This is week two of our series, “Moments with Jesus.” We’re looking at five specific moments which give us a glimpse into the person and character of Jesus.
My hope is that we can “inhabit” these stories and get a glimpse of our savior that moves him from our heads to our hearts
and helps build our relationship with him.
Last week we looked at how Jesus called a very unlikely man to follow him - Matthew the tax collector – and we learned that Jesus calls the broken
. That’s who he is.
This week we’re exploring the story of Jesus bringing new life to someone who was marginalized
So let’s turn to our passage for today and see what happens. Luke 7:11, Page ______Luke 7:11-17Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.
Our goal is to “inhabit” this story, so I think a good place to start is trying to understand the details
of this scene and maybe what Luke was getting at in telling this story.
Nain was a village in Galilee, the northern part of Israel where Jesus did most of his ministry.
The village was nestled into a hillside
overlooking a valley. It was about a three hour walk away from Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up (on the other side of the valley). It’s possible Jesus had been here before, but we don’t know.
All we know is that as Jesus and his disciples are arriving at Nain, this funeral procession is leaving the town with this widow at the head of the crowd.
In ancient Israel, whenever someone died, it was important to wash the body and bury it outside the city as soon as possible, so that’s what they were doing.
It says the body was in a coffin
, but when you hear that don’t think of a casket. Imagine the body lying on top of a kind of open stretcher, maybe wrapped in linens.
So picture the scene. There’s a crowd of mourners behind this widow and the coffin, and there’s a crowd of Jesus’ followers behind him and these two crowds meet.
He tells the woman, “Don’t cry,” then touches the coffin to bring the procession to a stop.
And then he speaks. “Young man, I tell you, get up.” And this dead body sits up - this man comes back from the dead.
Now, we’re so used to Bible stories that they often don’t really wow us anymore, but just try to imagine what you would have felt
if you in the crowd. You’d be astonished. Or freaked out! Right?
Luke tells us the crowd was filled with… well, v.16 says “fear,” but it’s the word phobos
. We’ve talked about this before.phobos - fear or awe
It’s a Greek word that can mean fear or awe or sometimes both
. I imagine it was awe and
fear that day. I mean, this corpse
just sat up and started talking. No wonder the crowd goes straight to praising God.
Now, look at verse 16. The crowd says something which might strike us as a little weird. In their fear and awe, the crowd says, “a mighty prophet
has risen among us!”
Normally, when we think about prophets in the Bible, we think about people telling truth and speaking on God’s behalf. So it’s a verbal thing. But Jesus hasn’t really said much at all… so what’s that all about?
Well, there are
examples in the Old Testament of prophets like Elijah and Elisha
performing miracles too, and even raising the dead. There are so many parallels between Jesus’ miracles and theirs. And Luke really wants us to draw that connection.
In fact, if you were one of the original hearers of this story (or even one of the eyewitnesses), your mind would be racing with parallels to another story from 1 Kings.
In that story, the prophet Elijah meets a struggling widow, he even meets her at the gates of a city, and he raises her dead son to life. Just like Jesus.
But this is interesting. In 1 Kings, it’s a whole dramatic scene
. Elijah stretches his body over the dead boy three times and pleads with God to let the child’s life return. And then it says this:1 Kings 17:22-24The LORD heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!” Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.”
“Now I know for sure that you are a man of God…” You see, this act of God’s power was enough to confirm Elijah’s authority as a prophet. And the exact same thing is happening with Jesus.
The fact that he raised this man to life is proof that God is with him.
But don’t miss this. In the Old Testament story, Elijah prays to God and God answers his prayer. But in Luke 7, Jesus speaks directly to the dead body and the body obeys.
The implication is clear. Jesus is not just a prophet. He’s divine.
God’s authority is within
In this story, Luke wants us to understand a provocative idea: that Jesus Christ has authority because he is the son of God himself.
The crowd says in v.16, “God has visited his people today
.” I doubt they realized in that moment just how true that was. But Luke wants us to see it.COMPASSION
So that’s the story. Those are the facts. Jesus can heal because he is the son of God. But just talking about the facts leaves Jesus a bit distant.
So I want us to go back and inhabit the story a bit more deeply. To step into it a bit and try to understand the emotions
going on here. What was Jesus thinking and feeling?
The key to this, I believe, is in v.12 and 13.
Luke says this young man who died was this widow’s only son.
In that culture, there was more going on than just this woman losing a loved one.
Because her husband had already died, this widow’s son was the only one who would be able to provide for her.
Because he died she was now vulnerable to predatory landowners and exposed to poverty. She now has no one to care for her if she gets sick in her old age.
Widows were marginalized back then. So this woman was facing not just deep grief and probably shock, but fear and worry and anxiety as well.
This is the woman Jesus sees. And it says this in v.13: “When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion.”
This word, “compassion,” is kind of an ugly-sounding word in Greek, but it’s one of my favorites:σπλαγχνίζομαι splanchnizomai - moved with compassion
The root of this word is literally intestines
. That’s what splanchnon
means. So splanchnizomai
is a way of talking about compassion that you feel deep in your guts.
