The Interruption of a Funeral
August 19, 2018 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:
Topic: Evangelism Verse: Luke 7:11–7:17
“The Interruption of a Funeral”
Theme: God’s sovereign compassion attends us in all of life’s struggles through Christ Jesus.
I. God Has Control of Life’s Events – 7:11-12a
A. The Agenda Shows His Providence – v. 11
- The powerful sign that Luke provides of the Centurion possessing faith in Jesus’ Word and work of redemption seen through the healing of his slave is followed up on by an even greater sign of Jesus’ divinity.
- Luke notes that “Soon afterwards …” – the momentum of Jesus’ disclosure of who He is was mounting.
- We are told that “He went to a city called Nain …” – a city that still exists today with a very small population – even as it was in Jesus’ day.
- “Nain” was located about 20 miles SW from where Jesus was in Capernaum – just a little south of Nazareth, His hometown.
- It would have taken Jesus the majority of the day to walk from Capernaum to Nain – especially with the large crowd that was with him – “… and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd.”
- His heading there was deliberate – not a random act of impulse or caprice.
- Jesus goes to Nain specifically due to the fact that the resurrection of this young man was on the agenda of God’s eternal purpose of bringing Himself glory.
- This young man’s death, the sorrow of the mother and extended family was specifically designed to provide God the opportunity to bring Himself glory through the work of Jesus Christ.
- God’s providence extends to every area of our lives – nothing happens merely by chance and certainly ought not be perceived as trivial, irrelevant, or incidental – but always perceived as opportunities to see the glory of the Lord unfold in all of life.
B. The Arrangements Show His Providence – v. 12a
- God is so wise and comprehensive in His providence – Isaiah 46:9-10
- Even things that we perceive as tragic consequences of sin are within the confines of God’s eternal purpose as He has declared cause & effect – cp. Amos 3:6; Isaiah 45:7
- Here we see the evidence of God’s sovereign purpose and effective providence – “Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out …”
- The burial practices of the day mandated that dead bodies be buried fairly quickly.
- There was no refrigeration available and the effects of death – the potential for decay and disease was a genuine threat.
- The likelihood is that this man had died earlier that very day – perhaps even before Jesus had left Capernaum.
- It is amazing that God timed Jesus’ arrival exactly to the minute that this “dead man was being carried out.”
- This encounter was not by chance – it was fore-ordained from the beginning that this man would die that morning, be prepared for burial, and be carried out of the city precisely when Jesus would arrive in order to perform this miracle
- God is in control of the events in our lives.
- Interact with the statement: God is never early or late, but always on time?
- Do you ever feel that God’s purpose seems random? How do you resolve the sense that He sometimes seems capricious?
- Why are you grateful for God’s providence?
II. God Has Compassion in Life’s Events – 7:12b-13
A. The Severity of Life’s “Circumstances”
- Luke provides us with treasurable details in this account of the glory of Christ – “… the only son of his mother, and she was a widow …”
- This woman’s world had known great sorrow already when her husband died and had hit bottom that day as her “only son” died.
- Such a death of an only son was the epitome of grief in the Scriptures – Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zechariah 12:10
- It is also depicted in the greatest sacrifice that God made for us – John 3:16
- Either one of the circumstances is seen as in need of ministry, but both unbearable – James 1:27.
- We can encounter difficulties that are seemingly unbearable – various forms of deprivation, death, diseases, distress, depression, & destitution
- Our sense can be that God has forgotten us, or is unloving, harsh, or even cruel.
- This woman had absolutely no idea of what God had in mind for her life or the life of her deceased son – even as we don’t have the ability to comprehend what God desires to do to bring Himself glory in our circumstances.
- This woman’s grief was corroborated and certified by the great crowd of people who attended her throughout this procession – “… and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her.”
B.The Significance of the Lord’s Compassion
- Unlike our accusations toward God, Jesus cared deeply and was moved by her situation – “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her …”
- “felt compassion” [σπλαγχνίζομαι] – is a graphic word describing the feeling deep within – from a word referring to one’s entrails or “guts;” a figurative reference to the physical effects of powerful emotions of sorrow or grief.
