I read the story of a gospel minister whose sister lived with him and his family. The woman loved the Lord and would often go out in the evenings to listen to various people preach the Word. One night, when she came home, her brother asked, “Did you hear a good sermon tonight?” She replied, in a disappointed voice, that she had not, however, on her way to the meeting she saw one. Quizzically, he asked, “You saw a sermon?” She said, “Yes, as I walked down the street toward the meeting place, a funeral procession passed me.”

Perhaps you don’t think of them in this way, but every funeral preaches the same common sermon. It reaches back to the very beginning of humanity and testifies to the truth of God’s declaration: “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” “Adam, in the day you sin – in the day you rebel and disobey me – you will die.” Adam and Eve did die that day, and in them so did all their children and grandchildren. Today, people don’t die simply because they get old, or sick or were involved in an accident or a murder. People die through one root cause – sin and God’s hatred of that sin. There has never been a funeral of anyone who was not a sinner in the sight of God. “For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and “the wages of sin is death.” “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon ALL men, for that all have sinned” – Romans 5:12.

Yet, with that being true, from time to time there have been interruptions in that sermon. There have been occasions when the funeral procession didn’t get to the cemetery. For example, I have heard of accidents when the hearse was disabled and the burial was postponed. Terrorists, these days, sometimes target the crowds that have gathered to bury their dead. And historically, interments have been interrupted by enemy attacks or sometimes by natural disasters.

But we have in this scripture an interruption of a different kind. It was as if the preacher was preparing one sermon, but the Holy Spirit redirected his heart towards an altogether different message. Or the man who was overseeing this funeral was replaced by another better preacher. The Lord Jesus, with His disciples and a large group of curiosity seekers, were traveling from Capernaum to the village of Nain, when they met a funeral procession. Christ then stopped that funeral, manifested His glory, and the mourners went home rejoicing. The sermon which was being preached about sin and death was changed to more glorious message of life.

Looking at this potential funeral as a sermon, let’s consider the primary illustration and its lessons.

First of all there was that little community of Nain. It is mentioned only one time in the Bible – right here. It was an insignificant little place in the country, off the beaten path, near no lakes or rivers. A dot on map. Few people lived there, and there were no reasons for tourists to visit. Yet, the Lord Jesus was there. Cities like Babylon and Nineveh have had there day, but few were as blessed as little Nain.

It lay 20 to 30 miles from Capernaum, where Christ Jesus had healed the Centurion’s servant, the day before. Between Nain and Capernaum was Mount Tabor, and not far to the south of that lay the border with Samaria. I think we can say that Christ and His disciples were not out for a leisurely stroll. There was a purpose involved. And verse 11 suggests that He intended to go into Nain. It may have been Jesus’ intention to stay for a while, or it may have been only to rest for the night or to eat. He could have been on his way to Jerusalem. But remember most Galileans refused to take this route into Judea. They traveled down the east side of the Jordan River with the specific purpose of avoiding Samaria. But Jesus, the nonconformist, may have been going south, using the road least traveled. And if that was true, I am reminded of another occasion when Jesus “MUST needs go through Samaria” in order to meet a certain woman and to evangelize a certain Samarian city. Whether that was the case or not here, I am convinced that it was no accident that Christ met this group of mourners headed toward the Nain public cemetery. This special sermon was Holy Spirit orchestrated to enhance Jesus’ reputation to bring glory to the Father. Verse 17 says, “This rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about.” The word “rumor” is “logos” which is most often translated “word.” In other words this enhanced the fame of Christ throughout all Israel.

Now I admit that preachers, in the heat of the sermon, sometimes say outlandish things, and sometimes those statements aren’t exactly accurate. For example, I have heard some say that no one could remain dead while in the presence of the King of Life. While it is true that Christ raised several dead bodies during His earthly ministry, and we never read that He was present at someone’s burial, nevertheless this is a pretty broad, unsubstantiated claim. I wonder, I don’t know, but I wonder if Jesus was present at the funeral of Joseph, His mother’s husband? It was certainly likely. He wasn’t under a Nazarite vow or something. I have also read that in the pages of God’s word all the dead who were raised to life again were relatively young. Again, whether or not that is true, but it was certainly true in this case.

