The Gospel According to Luke: An Exposition, Part 20 – Luke 7:11-17: Jesus’ Authority over Death

By Dr. Donald Whitchard

“And it came about soon afterwards that He went to a city named Nain, and His disciples were going along with Him accompanied by a large multitude. Now as He approached 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 sizeable crowd from the city was with her.

And when the LORD saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin, and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

And fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people!” And this report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.”

  • Luke 7:11-17 (NASB)

Reading about the story of Jesus should never be a chore or duty that needs to be completed each day and checked off before one retires for the evening. The Scriptures were never meant to be read or recited as if one were reading a dull treatise on the mechanics of a device or a detailed report on an event or individual. I have heard the Scriptures recited from behind pulpits in a dull and emotionless manner as if the work of God were somehow an afterthought that needed to be written down and filed away for future examination. I’ve listened to preachers and professors who saw the drama of redemption as an academic discipline that somehow was not part of the real world and was part of a culture that was less advanced than our idea of sophistication and progress. To some, the life of Jesus is a myth and legend and is not to be taken as a literal event. That is certainly not the sense in which Luke presents his account of the Savior’s mission.

Luke was both a physician and a historian who lived in the real world. He was exposed to the progressive and scientific thoughts and discoveries of both his time and that of the past. Civilizations such as ancient Greece, where philosophy, the arts, music, mathematics, early mechanics, the birth of political thought and practice, and the development of what would be medicines and surgical procedures were a part of his heritage. Greek ideas were adopted by the Romans and preserved in the academies of the great cities, most notably Athens, where it all originated during its Golden Age (450 -332 B.C., est.). Luke has never struck me as someone who was easily swayed by the tales of the Greek gods and their mischievous ways with the mortals or among themselves on Mount Olympus. It would seem he had his thoughts fixed on what was occurring at the moment and figuring out how everything worked in the world around him The ethereal, the mystic, and the heroic legends were probably not a major concern for him.

Luke was what we would refer to as an intellectual, and there is nothing wrong with that label. God gave us a mind to develop rational, logical concepts of thought and introspection. We need to learn to think critically about issues that affect us and those around us. This is a trait that I seem to find lacking in most Christians today which borders on naivety and gullibility. Many believers fail to examine and discern well-known personalities whose interpretations of Scripture and of the Lord Jesus Christ border on the bizarre, outlandish, and often blasphemous. It seems that the efforts of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who examined Paul’s teachings do not seem to be important or followed as an example today.

We are to look at the Bible for ourselves as to whether what we are receiving from our pastors and elders is true and valid. In reading the Scriptures, we not only get a portrait of the Sovereign Lord of Creation and the Author of our Salvation, but also the stories of people who lived real lives without halos or holy symbols around them like the artists of medieval and renaissance times tended to portray them. Luke wrote about authentic situations that our Lord Jesus encountered and resolved. To say that the Scriptures we possess are a collection of legends is proof that in leveling that charge, you have not taken the time to read and study them, or do not want to face the probability that in reading them, you will have to change your ways and bow to God. The Scriptures are not changed or eliminated because of unbelief and skepticism, but they will be the evidence held against you when you stand before the LORD to give an accounting of your life. Now swallow your pride and keep reading.

The story we will look at takes place the day after the miraculous healing of the Roman centurion’s beloved servant. In His travels around the region of Galilee and beyond, He arrives at a town called Nain, followed not only by His disciples, but a large crowd as well. Nain itself was located a day’s journey from Capernaum and near a small mountain referred to as Little Hermon, southeast of Nazareth. At this time in the ministry of Jesus, only a few who followed Him did so out of the possibility that He might just be God’s Messiah as proclaimed by John the Baptist and the prophets who lived centuries before. Others were following Him out of curiosity and the desire to see the miraculous and unusual. Within three years, He would have only a handful of true followers. Much of the nation had by that time would reject Him and in doing so, will set themselves up for Divine judgment years later. At the city gate, Jesus comes across a funeral procession. A young man had died and was being carried out in what would be considered a type of casket by the men of the town, headed to the burial caves or ground where family members had been laid to rest.

Think of the grief the mother is facing right now. She has lost not just the child she had borne and reared, and who had been her provider, but sometime before that she had to bid her husband goodbye as his body was put into the ground. She is all alone and now there is no one to care for her. It is assumed that her neighbors would be able to render some assistance, but for all practical purposes, she is now having to a life of little income, certain poverty and the misery to follow.

This is where Jesus shows up and witnesses the sorrowful procession. His heart and being is filled with compassion for this dear soul. He can empathize with her, for He had witnessed the death of His foster father Joseph some years before and took it upon Himself to provide not just for His mother Mary, but also His younger siblings as a carpenter. It is reasonable to assume that His brothers had learned various trades and continued to support Mary after Jesus left to begin teaching and preaching around Galilee and the surrounding areas. Our Lord Jesus did not live His life on earth as someone distant or aloof, or above the heartache and hardship of those around Him. He is God in the flesh, but He is also the perfect Man, who expressed emotions and feelings. He endured more hardship and suffering than we could ever comprehend and shed more tears for His fallen creation than Scripture records (Luke 22:44; John 21:25; Heb. 2:10, 4:15, 5:8, 1 Pet. 3:18).

Scripture proclaims that Jesus is the conqueror of death (Isaiah 25:8; Acts 2:27; John 5:28-29, 10:17-18; 1 Cor. 15:4, 25-26; Rom.1:4, Rev.1:18). Here in this town, the people will witness His power and ability to do so. He gently tells this grieving widow not to weep, for He was to show her that God was with her in her troubles (Ps. 18:17, 34:4, 56:13; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 2:15), and to show that He was the One who brings resurrection to the physical and spiritually dead (John 11:25; Romans 5:8). With a word of command, the young man immediately sits up in the casket and begins to speak. Scripture is silent on the young man’s journey into the afterlife, as it is with the resurrection of Lazarus, and even when Paul was left for dead outside of Lystra and was received into the third heaven, he was not allowed to present what he saw (2 Cor.12:3-6).

This is a strong rebuke to those who have claimed in recent years to have seen “a vision of heaven” and wrote books about their alleged tours of glory. We are not to rely or believe these claims as proof of the authenticity of heaven or hell’s existence. Why should I rely on alleged experiences and stories by fallen men, when it is God Himself who presents the true picture of what awaits the redeemed as well as the reprobate after death (Mark 9:42-48; Luke 16:19-31, 23:43; Acts 1:9-11; Revelation 4, 5, 19-22)? What He has revealed in Scripture is all we need to know and expect. The crowd who witnesses this miracle and its inevitable outcome of joy, wonder, praise to God, and happiness over the reunion of a mother and her son was also a sign that He was still among His people and that He has all of the affairs of men and nature under His sovereign control and direction. Luke would visit these towns and talk to those who were there and to get affirmation that what Jesus said and did gave irrefutable proof as to the claim of His divinity and power (Acts 1:1-3). As Luke wrote these events down, he clearly showed in his account a sense of wonder and excitement that strengthened his own faith over the years and that he had been called by the LORD to give this account for the benefit of those who would believe in the coming years and beyond. What he had carefully researched and recorded became holy, inerrant, infallible Scripture straight from the mind and foreknowledge of our great God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Rev. 1:1; John 1:1-4, 17:17). He is wonderful, Jesus our LORD, Amen.                               

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Luke 21:36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

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