The Grace of God in the Face of Death

25 miles. That is how far Nain is from Capernaum. And yet Jesus gladly walks that distance to bring comfort and grace to a widow. One commentator writes, “what consolation to thousands of the bereaved has this single verse [v.13] carried from age to age!” Indeed, I peronally have taken this very text to bring comfort to those hurting individuals during times of grief and pain at the loss of a loved one. It is beautiful is its simplicity and impacting in its emotion. The NIV says “When the Lord say her, his heart went out to her” (v.13). Another translation would say, “he had compassion on her” (RSV). The New Living Translation says, “his heart overflowed with compassion.” I don’t know about you, but when I read about the emotion of my Lord, it gives me comfort knowing that he cares for me in this way. When I hurt, he sympathizes. The Hebrew fittingly commented on this ver thing when he wrote, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Jesus knows and understands the pain we feel when we hurt because he himself has felt the very same feelings. We do not have a Lord who is unapproachable and distant, but we have a Lord who comes up alongside us and weeps with us.

The Scene of Grief

Try to picture the scene which Jesus comes upon: The funeral procession was important. It would begin at the home of the deceased, proceed through the village, and end at the cemetary, which was always outside the city. If the family could afford it, they hired professional mourners who played dirges, shouted great laments, and wept loudly. They believed that a big commotion honored the dead, and was an apporiate expression of grief. Along the way, the procession would pick up steam. The weeping and wailing would get louder, as other villagers joined in the procession as it passed by (Ronald Harbaugh, The Grace of God in the Face of Death). This great band of emotion and shouting and weeping is what Jesus runs into as he enters Nain. His words to the mother are simply, “Do not weep.” But it is not enough for Jesus to say those few words; there must be something behind which gives the woman something to rejoice about.

The Author of Life

Jesus walks up to the casket and, like the stormy sea, he calms the crowd by touching it. When everything is calm and quiet, he speaks life to the young man: “Get up…arise.” The incarnate Resurrection and the Life with a word raises this dead back to life. The text very simply says, “and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” He gave him back to her. What current of emotion raced through the crowd as the dead man came back to life and spoke. We don’t know what he said, but surely he joined with the crowd (or maybe started them off) in praising God.

When Jesus shows up in your life, things happen. For a widow, she got her son back. If you and your loved ones are in Christ, you have the promise of getting them back. One day, this corruptable body which fails us and even now is dying will be exchanged with an incorruptable body. The people this life has taken from us and have gone to be with the Lord are restored to us. Only a Christian has this assurance and this comfort. Those outside of Christ only have the fearful expectation of judgment (Heb 10.27). Only Jesus offers you the help you need to save you from the raging fire which is the wrath of God. The good news of this help from God spread throughout Judea and the countryside. Christians, spread this good news to every lost person you know and love before it is everlasting too late. Tell them God has come in the form of His Son to help them. Share with them the good news of a resurrected and a resurrecting Savior. Explain that hellfire awaits those who refuse the help. Focus their attention to eternal matters concerning their life and the life of those around them whom they love also.

Faced with death, God, through Jesus, shows us his grace. He restored a dead son back to a widow. Indeed, the message of grace in the face of death still rings. We face death. It is inevitable and sure that one day we will die. But the grace of salvation and the grace of uniting for eternity with those we love, especially our Lord, still stands. Accept it and live it.

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