The body being carried out of the city was that of a young man – not a child, but a young man. And by the way, we have that information, because the Lord Jesus shared it with us. Luke didn’t tell us about the age of this young man; Christ did. He said, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” The omniscient Lord Jesus knew the details of the case. He knew what time the procession would leave the city, and I believe that He deliberately met it. He knew before Luke could tell us that this was the only son of a woman who was a widow. And He knew the age of the deceased. By what is said of his age, this young man should have been in, or near, the prime of life. Christ knew, but we don’t know what killed him. Was it sickness? Was it an accident? Did he suffer long? We might ask ourselves such questions, but they really aren’t important. The only really important fact was that he was dead; not partly dead – completely dead.

In addition to a lesson on the omniscience of the Son of God, another which flows out of this is obvious to us who are over three score and ten years of age. Death can take anyone at any time. It often takes the elderly, but it can also snatch away the child or baby. And any young man in the prime of his life; with a bright future ahead of him, with lots of hopes and plans; can leave this world in a moment by way of a accident, a crime, or an “act of God.” In this case, that mother was not prepared for her son’s death. But of course, no mother ever is. And I am reasonably sure that the young man was not ready either. This was probably a surprise. If you are not prepared to die, then you are not really prepared for life, because all life ends in death. How can someone prepare? That is the message of Pastor Luke’s sermon here.

“When the Lord saw (the grieving mother) he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.” You and I are exhorted to weep with others when they weep, and Jesus teaches that lesson by example. He cares about people, even people who may not know or love Him. My wife heard some sad news last Thursday and immediately Judy’s eyes welled up with tears. Similarly when Christ Jesus saw the tears and heard the weeping of this woman, He was moved with compassion.

But – that doesn’t mean that He overlooked whatever facts lay behind the story. In this case, the Bible doesn’t tell us that He had compassion on the deceased, although perhaps He did. We are told that He had compassion on the widowed mother. If this boy was killed while committing some crime, Christ wasn’t telling the mother to ignore his sin. There is no reason to think that Jesus was condoning any wickedness which might have been involved. But in His unnatural humanity – Christ’s heart went out to her. And that in no way conflicted with His divinity. Perhaps it is an illustration of His divinity.

Speaking of which – consider what He said to the poor mother. He said, “Weep not.” If I walked up to a grieving widow or a sorrowing mother as she was about to bury her only child, and I said what Jesus said, it would be impertinent – totally unkind and out of place. There are a lot of dumb things said and done at funerals, but to tell a grieving mother to stop her blubbering would be the very height of rudeness. But, of course, you and I aren’t the Son of God, and the Lord Jesus has different privileges and prerogatives. In the most kindly way, Jesus said, “Weep not.” He could have said, “Please dry those tears, because I am going to give you great joy,” but He didn’t.

Then He walked over to the means by which the people were conveying the body, laying His hand on it. Was it simply a stretcher? Was it a coffin of some sort? Whatever it was, it wasn’t closed. Was the body wrapped the way Lazarus and the Lord Jesus were wrapped for their burials? I have a few unanswered questions, which I suppose are not really important.

Verse 14 – “He came and touched the bier; and they that bare him stood still. And Jesus said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” I have heard preachers say with authority, but without any authority, that if Jesus had not said, “Lazarus, come forth,” then all of the dead bodies in Bethany’s cemetery, or perhaps throughout the world, would have arisen along with Lazarus. I suppose the same might have been said in regard to this case, “Young man, arise,” except there were no other bodies present, unless they were near the burial place. There are several resurrections coming up in the near future. Exactly who and in which resurrection are things known and completely controlled by the Lord.

I can’t help but notice the authority with which Jesus spoke, “Young man, I SAY unto thee, Arise.” Christ Jesus didn’t call on the name of His Father to lift up the fallen. He neither asked the Father, nor referred to God’s authority. He said, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” He wasn’t like Elijah at the top of Mount Carmel, praying for God’s power. He wasn’t like Elisha laying his body over the body dead child. And when the young man arose we don’t read of Jesus thanking the Father for blessing the situation. “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”

“And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.” As you should know, Luke was not there in Nain when all of this took place. He was given this information by others, or perhaps directly by the Holy Spirit. Either way, what he wrote was through the inspiration of God. But oh, how I wish he had shared with us the words this young man spoke after his return to life. I won’t even speculate on what he might have seen while he was away. Did the Lord command him to be silent about what was beyond death? Perhaps his first words were filled with praise to God and about the Lord. Praise and thanksgiving should have been at the very least in his next few breaths.

