Death is something that touches us all, be it through the loss of a loved one or one day our own death. Losing a loved one is a horrible tragedy. The excruciating experience of loss will result in grief, which is that normal process in which an individual displays sorrow and anguish as a result of loss. It is a painful experience that tears someone apart emotionally.
In the passage we will be considering, the setting is sad and filled with sorrow. The passage begins with a funeral procession. Any funeral is sad, but the circumstances at this funeral have a particular sadness. A widow, who has already lost her husband, is grieving the loss of her only son. Sadness and sorrow are in the background of this passage. Before we walk through this incredible encounter this woman and her son have with Jesus, there are some important things I would like to talk about with regards to death.
Death is in Existence
Death came into existence as the result of the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The punishment of this sin was death (cf. Rom. 5:12, 6:23). Because of sin, death is in existence and is a normal part of life (cf. Heb. 9:27).
Death is an Enemy
Though death exists and is a normal part of life, death is a not a natural part of life. Death is the consequence of sin. Death is an ugly and horrible experience. The apostle Paul wrote, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). It is an enemy and it really provides us a picture of how despicable sin is.
Death is an Entrance
Despite the terror that death is, for the Christian, death is also an entrance to glory. How does a believer go from life here to life in Heaven? With the exception of Enoch, Elijah and those alive at the time of the Lord’s return, death is the entrance to glory.
In this passage we are going learn about Jesus and death. We will see the sovereign control, sensitive compassion, and straightforward command of Jesus as He brings the widow’s son back to life.
1. HIS SOVEREIGN CONTROL (7:11-12)
The first thing to notice in this passage is that Jesus is in complete control of the situation. From the human perspective, the situation is devastating. The widow has lost her only son, and now she is alone. But notice the timing, “As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her” (7:12). It was not a coincidence that Jesus entered as they exited. It looked like a chance meeting, but it was actually a meeting according to the Divine schedule. Jesus was there at that time because of His sovereign control. Before we continue to see what happens in this passage, it is important for us to be reminded that nothing ever happens outside of the Lord’s sovereign control. Many times we will feel alone, but we need to know that the Lord is there. We may not understand His timing or ways, but we can know His sovereign control. The Lord said, “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).
Though sin and sorrow are in this world and beat against our lives, we can be reminded of the sovereign control of the Lord. Spurgeon once said, “When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head”. We all need to find a place to rest and there is no greater place to find that rest than the sovereignty of our Saviour. J.C. Ryle commented, “There is no friend or comforter who can be compared to Christ. In all our days of darkness, which must needs be many, let us first turn for consolation to Jesus the Son of God. He will never fail us, never disappoint us, never refuse to take interest in our sorrows” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Volume 1, p. 210).
When it comes to death, the first thing we need to know about our Saviour is His sovereign control. This is not to be a cold and harsh reality, but rather a compassionate and hopeful reality for those struggling and suffering. The lesson here is that death is a painful reality, but there is comfort to be found in the Lord’s sovereign control. We can trust Him and find rest in Him.
2. HIS SENSITIVE COMPASSION (7:13)
In this time of grief, it is important to note that Jesus displayed sensitive compassion. When Jesus saw the grieving mother “he had compassion on her”. The concern Jesus had was not a momentary concern, no was it a mere cliché. The word for “compassion” refers to a deeply felt concern. Jesus displayed sensitive heartfelt compassion to a hurting and heartbroken widow. Jesus is the compassionate Saviour. This is not the last time Jesus showed such heartfelt concern for those grieving and the sadness of death (cf. John 11:38). And He continues to show it today.
After being moved by compassion, He said to her, “Do not weep”. These words by themself may appear to be cold and insensitive. She has just lost her only Son! But we will see in a moment that there is a miraculous act about to happen. This compassionate command provided the weeping widow with hope. We need to know that we can’t tell grieving people experiencing sorrow to not weep. In-fact, we are commanded to weep with those weep (Rom. 12:15). But we can compassionately and caringly tell them about the time that is coming when we will no longer weep. When the apostle John had a glimpse of the future eternal state for the people of God, he described it as place where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Tears represent sadness and tears will be gone. The sadness and sorrow that is experienced now will not continue there. Death, which is the result of the curse – the foe of the believer, the great enemy, the wages of sin – will be done away with! Sorrow, which refers to the internal emotion of sadness when one grieves, will be gone. There won’t be any room for it because there will be no reason for it. It will cease to exist. Nor will there be any “crying” which is the outward form of sorrow. Sadness in all its forms will all be done away with. Furthermore there will be no more “pain”. No more physical or emotional pain. Pain does not belong to Heaven, as it is a result of the cursed world. These are the great realities we can compassionately comfort fellow believers with. But while we provide the sorrowful with hope, we must not forget to listen to them, love them, cry with them, and care for them.
Death is a painful reality. But our Saviour is a compassionate Saviour and He cares for us. Know that in Him you have rest and His love. There is also a lesson in this for us, and that is the importance of showing the hurting the Lord’s compassion.
3. HIS STRAIGHTFORWARD COMMAND (7:14-15)
The final truth concerning our Saviour and death is His straightforward command. After showing compassion Jesus “came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still” (7:14a). This is a rather shocking and startling sight. And if Jesus were not the Son of God, this would even be a scandalous sight. Firstly, the widow is grieving the loss of her only Son. Secondly, the act of coming in contact with the dead was a defiling act and would make one unclean (cf. Numbers 19:11-16). But Jesus is not being disrespectful nor does He become defiled. Jesus, who is the sinless Son of God, is going to raise this young man up from the dead. Standing there with everyone looking at Him in shock, Jesus said “‘Young man, I say to you, arise’ and the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother” (7:14b-15). Jesus gave the command, and then suddenly the young man instantly experienced life in his body, sat up and spoke. Words cannot begin to describe how this mother felt.
The sight of death has a horrible finality to it and it is not nice for us. But the reality is, death is not final. In the future, the time is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will speak with sovereign authority and the dead will be raised. Jesus said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:25, 28-29).
On that future day, every single person in history will be raised up and will stand before God. There will be two parts to this future resurrection. There is the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment. The first is in reference to believers and the second to unbelievers. At the resurrection of life, the people of God will be changed instantly. When Jesus returns, they will receive resurrected bodies that will be fitted out to enjoy the eternal kingdom of their Lord. After this, every unbeliever will be raised up as well, but they will stand before the Great White Throne, and nothing in their lives is hidden, and the Lord Jesus Christ will judge them. Their resurrected bodies will be fitted out for eternal punishment.
Death is a painful reality, but we can take comfort in the Lord’s future straightforward command. He will speak and the dead will be raised to life. For the people of God this is a triumph, but for those that are not saved this is a tragedy. For God’s people this will be a time of reunion. For those that are not saved it is a time of ruin.
Like the miracle in the previous passage (7:1-10), this miracle also teaches us a lot about our Saviour. But there is also a lesson for us. Here are two lessons to take away from this passage.
The Saviour’s power over the grave
Death is real but our Saviour rules over it. Death will forever have a sting if you do not find your rest and peace in the sovereign control of Jesus Christ. Death could not hold Him down, and He will resurrect all people on the final day. The power of Christ is also seen in His raising up of sinners dead in their sins. Christ is the only hope of salvation and the resurrection of life. We are to know that He is Lord, even over death.
The Saint’s care for those grieving
Death is painful for those who have lost a loved one. As the people of God, we are to display the care and compassion of Christ to those consumed with sorrow. Don’t feel the need to wax eloquent with Christian clichés. Cry with the grieving. Care for the grieving. Pray for and with the grieving. Display Christ to the grieving.