Saturday, December 17, 2022

Two Sons and Sweet Providence - Luke 7:11-17 - December 18, 2022

 Luke 7:11-17 Two Sons and Sweet Providence

Good morning! Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter seven and verse eleven. We are going to look at verses 11-17 this morning and that’s on page 863 in the pew Bibles.

This is a pretty dramatic scene that we are going to observe here in Luke’s Gospel this morning. It takes place in a little hamlet called Nain, a word which means, lovely. This tiny village was just south of Nazareth on the border of Samaria, made up of just a few families, one of which has just lost a son.

Warren Wiesbe pointed out the dichotomy of this account with its two crowds, with two different destinations, two sons, and two enemies. We’ll also catch a glimpse of Jesus’ compassion, His power, and His providence. Let’s look at the text together.

You’ll remember from last week Jesus had just healed the Centurion’s servant in Capernaum and now here we are twenty-five or so miles south of Capernaum just outside of Nain.

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 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. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

Let’s pray.

So the first thing we notice in this account is the two crowds heading in two different directions. Jesus was being followed by a great crowd that included His disciples as well as all kinds of other people and they were headed to the city.

The second crowd was with a widow, a considerable crowd from the town, in a funeral procession headed toward the cemetery. The funeral was for the only son of the widow, a young man, not still a child but not yet of marrying age.

It doesn’t take a lot of head scratching here to see some spiritual symbolism at work in these two crowds and their intended destinations.

One crowd, the one without Jesus in it, is headed for the cemetery, they are surrounded by the sting of death and grief, and are literally headed to the grave.

The other crowd, the one with Jesus leading it, is headed for the city, a place literally called, “lovely.” This crowd was rejoicing at God’s blessing, the recent healing of the Centurion’s servant, and the presence and teaching of Jesus.

Wiersbe said, “Spiritually speaking, each of us is in one of these two crowds. If you have trusted Christ, you are going to the city. If you are ‘dead in sin,’ you are already in the cemetery and under the condemnation of God. You need to trust Jesus Christ and be raised from the dead.”

So there we have two crowds and their two destinations, one representing life and salvation through faith in Jesus and the other representing the death and condemnation that result from rejecting Jesus.

And in those crowds we have two sons, two only sons, one dead, the only son of his mother who was also a widow. Though she was now surrounded by this crowd she was most likely on her way to a life of destitution and poverty with no family to help and care for her.

The other Son, the Author of life, according to Acts 3:15, the only begotten Son of His Father, completely unique, God who put on flesh and was born in that stable in Bethlehem and walked among us. God with us, Immanuel.

The first son was dead but was actually bound for life even though he would eventually die again, while the second was alive but actually bound for death even though he would be raised from the dead never to see death again!

The two sons represent two enemies, life and death.

Just this week several families here are grieving the loss of loved ones. Do you ever wonder why we weep when people die? It is because death is an enemy that separates us from those we love even if only temporary as is the case with believers.

1 Corinthians 15:26 calls death the last enemy to be destroyed, but it will be destroyed by Jesus at His Second Coming.

And in this dichotomy of two crowds with two destinations, and two sons, and two enemies, we have on display the compassion, the power and the providence of the Lord Jesus.

13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

Here we can see the love the Lord has for people, that’s what compassion really is, an expression of love for the suffering. But Jesus’ compassion for this grieving widow who had lost her only son didn’t end with words.

I often struggle with this. When talking with someone who has experienced a loss like this I want to be able to say just the right word to make the pain stop, to truly comfort those who are grieving. I want to say that everything is going to be alright, as if it really will be, but it’s a lie… 

And if Jesus had stopped with just saying to her, “Do not weep,” His expression of compassion would be just as empty. But Jesus is not just talk.

13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

Jesus’ compassion is accompanied by His power. Jesus has power over death. Jesus is not just compassionate but He is the compassionate life giver.

Here we can see the symbol of spiritual restoration, the young man was dead and bound for the grave until Jesus intervened and brought him back to life.

John Calvin wrote, “By touching the coffin he intended perhaps to show, that he would by no means shrink from death and the grave, in order to obtain life for us. He not only deigns to touch us with his hand, in order to quicken us when we are dead, but, in order that he might raise us to heaven,  he himself descends into the grave.”

Jesus’ compassion for the suffering and power over death were on full display in this scene, but the fact that this scene happens at all is evidence of His providence.

JJ vanOosterzee wrote, “The time of the death and the burial of the young man – the road taken by the funeral train – the meeting with the Lord directly at the decisive moment – nothing of all this is casual here. Time, place, and circumstances, all are ordered to reach a glorious goal; comfort to the afflicted; glory for the Lord; revelation of the quickening power of God.”

If you’re wondering if I’m saying that the death of this young man, the grief and loss felt by his mother, the feeling of desperation and loss of hope for her had some purpose, the answer is yes.

Comfort for the afflicted, glory for the Lord Jesus, and the revelation of the life giving power of God, that was the purpose. Not only that but people have been able to read this account for hundreds of years and have been able to see a little bit more of what God is really like and perhaps put their trust in Jesus. 

This is all part of the plan. This is God’s providence. So maybe the things in your life aren’t as out of control as they seem.

Jesus said in John 5:24-29, 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 

25 “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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 

The dead man heard the voice of the Son of God and lived, may all those who are spiritually dead hear His word and believe the One who sent Him and so have eternal life in Him.