We have here the story of Christ’s raising to life a widow’s son at Nain, that was dead and in the carrying out to be buried, which Matthew and Mark had made no mention of; only, in the general, Matthew had recorded it, in Christ’s answer to the disciples of John, that the dead were raised up, Matt. 11:5. Observe,
I. Where, and when, this miracle was wrought. It was the next day after he had cured the centurion’s servant, Luke 7:11. Christ was doing good every day, and never had cause to complain that he had lost a day. It was done at the gate of a small city, or town, called Nain, not far from Capernaum, probably the same with a city called Nais, which Jerome speaks of.
II. Who were the witnesses of it. It is as well attested as can be, for it was done in the sight of two crowds that met in or near the gate of the city. There was a crowd of disciples and other people attending Christ (Luke 7:11), and a crowd of relations and neighbours attending the funeral of the young man, Luke 7:12. Thus there was a sufficient number to attest the truth of this miracle, which furnished greater proof of Christ’s divine authority than his healing diseases; for by no power of nature, or any means, can the dead be raised.
III. How it was wrought by our Lord Jesus.
1. The person raised to life was a young man, cut off by death in the beginning of his days—a common case; man comes forth like a flower and is cut down. That he was really dead was universally agreed. There could be no collusion in the case; for Christ was entering into the town, and had not seen him till now that he met him upon the bier. He was carried out of the city; for the Jews’ burying-places were without their cities, and at some distance from them. This young man was the only son of his mother, and she a widow. She depended upon him to be the staff of her old age, but he proves a broken reed; every man at his best estate is so. How numerous, how various, how very calamitous, are the afflictions of the afflicted in this world! What a vale of tears is it! What a Bochim, a place of weepers! We may well think how deep the sorrow of this poor mother was for her only son (such sorrowing is referred to as expressive of the greatest grief,—Zech. 12:10), and it was the deeper in that she was a widow, broken with breach upon breach, and a full end made of her comforts. Much people of the city was with her, condoling with her loss, to comfort her.
2. Christ showed both his pity and his power in raising him to life, that he might give a specimen of both, which shine so brightly in man’s redemption.
(1.) See how tender his compassions are towards the afflicted (Luke 7:13): When the Lord saw the poor widow following her son to the grave, he had compassion on her. Here was not application made to him for her, not so much as that he would speak some words of comfort to her, but, ex mero motu—purely from the goodness of his nature, he was troubled for her. The case was piteous, and he looked upon it with pity. His eye affected his heart; and he said unto her, Weep not. Note, Christ has a concern for the mourners, for the miserable, and often prevents them with the blessing of his goodness. He undertook the work of our redemption and salvation, in his love and in his pity, Isa. 63:9. What a pleasing idea does this give us of the compassions of the Lord Jesus, and the multitude of his tender mercies, which may be very comfortable to us when at any time we are in sorrow! Let poor widows comfort themselves in their sorrows with this, that Christ pities them and knows their souls in adversity; and, if others despise their grief, he does not. Christ said, Weep not; and he could give her a reason for it which no one else could: “Weep not for a dead son, for he shall presently become a living one.” This was a reason peculiar to her case; yet there is a reason common to all that sleep in Jesus, which is of equal force against inordinate and excessive grief for their death—that they shall rise again, shall rise in glory; and therefore we must not sorrow as those that have no hope, 1 Thess. 4:13. Let Rachel, that weeps for her children, refrain her eyes from tears, for there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border, Jer. 31:17. And let our passion at such a time be checked and claimed by the consideration of Christ’s compassion.
(2.) See how triumphant his commands are over even death itself (Luke 7:14): He came, and touched the bier, or coffin, in or upon which the dead body lay; for to him it would be no pollution. Hereby he intimated to the bearers that they should not proceed; he had something to say to the dead young man. Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom, Job 33:24. Hereupon they that bore him stood still, and probably let down the bier from their shoulders to the ground, and opened the coffin, it if was closed up; and then with solemnity, as one that had authority, and to whom belonged the issues from death, he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. The young man was dead, and could not arise by any power of his own (no more can those that are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins); yet it was no absurdity at all for Christ to bid him arise, when a power went along with that word to put life into him. The gospel call to all people, to young people particularly, is, “Arise, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light and life.” Christ’s dominion over death was evidenced by the immediate effect of his word (Luke 7:15): He that was dead sat up. Have we grace from Christ? Let us show it. Another evidence of life was that he began to speak; for whenever Christ gives us spiritual life he opens the lips in prayer and praise. And, lastly, he would not oblige this young man, to whom he had given a new life, to go along with him as his disciple, to minister to him (though he owed him even his own self), much less as a trophy or show to get honour by him, but delivered him to his mother, to attend her as became a dutiful son; for Christ’s miracles were miracles of mercy, and a great act of mercy this was to this widow; now she was comforted, according to the time in which she had been afflicted and much more, for she could now look upon this son as a particular favourite of Heaven, with more pleasure than if he had not died.
IV. What influence it had upon the people (Luke 7:16): There came a fear on all; it frightened them all, to see a dead man start up alive out of his coffin in the open street, at the command of a man; they were all struck with wonder at his miracle, and glorified God. The Lord and his goodness, as well as the Lord and his greatness, are to be feared. The inference they drew from it was, “A great prophet is risen up among us, the great prophet that we have been long looking for; doubtless, he is one divinely inspired who can thus breathe life into the dead, and in him God hath visited his people, to redeem them, as was expected,” Luke 1:68. This would be life from the dead indeed to all them that waited for the consolation of Israel. When dead souls are thus raised to spiritual life, by a divine power going along with the gospel, we must glorify God, and look upon it as a gracious visit to his people. The report of this miracle was carried, 1. In general, all the country over (Luke 7:17): This rumour of him, that he was the great prophet, went forth upon the wings of fame through all Judea, which lay a great way off, and throughout all Galilee, which was the region round about. Most had this notice of him, yet few believed in him, and gave up themselves to him. Many have the rumour of Christ’s gospel in their ears that have not the savour and relish of it in their souls. 2. In particular, it was carefully brought to John Baptist, who was now in prison (Luke 7:18): His disciples came, and gave him an account of all things, that he might know that though he was bound yet the word of the Lord was not bound; God’s work was going on, though he was laid aside.
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