- It is the same as saying that Jesus’ heart ached for this woman and the suffering that she was enduring – a demonstration of the sentiment that Jesus had toward people who hurt – cp. Hebrews 4:15
- God is a God of compassion – cp. Psalm 116:5
- The result is that Jesus “… said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” – not as a rebuke or a harsh command, but as a tender assurance that everything will be okay.
- He knew what He was going to do to the glory of God – after all, He had left Capernaum 20+ miles away earlier in the morning in order to be there to do it!
- Knowing the end from the beginning as the “Alpha and Omega,” Jesus’ compassion isn’t always noted by us, or even perceived while we are in the midst of our struggle.
- We often wonder why God allows us to go through suffering without any apparent reason – we certainly rarely believe that we deserve our circumstances.
- Yet, we know that God is a God of compassion and that Jesus truly cares about what we are experiencing – 1 Peter 5:6-7; Psalm 55:22
- Sometimes, God’s merciful and compassionate agenda is to allow us by means of struggle to demonstrate the power and reality of His worthiness and grace.
- Why is it inappropriate to assume that God has failed to consider you when you go through hardship?
- Have you ever thought that God’s comfort of you through His Word was preposterous? What did you do to overcome those thoughts?
- What is the most compassionate thing that God has ever done for you? Is that enough to convince you that He cares? Why or Why not?
III. God Makes Contribution to Life’s Events – vv. 14-17
A. The Opportunities to Perceive His Grace – v. 14-15
- Jesus wasn’t willing to simply feel compassion for the suffering this woman was enduring, He acted in a way that unmistakably demonstrated His divine power
- We are told that “He came up and touched the coffin” [σορός] – a reference to a stretcher or bier carrying the body of the dead man.
- Interestingly, if Jesus were not God, such an act would have defiled Him and rendered Him incapable of addressing the crowd any longer, yet we are told that “and the bearers came to a halt.”
- Yet, Jesus touches the unclean object on which death had settled and the result is that instead of His becoming unclean, what was unclean became clean – “And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’”
- Even as the centurion in the previous section had expressed confidence in the Word of Christ and His ability to exercise His authority, Jesus speaks, and the power of God is exerted.
- In an immediate response, “the dead man sat up and began to speak.”
- Life pulsed through his veins and whatever ill effects of rigor mortis that had set in was reversed and there was immediate result.
- There was no need for rehab, warming up, or any assistance – the funeral bier became a sedan chair!
- In a foretaste of that great day in the future when the command is uttered for the ultimate resurrection – cp. John 5:28-29
- In a detail of tenderness, Luke reports that “And Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
- Although far less striking, the compassion of God and the power of grace is no less relevant to our circumstances – He desires to bring Himself glory in whatever we are enduring.
B. The Opportunities to Praise His Greatness – vv. 16-17
- God is constantly providing us opportunities to praise Him for what He does for us; we focus more on our problem than we do the grace that He provides us in the problem.
- We are told that immediately the people were terrified – “Fear gripped the all and they began glorifying God …”
- The word “fear” [φόβος] refers to being frightened to the point of fleeing – “dread, or terror” which “gripped” [λαμβάνω] them – that is, took ahold of them all.
- Although “they began glorifying God,” they failed to recognize that Jesus was God – they relegated Him to a mere prophet – not THE prophet promised in the OT – “… saying ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited His people!’”
- Unfortunately, their failure to praise Jesus for being God, they missed the significance of Christ’s presence – cp. Luke 19:41-44
- “This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district” – demonstrating that what He did was widely circulated, but the significance of it was missed; Jesus clarified it in the next section in response to John the Baptist’s doubts.
- We are so easily distracted from the grace of God doing great things for us – what is a way that God has been gracious to you during the past week?
- What has God done for you that you have greatly undervalued?
- How can you properly praise God for what He has done for you in situations when you felt alone?