Luke 7:11-17 Sermon Illustrations

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Luke 7:11-17

"HEADLINE: Jesus raises dead man"

Luke 7:11-17


1. Tabloid newspapers with sensational headlines are often on the racks by supermarket check-out lines. I know that many of them are absolutely preposterous in what they claim. It seems highly unlikely that a woman in Mexico gave birth to 14 Chihuahuas from the planet Pluto. But, I seem unable to resist reading the headlines. And, I reluctantly admit, I have sometimes sneaked a peek. I always look around first to make sure there is no one in sight whom I recognize to be from Wooddale Church.


2. Somehow spectacular headlines are very difficult to resist.

3. It’s hard to think of a headline more spectacular than the one describing the story in Luke chapter 7: "Jesus raises dead man." It is either so preposterous that it is embarrassing to be seen reading it or it is one of the most amazing true stories that has ever been told. Personally, I take the story to be true . . . and wonderful.


A. Jesus goes to out-of-the-way places Luke 7:11

1. The story begins with Jesus leaving the area of Capernaum where there were lots of towns and lots of people, and going to a tiny out-of-the-way rural village called Nain. It was at least a day’s journey to get there and a day’s journey to return back to the shores of Galilee where Jesus was based.


2. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine why Jesus would go to such a place. It would appear to be a waste of time. There were plenty of people (including sick people and dead people) where he was. Why go to a place so remote and under populated?

I grew up in the suburbs of New York City. When I visited Chicago as a college student I was impressed by how small it was with so few big buildings. I thought that I had finally seen what rural America looks like. And Minneapolis/St. Paul? Well, to tell the truth I don’t think I ever heard of those places.

One of the identifying marks of a true New Yorker is ignorance of almost every other place. They are convinced New York is the epicenter of the universe. It is the capital of the world. It has more people, more money and more importance than any other American city. The local news stations don’t even report the scores of non-New York major league teams. The only time a New Yorker hears a score from the Twins is when the Twins play the Yankees. No other places seem to matter. No other people seem to matter.


3. But someone must have invited Jesus to Nain. So, he went. Jesus often went where he was invited. It didn’t seem to matter to him if the place was famous or unknown. He cared about people, whoever they were and wherever they lived.


4. I like this. I like to know I don’t have to be famous or important to have Jesus come my way. I like to know that all I need to do is invite him to my home and he is likely to come, whether I live in New York or Minneapolis or Eden Prairie or Nain.


B. Jesus meets death head-on Luke 7:12

1. A crowd accompanied Jesus on his journey. My guess is that it was a loud, joyful, excited crowd. Jesus was at the peak of his popularity. They had heard his teachings and loved them. They had seen his miracles and were dazzled by them. Jesus was the man of the hour - - - anyone who wanted to be in on the action wanted to be where Jesus was.


2. Imagine the noise. Hear the laughter. Listen to the singing. Feel the excitement.


3. As they walked down the only road to Nain the village gate came into sight. Good news, they were almost there. The crowd would take this little town by storm.


4. Unexpectedly, the village gates opened and they realized they were walking toward a head-on collision with a funeral procession. Ancient Hebrew funeral processions were harsh expressions of great grief. They were led by professional mourners who wailed in sounds of agony. They were accompanied by musicians playing funeral dirges on flutes and cymbals. There was a long processional of relatives, friends, neighbors and just about anyone else who wanted to participate. It was all about grief with little if anything about hope.


5. The contrast couldn’t have been sharper. The celebrating crowd coming to the village and the mourning crowd coming out of the village.


6. Jesus met death head-on. In a sense it was an extreme test of who he was and what he could do. If Jesus was the miracle-working charismatic religious leader for this life only, that was not good enough. At best this life is short, but death is forever. If he was powerless over the grave, he was helpful but not eternal. On the other hand, if Jesus could and would face and overcome death, he would prove himself to be the Son of God, the Messiah, the greatest and ultimate hope of humankind.


7. What was true for then is true for now. If Jesus can help us find peace, give us direction in life, solve some of our problems and cure some of our illnesses, that is very good and very nice. But sooner or later we all face death. If Jesus makes no difference at the grave, he really makes no difference at all. If he can give us victory over death, he is worth accepting and living for during life.


C. Jesus feels compassion for human hurts Luke 7:13

1. When Jesus’ eyes reached the family section of the funeral procession he quickly saw it had a population of one. "As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow."

2. Most funerals are riddled with grief, but this was a painfully sad circumstance.

The woman was a widow at a time in history when women were almost completely dependent on men for food, shelter and clothing. For the only son of a widow to die meant leaving his mother destitute. His death was her death sentence.

More than the reality of economics was the tragedy of losing a child. We all have a basic sense of the right order of life and death. Children are supposed to bury their parents but parents are not supposed to bury their children. The older you are the sooner you are supposed to die; the younger you are the longer you are supposed to live. The funeral procession from the village of Nain to the cemetery outside of town was profoundly out of order.

But most of all, this woman had lost her son. I doubt she was thinking about tomorrow’s food or today’s order-of-life. That very day her boy had died. She had given him birth. She had nursed him at her breasts. She had cared for him when he was sick. She was there when he learned to walk and to talk. She loved him, truly loved him - - in the special way that a mother loves a child. It made no difference that her son had grown up to become a man. He was still her boy and now he was gone.

She had no one to share her grief. Oh, yes there were neighbors and friends. But that’s not the same as grieving with a husband who fully shares the loss. It’s not the same as crying with another son or daughter who is still alive. She was alone. Desperately alone.


3. "When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don't cry.’"

Jesus said what almost every man always says when he sees a woman crying: "Don’t cry!"

