Raising of the Widow of Nain's Son
(Luke 7:11-17)

Luke 6:47-48 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

When Jesus was concluding His Sermon in the Plain recorded in Luke 6, He compared someone who heard and obeyed His sayings to a man that built his house by digging deep and laying his foundation on bedrock.

Last time we studied the bedrock faith of the centurion. Although he was a Gentile, he dug deep into what he knew and experienced about life and God, and developed a great faith that amazed Jesus. This was the kind of faith that Jesus had been looking for in Israel, and had been teaching about in the previous chapter of Luke.

Now we move on to an occasion when Jesus demonstrated His power over death. If you fear death, or have lost someone close to you to death, stay tuned, because Jesus can set you free of that fear and comfort your heart!

Luke 7:11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.

Shortly after the healing of the centurion's servant in Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd of followers went to Nain. The walled village of Nain was located on the slopes of Mt. Hermon about 6 miles SE of Nazareth. Jesus was on a teaching circuit around Galilee and appeared at the gate of this town just as a funeral procession was coming out.

"Soon afterward" is literally "next it came to pass". The word translated "soon" here is "it came to pass" in the KJV, and also has the meaning of fulfilled or wrought as in a miracle. This indicates that it was not a coincidence that Jesus came to Nain just as a funeral was occuring.

Luke 7:12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.

Nain means "beauty" but there was nothing beautiful in this heavy day for a poor widow who had lost her only son. This young man was probably being carried in an open coffin, as was the Jewish custom of the day.

If this funeral was typical, it would have been lead by women (since Eve was the one whose sin caused death to come into the world). Then would follow the funeral orator, proclaiming the good deeds of the deceased. After those would come the family (in this case the mother), followed by the coffin and then the sympathetic crowd.

We don't know this dead man's age, but the fact that he was called a man meant that he was over 12, the age that a Jewish boy techically become a man, and since he was called young, we can surmise that he was under 33, the age at which men were considered mature, that is no longer young.

Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." People died all the time in the area Jesus was teaching. Why did his heart go out to this particular woman? A widow had no means of support except for her children. And here lay her only son, dead, and a lifetime of poverty and need stretched before her.

Jesus' heart went out to the grieving mother and He told her not to cry. Jesus heart of compassion still goes out to the grieving today and His message to us still is "Don't cry". He has overcome death and hell, and for those who trust in His compassion, death has no sting.

James said in James 1:27 that Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The word for "heart went out to her" is splagchnizomai {splangkh-nid'-zom-ahee} meaning to have compassion or be moved with compassion, literally "to be moved as to one's bowels" for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity by the Greeks. This would be similar to our expression, "I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach". This indicates a very strong feeling on Jesus' part, He was physically and emotionally involved, and felt the grief as if it were His own.

Jesus said "Don't cry". The word for cry here is klaio {klah'-yo} meaning to mourn, weep, lament as the sign of pain and grief for the thing signified (i.e. for the pain and grief), specifically of those who mourn for the dead, to mourn for, or bewail.

When we lose someone we love, we do grieve. This is to be expected - a natural reaction to a great loss. But we don't grieve as those who have no hope! When our loved ones die in Christ we know we WILL see them again!

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

People in the world without Jesus have no hope - and here the Apostle Paul is telling the Christians of the church at Thessalonica that he doesn't want them to be ignorant of this hope in Jesus. Those who have fallen asleep in Jesus will be made alive and will come to meet us when the church is taken out of this world.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Here Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to take Jesus at His Word. We have a marvelous hope in Jesus. The dead will rise and those that are still alive will meet them in the air.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Then we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore we should encourage one another with these words. Death doesn't have the final say. It didn't back in Nain when Jesus grasped the young man's coffin. And it certainly doesn't have the final say THIS side of the Cross and resurrection. Death has been defeated!

Now Jesus knew when He grabbed a hold of that coffin that day in the town of Nain, that His death would conquer death, and that death itself would one day die. And that for believers in Him physical death would only be a resting time until the time of His coming back to earth.

I Corinthians 15:21-22 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Death was not a part of God's original creation. He created man to live forever, and planted the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden to insure man's immortality. But the man Adam made the choice to disobey the ONE commandment God gave, and brought physical and spiritual death to us all.

I Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. But through Jesus Christ our Lord one day that physical death will no longer have any effect on us, because we shall have bodies just like HIS.

Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

I Corinthians 15:49-50 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Because Adam sinned, we bear his likeness and have inherited physical and spiritual death. When we are born again we become spiritually alive but still are subject to physical death. But in these mortal bodies we cannot inherit the kingdom of God - they wouldn't stand the trip to Heaven, much less be able to live in Heaven.

