Text: Luke 7:11-17
The miracle which is about to be recounted was one of just three occasions that we know of when Jesus raised the dead. It is therefore one of the greatest of his miracles. It demonstrates to a remarkable degree his pity mixed with power. He had, on the previous day, healed one who was on the point of death. But now he shows himself to be conqueror of death itself.
1. The widow’s affliction
Picture the scene presented by that funeral procession, with the bereaved mother leading the way. Mourning would have commenced as soon as it was certain that death had occurred. Family members would wail and rend their clothes. There would also be professional mourners (usually women) with flutes and cymbals. The body would have been anointed to prevent deterioration, and placed in an open coffin for all to see. This funeral procession was particularly tragic. There can have been few deaths sadder and few funerals more mournful that this one. With the death of this son the woman’s last hope of support and protection had gone. Moreover, the hope of perpetuating the family line had also perished.
Dead is always sad. We feel it to be alien and unnatural, and so it is. It is because of the ravages of sin, we find ourselves living in a vale of tears.
2. The Savour’s compassion
Jesus came across this sad scene, and he did not wait to be asked to help. What was there left to ask? Yet he saw this woman who had lost both her husband and her son, his heart went out to her. We can identify a number of reasons why our Lord performed his miracles of healing. One reason, of course, was to witness to his status as the one who was to come, Luk 7:20-22. But we should not lose sight of the sheer compassion of the Lord as a motivation for his healing miracles.
Jesus speaks to a cold corpse, and life returns. The lungs fill with air, the heart begins to beat, the eyes open. The young man sits up and begins to talk. Jesus returns him to his mother.
Although this is of course a special case, Christians would do well to reflect that they have good reason not to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope, 1 Thess 4:13. See also Heb 2:14, 15: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
3. The crowd’s reaction
There was a combination of terror, amazement, and joy at the sight of this astonishing miracle.
If this was the response to the raising of one person, with what awe should we contemplate the events of the last day? The same Jesus who gave a son back to his mother, will raise all of humanity on the last day, Jn 5:28,29: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
‘When the trumpet sounds and Christ commands, there can be no refusal or escape. All must appear before his bar in their bodies.’ (Ryle) The unconverted should tremble at the prospect; but the believer has nothing to fear. ‘He may lay him down and sleep peacefully in his grave. In Christ he is complete and safe, and when he rises again he shall see God’s face in peace.’ (Ryle)