In the stories of Jesus we read in the Bible, there are only three instances where Jesus raises someone from the dead. In Mark, and Luke (Luke 8:40-53, Mark 5:21-42) we read the story of a guy named Jairus, who’s daughter has died. And everyone has gathered in their house to mourn when Jesus says, “Guys, she just sleeping, — she’s not dead.” To which they response, “sure Jesus” But, at the moment Jesus words are spoken, the girl awakens and begins speaking and everyone is blown away.
The second story of resurrection is probably the most familiar to us. It’s the story of Lazarus in John’s gospel (John 11:1-43) I find this one particularly cool, in a sort of morbid way because there is no doubt lazarus is dead. Like 4 days ago dead. At one point his sister even says to Jesus, (this is from the King James version) “But Lord, he stinketh” But, that doesn’t phase Jesus as he shouts, “Lazarus come out!” and Lazarus emerges.
And our final story is the one we read in Luke 7:11-17. Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd are walking toward a tiny village called Nain, where they are confronted with another large crowd. It’s a funeral procession. A young man has died, and his mother, who is also a widow are walking with the community mourning. But, this mother is not just mourning her son. You see, to be a woman with no husband and no son in that time would put you on the bottom of the social ladder. This woman is indeed in the midst of incredible loss. And as Jesus sees this and is overcome with compassion and shouts, “Don’t cry!” And He walks over to the coffin, touches it and speaks, “Young man, I tell you, get up.” and the boy sits up and begins talking.
In each of these stories Jesus speaks to the person who is dead, or asleep. And where there was death, life emerges. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. But, when Jesus speaks, life happens. This is the heart of what we’ve been reading as we work our way through the book of Luke. We read last week, Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, who wasn’t even in the same place as Him. This is crazy stuff. And despite my reservations, your doubts and anyone’s criticism of how or why these things happened, I think there is a much deeper message here. And that is a message of life. Not the life that was, or the life that will be, but the life that is. The life that awaken’s as God calls to us.
Now there isn’t a ton of information about this young boy in Nain and the circumstances surrounding his death or his new life. But, in my reading this week I found this story by J.P. Jewell, where he imagines and expands what this boy’s life might have been like post-resurrection and it goes like this…
Nathan, the widow’s son, opened his eyes slowly; his mother and her friends were weeping and praising God. The man from Galilee called Jesus was standing there, but the sun shone brightly and Nathan could only see the form of the man who held him by the hand and spoke as though from the depths of his heart to Nathan’s own. “The life you will live from this day forward is the life I give that flows from a deep spring of living water within you. It is the life the Father has given to all; but life that has been quenched by the cares and trials of this world. Your name is truly Nathan for you have been given twice to your mother and now you are given to your neighbours to show in your now and forever life the wonderful things God has done for you. The spring within you can only continue to release its waters as you share it with others. In this you will follow me forever.”
Great amazement and rejoicing fell upon the crowd that had gathered for Nathan’s burial. “Truly God has visited our people,” they exclaimed. Nathan’s mother embraced him, sobbing; yet with a heart filled with joy and wonder. The fever and shaking that had killed him was gone. Or had he simply been sleeping the deep slumber that sometimes comes before death. “What can these things mean,” she wondered to herself. The people of Nain went throughout the surrounding country to tell the story of the prophet from Nazareth who had come to their village with the gift of life.
Nathan’s mother, his neighbours and people from many towns came to see him and to ask him, “What did the man Jesus do? Were you truly dead? What can you tell us of life and death and of the heavens? Are you alive to never die again? Surely you can tell us of these things and tell us how to receive eternal life?”
One evening, after a long day of speaking with the crowds and not knowing what he must do, he took his mother by the hand and said, “Mother, I must go from this place and be alone where I can seek from God what it is that I must do. I know that I must live this life that the man Jesus has called forth from within me. Whether I was dead I do not know. I know that I live now in a way I have never lived. I am free from the worries and cares that held me in bondage.”
In the solitude of Mt. Tabor, Nathan fasted, prayed and asked of God his purpose in living. “Oh my God, I know not what you would have me do. I know that I have only begun to live the life you mean for us to live. In my former days, I lived with fear and anxious worries. Now I see that each moment is a precious gift that flows from you and flows within us. Would that my friends and neighbours, indeed even the Romans under whose boots we live – if even these could know the peace and joy that living can be.”
A voice emerged from deep within Nathan’s spirit. It was a voice like that of the Galilean who had called life from within his soul. A voice he could not hear, yet it spoke, a voice like the voice of a man, yet with the sound of rushing water. “Nathan – you have been given – given life anew, life from above. It is the life God had given to you, but now free from the burdens and afflictions you and your neighbours take upon yourselves willingly. The anxiety, anger and fears no longer hold you. Share this life with others. With your words and in the way you live this new life, point to the life that is eternal now and for always. As you live from day to day with the love, joy and acceptance that now flows within you, you will live the life God has had in mind for you since the day you first leapt in your mother’s womb!”
New life is something that has been freely given to everyone through Jesus. Ephesians 2 says,
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
You see, I believe that one of the most radical messages in the Bible is that God has, is, and will awaken new life. When God speaks, new life happens. We see it everywhere in our scriptures. We read it in the creation poems of Genesis. God speaks into the void and life emerges. We see it as the Israelites are set free from the Egyptians. And we see it in almost every story we read about Jesus. Over and over again, God speaks and new life happens.
And the cool thing is that the new life that God’s speaks doesn’t just belong to me and it doesn’t just belong to you, it belongs to all of creation. It’s designed to be shared. And in each of the stories of resurrection we read of in the gospels, every writer includes how others, how the bystanders were affected. Our reading from Luke says:
“Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.” (Luke 7:16-17)
Can you imagine the excitement? Can you imagine the stories people told and the lives that were changed because of what happened in this tiny village of Nain?
The new life that God gives, is meant to be shared. Maybe God has restored or resurrected you in some way physically. Maybe God has called out a new spiritual life from within you — You may even call yourself born again. Or maybe God has renewed a relationship that you had given up on. It could be anything. But, it is meant to be shared. As the expanded story we read concludes:
“Share this life with others. With your words and in the way you live this new life, point to the life eternal now and for always. As you live from day to day with the love, joy, and acceptance that now flows within you, you will live the life God has had in mind for you since the day you first leapt in your mother’s womb!”
I can’t tell you the amount of times, someone has shared an experience of God they’ve had with me. And more often than not, their experience changes the way I understand myself, the way I understand others, and the way I understand God. There is tremendous power in testimony. No matter how great or insignificant you may think it is. The new life God has given, at its very core, is designed to be shared. These are the kind of stories we read of in the Bible, ordinary and everyday people encountering the extraordinary in their midst. I want to encourage you to be bold to share your stories and experiences of God with people as often as possible.
Luke 7:11-17, John 11:1-43, Luke 8:40-53, Mark 5:21-42, Ephesians 2:4-5
“Jesus Raises The Widow’s Son” – JP Jewell