There is no death in Heaven, so nothing with death in it can live there. So what does God do? He takes the death out of us - he takes the perishable, the deadly, the dying, the corruption out of us, and makes us incorruptible, imperishable, undying, alive evermore! Glory to God forever!

I Corinthians 15:51-53 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When does this happen? When Jesus returns for us. And WE WILL BE CHANGED instantaneously, in the blink of an eye, when that last trumpet sounds. The dead will be raised imperishable - changed into their immortal bodies - and those that are alive will be changed as well!

I Corinthians 15: 54-55 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

When Jesus comes and we feel that resurrection power flooding through us, then we will KNOW what we've been believing all these years. And then we will KNOW what in faith we've been shouting about! When the power of the Holy Spirit quickens our mortal bodies now and we feel like leaping for joy, we're just getting a foretaste of the joy that will fill us as we raise off this earth into everlasting life. Then we can look death in the eye and say - is that the puny, whiney thing that held me in bondage for so long?

Death will be SWALLOWED up in victory! It will have power over us and those we love NO MORE! It's reign will finally be over and we will be FOREVER loosed from it's captivity. Hallelujah!

Knowing all of this was coming to pass, Jesus gave us a little taste of it ahead of time. Here was this poor widow lady who had lost her only son. And I can almost hear Jesus say, death you made a real boo boo this time. Death you gotta let this boy go. Death someday you yourself will die, but right now you're gonna give this boy back to his momma for a season. But someday Death, it's all gonna be over and YOU WILL LOSE THEM ALL. You will cough up all you have taken, and they will live forever with ME! Glory!

This is what He did say: Luke 7:14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!"

When Jesus touched the coffin, this was in violation of Mosaic Law, which made Him "unclean". A Pharisee wouldn't touch a coffin with a ten foot pole! The word used for touch is an interesting choice. It is haptomai {hap'-tom-ahee} meaning to fasten one's self to, adhere to, or to cling to. Jesus didn't just lightly stroke the coffin, He grabbed hold of it. He MEANT for them to stop!

The people who were carrying it stood still. And Jesus spoke to the dead man and told him to get up. Now imagine if you will what this must have been like for those observing. A funeral march through the town's gate, very typical and common for the day. A rabbi passing the procession in the other direction. The rabbi stops, and GRABS the coffin and then commands the dead man to get up. I can almost hear their sharp intake of breath, and their shocked expressions as these strange events occur.

Jesus command to the dead , "Arise!" is egeiro {eg-i'-ro} (through the idea of collecting one's faculties); to arouse, cause to rise from sleep, to awake from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life, to cause to rise from a seat or bed, to raise up, produce, cause to appear before the public, or to stir up.

Luke 7:15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

The dead man sat up! He started to talk! Wonder what he said??? The Greek is laleo {lal-eh'-o} to utter, tell, to use words in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts.

Wouldn't you like to have been there to hear what this young man had to say? Sadly for us, what he said isn't recorded. Perhaps in the excitement no one was really paying attention, otherwise surely it would have been remembered. It would be interesting to compare that to all of the NDE's (Near Death Experiences) floating around today.

Then Luke says that Jesus "gave him back" to his mother. What could this mean? Jesus, who is the giver of all life, brought physical life back to this young man, and thus gave him back to his mother. One meaning of "to give" is to "bestow a gift" to someone. What greater gift could the widow have received than her only son back from the dead?

Luke 7:16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."

The KJV translates "awe" as "fear" which is closer to the original phobos, meaning to be terrified, to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm, of those startled by strange sights or occurrences, of those struck with amazement. In THIS case this fear leads to reverence and veneration, to treat with deference or reverential obedience. And this is exactly what this amazement led to - praising God. This type of fear is often called "godly fear".

But wait, how could fear be a good thing? Doesn’t it say in 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of FEAR; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind?

Good answers. This verse has a different word for fear, deilia, {di-lee'-ah} meaning timidity, fearfulness, cowardice, which is NEVER used in a good sense, and NEVER leads to praise and worship of God. This is the kind of fear that Jesus came to defeat, and this is the kind of fear that discourages us and causes us to lose faith. And this spirit of timidity, cowardice or fearfulness against the devil is what Paul is telling Timothy about.

Fear can either make us run TO God or run away FROM God. If we realize that God loves us and that the devil is trying to use fear to destroy us, then we will run TO God, and our amazement at God's glorious works will cause us to be reverent and obedient to Him.

Hebrews 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus] 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.

But if we let fear - of death or anything else - control us, we will tend to run FROM God and be held in slavery by the devil. BUT through His death, Jesus DESTROYED the devil who holds the power of death! And we have been set free to run TO God and worship God instead of our former jailer, the devil, and be liberated from the bars of the fear of death that held us captive!