This is different than pity
. Pity is when you feel sorry for someone or when you have sympathy for someone going through a hard time. It’s mental.
That’s not what Jesus felt. He didn’t pity this woman. He felt compassion in his guts. It churned him up inside. I think he felt empathy
, not sympathy
I’m not a parent, but have many friends who are. And I imagine splanchnizomai
is what you feel when your child comes home
from school and says they were bullied or asks “Mom, am I ugly?”
Ugh. You feel it deep down. You would do anything to let them know it’s going to be ok. It gets better.
You would take their pain for
them if you could.
That is how I believe Jesus felt when he saw this widow. This woman who has already lost her husband, but who now has lost her only son.She was marginalized.
And right when he laid eyes on her Jesus was filled with deep compassion.
He was moved for this widow, but this isn’t the only time we see this. He’s also moved by so many others in desperate situations. And guess what? That same word shows up there too…Matthew 9:36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion (
splanchnizomai) for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Matthew 14:14He went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion (
splanchnizomai) for them and cured their sick.Mark 8:2"I have compassion (
splanchnizomai) for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat."
When we talk about the character of Jesus, he is not some aloof, impartial teacher spouting wisdom. He’s not some divine holy man barely even on our plane of existence.
No. He’s compassionate
. He is moved deeply by the people he meets. His heart breaks for the suffering. Again and again.Jesus has compassion for the marginalized.
That’s how his heart beats. Which is why, after raising this dead man back to life, Jesus doesn’t just walk away or launch into some big sermon.
Look at verse 15. “And Jesus gave him back to his mother
What a tender moment. Did he carry the young man over? Did he help the him stand up? Did he place his hand in hers?
We don’t know, but it’s a beautiful scene. Jesus gives this man back to his mother. He felt deep and gut-level compassion at her suffering, and I can only imagine that in that moment he felt deep and gut-level joy
Jesus has compassion for the marginalized.
Think about it this way: Why else would he so willingly go to the cross
to bear the shame of humanity in his own body? Why else would he so radically identify with all
the suffering and marginalized by sharing their anguish?
We so often reduce Jesus to a set of theological facts
to believe. Or we treat the crucifixion and resurrection as some sort of legal agreement he had to go through.
What I want us to understand today is that Jesus did all that he did because he actually cares
. He’s moved
by what we face. And he would willingly be tortured to death and separate himself from God his Father if it meant bringing life to the people he cares about.
Jesus is moved by the suffering of others. And Jesus is moved by you
And that idea is what I want us to focus on right now. The idea that Jesus has compassion for you
. Do you believe that?
On that day long ago, outside the village gates of Nain, Jesus saw a grieving woman at rock bottom, and he was moved at his core.Do you believe he feels the same way when he looks at you?
For some of you, this may be easy to imagine. Because you are in a time of grief yourself
. Maybe you’ve lost someone you care about. Maybe you’re losing
someone right now.
How does it feel to know that when Jesus sees you in your pain he is deeply moved because of it? That he wants to bear it with you? That he wants to move in closer?
Do you believe Jesus has compassion for you?
Or maybe for some of you, you’re in a really vulnerable place in life right now. Maybe like that widow you’re at rock bottom
. You’re facing financial ruin, or you don’t know how to put food on the table.
Or maybe you’re caught in an abusive relationship. Or a disability or chronic pain. Or you’re caught in an addiction. In some way you feel like you’re not in control.
How does it feel to know Jesus has gut-level compassion for the challenges you face
? That he wants to roll up his sleeves and face them with you?
How does it feel to hear him say, “We can walk this road together
. I want to be on this journey with you and I’m never leaving you behind”?
Do you believe Jesus has compassion for you
For others, maybe you’re not in a time of grief or vulnerability, but you are marginalized by the world
. Maybe you’re so lonely right now. Maybe you’re unpopular and awkward and isolated. You’re always on the outside looking in.
How does it feel to know that Jesus sees you? He knows your pain. And his heart breaks for you. Not with pity, but with compassion.
How does it feel to know Jesus wants nothing more than to sweep in, hold you close, and say “I see you. I’m with you. And there is life in store for you…”?
Jesus has compassion for you. I just want to know: do you believe that?
My hope and prayer for you this week is that you would internalize this
. That in your relationship with Jesus he would not be a theological abstraction. But one who loves you more deeply than you could imagine.
And one final thing. I hope and pray you would let us love you as well
We, the Church, Grace Church
, are meant to be the representatives of the love of Jesus to one another. Would you let us have compassion on you as well?
In Philippians, the Apostle Paul says this:Philippians 1:8God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
Guess what word that is… splanchnizomai.
We are called to feel the same gut-level compassion as Jesus
when we encounter one another. So if you are in a place where you feel marginalized, will you let us love you?
Will you let us care for you? And pray with you? And walk through what you’re facing with you?
And I’m not just talking about the staff. I’m talking about one another.
You don’t have to go through this alone. We love you. But more than that, Jesus loves you.
Will you open your heart to him?