“Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’ And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.” (Luke 7:11-17)
As human beings, we are keenly aware of our divisions, such as: race; ethnicity; religion; politics; economic status; etc. But there is one thing that all human beings share in common – death. Try as we might, none of us can escape death. Death will overcome all of us: the unprepared and the prepared; the young and the old; poor and the rich; the moral and the immoral.
Thus, all of us follow in the footsteps of the widow, the bier bearers and the crowd in one universal procession of death. Today it is someone else; another day it will be our turn. There is nothing we can do to stop this procession or escape its destination. Only one Man could oppose, defeat and deliver us from death: the Lord over death and life, Jesus Christ.
By raising the widow’s son at Nain, Jesus gives us a prelude, a taste, of His work on behalf of all Christians, for whom “He will swallow up death forever” (Isa 25:8). This story, along with those of Jesus raising Lazarus (John 11) and the ruler’s daughter (Matt 9), are written to establish in us a firm faith and trust in Jesus, that He came into to the world to destroy death and in its place to give life. He accomplishes His work for us first by faith before bodily death takes place. Then, on the last day, when He gathers His own together, He will complete His work: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor 15:52b)
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom 5:12)
We should understand what the cause of death is, what stands behind the grave, the coffin and the horrible circumstances in which death occurs and the body is destroyed – it is sin and the wrath of God on account of sin.
However, we are not speaking here of only gross or outward sins. As an example, no one would accuse a baby of gross sin; yet we know that babies die. Therefore, we have to follow the trail of death back to the origin of sin, to the progenitors of the human race – Adam and Eve. Their original sin, eating the forbidden fruit, banished mankind from God and all His grace. Their sin brought death, not only to them, but into the world and spread death to the whole human race because all human beings sin.
The sin that kills all human beings, which none of us can rid ourselves of, is innate in all human beings born in the natural way; it is inherited from Adam and Eve. Therefore, the entire human race is under the wrath of God on account of sin, condemned to death and eternally separated from God.
“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17)
If, then, we are incapable of ridding ourselves of sin, God himself will have to show compassion for our misery and rescue us from sin and death. This is the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who for all mankind became man, took upon himself death and its cause – sin and the wrath of God – to free us from sin and wrath and bring us to eternal life and righteousness.
Christ’s work of life for us has been accomplished in such a way that without our effort or work we attain it, just as we became subject to death without our effort and work. Similarly, since we did not bring death upon ourselves, except in so far as we were born of Adam and through the sin of another our flesh and blood became corrupt, so that we also must die; neither can we work out and earn redemption from sin and death, that is, righteousness and life, but must be brought to it through the righteousness and life of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, all mankind can be delivered from sin and death and be made alive, not by or through our own efforts, but apart from ourselves through the righteousness and life of Jesus Christ, if we believe His Word and Gospel which imparts to us His work and power to destroy sin and death.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
The raising of the widow’s son at Nain is just a prelude of the work that Jesus will complete, not only in one or a few, but in all Christians who succumb to death, when, upon His return, with one blow, Jesus destroys and swallows up death forever. Then His Church will form a truly joyous and glorious procession, when Jesus brings together, in a moment of time, all Christians who have died, calling us forth with one word from the earth, freeing us all from death and giving us all eternal life, “and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isa 25:8). Amen.
“It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’ ” (Isa 25:9) Amen.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure; Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.
Not the labors of my hands, Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath, When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown, See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”
– Augustus M. Toplady, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me