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The True Jesus: Authority Over Death

Last week we saw how Jesus had authority over a terminal sickness.  The next section in Luke 7:11-17, shows that even if someone dies, Jesus still has authority over even death.

The story takes place about 12 miles up into the hills from the Sea of Galilee near Nazareth at the city of Nain.  Jesus and his disciples had left Capernaum and walked up to this city.  They were also followed by a large crowd that wanted to see what Jesus would do and hear what He would teach.

His Authority Over Death

As Jesus, disciples, and crowd approach the town of Nain, they are met by a funeral procession coming out of the city.  This tragic scene would be sad enough.  But, we are told that the situation gets worse.  The woman was a widow.  So she had already dealt with a tragedy of losing her husband.  Now she has the increased tragedy of losing her son and having to bury him.  Yet, even worse, this was her only son.  That means the woman would also be worrying about how she is going to live.  Who will take care of her?  Like Naomi in the book of Ruth, she has suffered great bitterness and yet we do not know if this woman has a Ruth like Naomi did.

It is in this moment that we are told that Jesus had compassion on the woman.  Now compassion is sometimes referring to the act of helping someone without regard to the emotions behind it.  But, here it is describing an inner emotion of love and pity that Jesus feels towards her.  This emotion leads Him to decide to do an act of compassion.  Jesus was not an unfeeling being that mysteriously did miracles.  Rather, he had compassion upon those who were bound by sin and sickness.  You might recall that when Jesus hears that Lazarus, His friend, had died that He wept.  So Jesus tells the woman to not weep.  Weeping and grieving is normal and God is not against it.   However, Jesus is about to turn her weeping into Joy.  He is giving her hope.  When the miracle worker says don’t cry, you begin to hope that He means He is going to help you.

Next Jesus steps up to the open coffin and simply speaks to the dead corpse.  This resurrection scene demonstrates the power of Jesus.  He does not require great build up and multiple attempts.  When you contrast this simple action to Elisha’s resurrection of the young boy in 2 Kings 4, you see the tremendous command that Jesus has over death.  This is not to put down Elisha, but rather to lift up the Truth about Jesus.  Jesus simply commands the young man to rise up.  This amazing power of speaking a word and flesh coming to life is parallel with God in the creation of Adam.  There he forms the man and then breathes life into the form.  The words of Jesus cause life to enter this dead body and further more heals the original problem that led to a death in the first place.  Thus God not only has the power to create, but also to recreate. 

Like the resurrection of Lazarus, this young man is brought back to life in a mortal body.  He is not immortal like Jesus was after his resurrection, but rather, restored to normal life.  He will eventually grow old and die of something else and at that point Jesus won’t be there.  The power of this story is not the hope that we can escape death if we have enough faith.  God does not show up in miraculous power in most of the sorrows of our life.  Even this woman could wonder where Jesus was when her husband died.  Yet, we see here that despite all of that Jesus does care.  God does care about the sorrow of mankind.  Part of the work of Jesus is to give man the evidence he needs to believe that God will overcome all those sorrows, even death.

In John 11 Jesus promises that a greater day of Resurrection is coming on the Last Day of this Age.  This is a day when Christ will command all the righteous to be raised from the dead and have eternal, spiritual bodies.  They are called spiritual because they are created by the Spirit of God.  But don’t be confused.  They are material bodies.

The apostles also pointed to this great promise as the Great Hope of all believers:  that we will be resurrected by Christ on the last day.  It is what makes all our sacrifices and difficulties in this life bearable.  Paul gives the most description of this event in 1 Corinthians 15 if you want to understand it more.  Let me just list some of these apostolic encouragements.  “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.  “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 

The People Are Amazed

There is a part of us all that longs to have been there or to see something as dramatic as this.  But the reality is that our faith is not made better or worse for having not seen it.  Many in the Bible who saw the miraculous went on to not believe God.  Thus God gives us evidence, but don’t fool yourself that it isn’t real just because you didn’t see it.

It says that fear came upon them.  In general this is a fear of realizing that this is no mere man.  Who is he?  What is he?  Yet, it also points to a fear of the Lord because the people began to give the glory and honor of this event to God.  His power and ability was so far beyond them that they were humbled in reverence and respect.  This was not a man to be trifled with.

They glorified God.  To whom do we give glory of all the amazing things that are happening in our day?  Don’t we glorify ourselves?  Even our technology is made possible by the glories of God’s creative genius.  Yet, we do not praise Him for His wisdom.  Instead we laugh at such quaint notions as a God, and praise ourselves.  The generation that doesn’t stand in awe at the greatness of God expressed through His creation, brings judgment upon itself.

They also declared Jesus a true prophet and a visitation from God.  Prophet is meant here in that most of the prophets did miracles to help the nation believe that what they said was from God.  But the emphasis was on the fact that they spoke for God.  Through this resurrection the people of Nain recognize Jesus as a prophet.  One who is truly sent by God to speak to His people and direct them.  However, we are warned in Scripture not to accept miracles as proof of the Truth.  So how do we know?  First the miraculous gets our attention.  Next we take the teaching of the “prophet” and we compare it to the teachings of the Bible.  If they do not match then we don’t listen to the prophet because they are not from God.  Lastly, if they predict something and it doesn’t come to pass then we know for sure that they are not a true prophet.  Was the teaching of Jesus true to the Old Testament?  The New Testament makes the case that He was the ultimate prophet of God.

Lastly, the “visitation from God” is a reference to the fact that God doesn’t always seem to be active in our life.  From time to time, however, He shows up.  These visitations can be good or bad, it depends on us.  Israel had been suffering under one empire after another and were longing for deliverance from God.  It seemed like He was not showing up.  They longed for a visitation of deliverance.  However, if we are not living right and crucify the deliverer when He shows up, then we are going to have a visitation of judgment.  The good news is that Jesus took the Judgment of God upon Himself so that those who put their faith in Him could avoid it.  That truly is amazing.  The amazing grace of God can be ours by picking up our cross (the things we have to die to) and following Jesus in faith.  God promises us eternal life in glorified bodies, but in His time.  Can you trust Him?  Turn to Jesus today.

Authority Over Death Audio