Then the Lord Jesus, the young man’s Saviour from death, delivered him to his mother. The woman’s sorrow was turned into rejoicing. “In (Jehovah’s) favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” – Psalm 30:5.

Now, let me reemphasize one particular lesson and draw out some others.

Please notice that the Lord Jesus initiated everything that was good in this episode. The young man died because he was born with the same sin nature as everyone else. “Wherefore, as by one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” – Romans 5:12. “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation… for as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners… sin hath reigned unto death” – Romans 5:18, 19 and 21. Paul tells us in Romans 3:11 – “There is none that seeketh after God,” and that is perfectly illustrated in this young man. He was physically and spiritually dead and incapable of doing anything in order to receive God’s blessing. The only thing this young man contributed to the story was his death.

But the Lord Jesus went to him with love and irresistible grace saying, “Arise” – “live.” “And he that was dead sat up,” immediately beginning to enjoy the new life which Christ gave to him. It might be argued that the dead young man previously had no ears to hear, but Christ made him hear. It should be obvious that he had no ability to arise or to sit up, because he was dead. But contained within the command of Christ was the ability to obey. It came from the Lord. This resurrection was all about – and because of – God’s power.

What was the conclusion of that day’s sermon? What was its ultimate purpose?

“And there came a fear on all; and they glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us; and, that God hath visited his people.” As you may know, the word “fear” is multifaceted. It can refer to terror, but it can also refer to reverence. The people who witnessed this miracle included Jesus’ disciples along with a rag-tag group of others. And there were people from Nain – perhaps not much in the way of family, but most of the community. “And much people of the city was with (the poor grieving mother).” And everyone from the disciples to the citizens were filled with either of those two kinds of fear.

For a few years, I pastored a small church in a small town – similar to Nain in several ways. I learned first hand that the cultural atmosphere in a small community is different from that of Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene or Spokane. For example, when we had a funeral, even though most of the citizens didn’t know the deceased, as the funeral cars went past, everyone stopped what they were doing and took their hats off in respect. Even the golfers on the community course near the city cemetery stopped playing out of respect. This was very much a village funeral. It most likely affected everyone in that tiny community in some way.

And when the young man sat up and began to speak, the people of Nain, along with Jesus’ disciples, began to glorify God. I would guess that there was a mixture of terror and reverence among the on-lookers. Several of them began to say, “a great prophet is risen up among us,” not fully understanding the full greatness of the Lord Jesus. And they said, “God hath visited his people” as indeed He had. I can’t tell you for sure what they were thinking when they spoke of the “great prophet.” But they may have been thinking back to Moses’ prophecy. “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” – Deuteronomy 18:15.

During our song service we read from Psalm 106. Let me repeat the earlier verses of that Psalm in the light of this resurrection. “Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all his praise? Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times. Remember me, O LORD, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.”

There was a day, years ago, when the Lord Jesus Christ visited the insignificant little town of Nain, in Galilee. The Almighty God visited His people, blessing a recent sermon on sin, righteousness and judgment. The great prophet, the great Son of God, visited with grace, showing to anyone willing to see, that there is an answer to sin and judgment. A dead sinner was restored to life before his God. Essentially, a sinner was born again. It was all because of the love and grace of the Lord Jesus.

Are YOU represented in that sinner – dead in the sight of God? The Saviour is standing before you this morning. He’s putting His hand on your future casket. He is asking you, “Don’t you want life? Won’t you take the eternal life, I am offering you?” Will you, this morning, call out to Him? “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” In humility and repentance for your sin and spiritual condition, won’t you put your faith in the One who can give you life? Right there were you sit, as the Lord leads your heart, won’t you humbly ask the Lord to save you? “For by grace are (we) saved by faith in Christ Jesus.”

We are going to sing a hymn entitled “Jesus is Calling.” Do you hear His voice this morning? Can you feel the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your heart? I plead with you to sit up, respond. Take His offer of salvation and life. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”