I imagine we would be dazed at least if we saw someone raised from their casket on the way to the cemetery today. And terrified might describe our feelings even better! But this type of fear led to them glorifying God - giving God praise and glory for something definitely outside of their physical capabilities. They began to magnify God and celebrate this marvelous miracle.

Naturally the people were amazed, and proclaimed that a prophet had come among them, and that God had come to help his people. Notice that they did not proclaim Jesus as God, but saw Him as a great prophet sent BY God. They did NOT say that Jesus was the "Christ, the Son of the Living God" like Peter did. This insight does NOT come by observing miracles, but by divine revelation. Why? Because the devil can counterfeit miracles. It takes something more than a miracle to produce genuine faith.

Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.

Notice that the miracles that false Christs and false prophets can perform are so wonderful that even the ones closest to God, the elect, could possibly be deceived. We must get the Word in our hearts if we are to escape the increasing deception that is being poured out upon the earth!

People are teaching all kinds of strange beliefs - they are mixing the pure Gospel with all kinds of doctrines of devils. I've said this once, and I'll say it again, don't take anything for granted. Test all things by the Word. And test them again, and test them again! Put the Word in your heart, and then you will be able to discern what is true and what is false!

Back to Nain: Perhaps the people thought that since a great prophet was now here to help them that they would no longer die. Perhaps they remembered the miracles of provision and protection wrought by Elijah and Elisha in days of old. Perhaps they even thought that this prophet would some how help them to be delivered from the bondage of Rome. But even with Jesus raising the dead, they did not realize who He is.

For more than 400 years since the time of Malachi, there had been no prophets of God in the land. There had been many false prophets, but no one of these could offer the credentials that Jesus did in this one miracle.

One reason that the people were so excited is that a long time before the prophet Elisha had raised a young man from the dead in Shunem, less than 2 miles away from Nain (2 Kings 4:18-37). And this is why they exclaimed, "A great prophet has risen [again!] among us". The word for "has risen" here is egeiro, the same one used when Jesus raised the young man from the dead. To the people of Nain, having a prophet among them after so long a time, was like being raised from the dead spiritually.

Luke 7:17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

At any rate, this was exciting news! A young man had been raised from the dead! People were electrified, they were chatting at the village well, they were discussing these things at the village market, they were telling travelers who came in caravans this thrilling news! And as always, they were putting their own "spin" on it and trying to figure out just who this Jesus was. A prophet? What would He do next? And they spread the news throughout the area.

An interesting thing to meditate upon is this. The centurion had great faith and humility, which moved Jesus to heal the centurion's servant from torment and certain death. But in the account of the Widow of Nain's son, not only was there no faith openly manifested, but Jesus wasn't even asked to assist. The young man was dead! The funeral was starting. No one believed that there was any hope period. Moved solely by His compassion, Jesus grabbed onto the casket, and raised the young man from the dead.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This kind of blows our theology out of the water doesn't it? After carefully studying the centurion's faith, and asking the Lord to develop that kind of faith in us, here comes the widow of Nain and gets a miracle without even asking for it! Why? Jesus was moved by the woman's need and sorrow.

I remember one time in my life when I was very depressed, suicidal in fact. No body knew, because I was too angry and proud to reveal what I was thinking of doing. But I had several alternative methods in mind, and had even envisioned my own funeral and how sorry every one would be who had treated me so badly.

So what happened? Obviously I didn't commit suicide, even though that is what my full intentions were. I pictured myself as a broken doll, thrown into a ditch, sodden and filthy. And all of a sudden two loving arms picked me up, cleaned me off, healed my hurts and set me on my feet. But the most amazing thing was that my heart, which had been filled with hatred and loathing, was now full of love and joy, in the twinkling of an eye.

Now, I had not prayed or asked God for help. I'm sure that my mother and grandmother were praying for me, as they always have, but they didn't know in the physical realm what was on my mind, because I told no one.

But in this instant, God reached down to me, and filled me with love and hope, and immediately I realized that I had been looking at life all wrong. I had gotten "saved" 500 times or so, but never really believed God accepted me because I was such a failure in living the Christian life. That's why I kept getting saved, because I thought my salvation depended on my works, and my works were crummy.

But now, scooped up in the everlasting arms of God's love, I could see things from a totally different viewpoint. It was like being raised from the dead and looking down from Heaven and getting the whole picture. God loved me, He sent Jesus who died for me, and accepting that fact was what being saved meant!

The point is: Jesus had compassion on a poor struggling fool without a clue. I had no faith to claim a miracle with. My life was a mess. I was as good as dead. But my Lord loved me and raised me up and filled me with love.

So how about you? What are your needs? Jesus can do more for you than you can even imagine asking for. Let Him grab the casket of your life today and raise you from the death of your dreams, the dread of your expectations, the futility of your dead theology. Become alive in Christ!

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice!

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Original Lesson 11/16/98
Revised: May 03, 2001.