There is something about a woman’s tears that makes a man uncomfortable. Whether we know what to say or not, we always say the same thing. "Please don’t cry."

4. More significant than what Jesus said was what Jesus felt: "his heart went out to her."

Biographer Luke used the strongest terminology in his Greek vocabulary to describe Jesus’ great compassion for this grieving mother. Jesus’ heart was deeply touched by her and by her sorrow.


5. This must have been a curious thing for first century Greek and Roman readers to read. They were steeped in Stoic philosophy which taught that the gods have no compassion and neither should we. Compassion means that the other person has power and influence over what you feel. If someone else has power over a god then that person is greater than the god. If there is someone greater than the god then that god is really not a god after all. And, since all of us mortals should seek to be like the gods, we should let no one’s situation or circumstances have that kind of power over us. Compassion is for the weak.

Yet Jesus’ "heart went out to her." He was fully God and fully man. He was strong and powerful yet full of care and compassion.


6. There is a lesson here we dare not miss. Jesus cares about us. He shares our joy and he shares our grief. When our hearts are broken, his heart breaks as well. Jesus is never cold or callused or uncaring. He is a man of great sensitivity who feels our pain and shares our tears.


7. "When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her . . . ."

D. Jesus conquers death Luke 7: 14-15

1. Then came the miracle: "Jesus went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk. . . ."

2. Jesus had a presence and authority about him that was instantly recognized. It didn’t seem to matter if people knew who he was or not. When he spoke, they listened. When he reached out to touch the coffin, the funeral procession stopped. Everyone was mesmerized. Everyone watched and listened.


3. It is important that we understand what happened in the context of their time and culture.

They had no caskets like we have today. In our century and culture caskets are typically constructed out of wood or metal. They are containers which hold the body of the deceased. There is a lid which closes the top so that you can’t look inside. Almost always the lid is closed and the body is out of sight by the time everyone is processing to the cemetery.

In Jesus’ time the body was wrapped up, sort of like a mummy. It was carried on a bier so that the body could be plainly seen. In some instances there was a wicker basket woven and the body placed in it, but still it would be clearly visible. Also, burial was required before sunset on the day the person died. In many parts of the world today, the burial practices are almost identical to what was done and seen at Nain.

Jewish law severely restricted who could touch a dead body. Basically, no one except those who prepared the body for burial ever touched a corpse. To do so made a Jew religiously unclean and temporarily disqualified from participation in religious services. A high priest was not even allowed to enter a room with a dead body, even if it was the body of one of his parents. On the practical side, this was probably a good public health measure to limit the spread of infectious diseases. On the cultural side, it was ingrained into the minds of the people for generations. No one touched dead bodies unless they absolutely had to - - especially very religious people.


4. Jesus stopped everything with a touch. He placed his hand where no one else dared touch. The procession stopped. The crowd was silent. It was almost as if he was daring death.


5. Jesus spoke, shattering the silence: "Young man, I say to you, get up!" No one knew whether to laugh or gasp. Who did this Jesus think he was? What did he think he could do? Did he think the young man wasn’t dead? Was Jesus stupid? Or did he really think he could bring a dead man back to life?


6. He spoke and the dead obeyed: "The dead man sat up and began to talk. . . ."

Jesus raised the dead! He was not only alive but healthy, fully back to normal. Death was out-foxed. Death was defeated. Death was dead.


7. Do you believe this? Do you believe it really happened the way the Bible says it happened? Because if you do, you can believe everything else about Jesus! If he can raise the dead, he can do absolutely everything else he said that he can do. If he is the Lord over death, he is the Lord over all.

Jesus’ purpose was not to promise that every dead son would be immediately brought back to life. He was not going to do one-by-one what he elsewhere promises he will someday do for us all together. No, his purpose here was to demonstrate who he was and what he could do. Let there be no doubt, Jesus is Lord of all!


E. Jesus restores broken relationships Luke 7:15-17

1. One of the sweetest lines of this whole story is in Luke 7:15 - - - "and Jesus gave him back to his mother." Can you picture this happening? There is the alive and talking son still sitting on the funeral bench. There is the stunned mother with tear-stained cheeks. There is the crowd that is blurred in the background of Jesus’ peripheral vision. His heart is still reaching out to the widow whose only son died. He takes her hand. He takes his hand. He joins them together.


2. She had her son back again! No longer childless. No longer alone. No longer crying. Her lined face filled with a smile. Her groans turned to laughter. The saddest day of her life became the happiest day of her life. Jesus gave him back to his mother.


3. That was a typical thing for Jesus to do. That’s what he still does thousands of times every day including today. He brings people back together again. Sometimes it is from sickness. Sometimes it is from health. Sometimes it is bringing together loving parents with prodigal sons and daughters. Sometimes it is the reconciling of estranged husbands and wives. Sometimes it is the healing of divided churches. Sometimes it is healing the wounds that have separated friends. Sometimes it is even the reuniting of entire nations.

Every time, it delights the heart of the compassionate Jesus when those who were apart are brought together and when those who were sad are able to rejoice once again.



1. This morning I am not here to offer you compassion, healing, resurrection or reconciliation. Most of those things are outside of my abilities and power. I am merely a messenger, a storyteller. What I offer you is Jesus. The same Jesus as you’ve seen and heard and met outside the little village of Nain.


2. Invite Jesus to your life and home. He will come.

Share with him your deepest hurts. His compassionate heart will reach out to you.

Give him your broken relationships and experience his loving reconciliation.

3. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . he will amaze you today as he amazed them long ago.


9/6/98 Wooddale Church, ęCopyright, Leith Anderson.

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