first speaks to the widowed mother with the words: “Don’t cry.” Luke tells us that “his heart went out to her.” I would love to have heard those caring words spoken by our Lord. Then stepping forward he touches the bier and the procession stops. To the lifeless body he says, “Young man, I say to you, get up.”

The people in both throngs are amazed as the boy sits up on the bier and begins to talk to those around him. Jesus tenderly restores him to his speechless mother.

The funeral procession breaks up. The professional mourners cease their wailing. The crowd is filled with awe but when they catch their wits they begin to shout, “A great prophet has appeared among us!” And they add, “God has come to help his people!”

Because of the remoteness of the town, the people may never have heard of Jesus, at least not so as to compel their attention, but they read the situation correctly. There is no indication that this miracle is performed to add to our Lord’s reputation or to enhance his popularity. This miracle is prompted by one thing — our Lord’s instant compassion.

Here is a powerful picture of God Incarnate: tender-hearted toward the hurting, and at the same time with the power to raise the dead. We see in this episode of Jesus’ life that God wishes to enter our lives during every circumstance. Does he not deserve our fervent worship in return?

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