Luke 7:11 Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.
Nain was a little village a few miles south of Nazareth. It is only mentioned here and was considered a place of little significance. But Jesus’ was passing by, and he would grace them with his presence.
Luke 7:12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
Funerals were carried out quickly, to beat the smell of decomposition, so the boy had likely died that day. We do not know if he died of an illness, or an accident, but the funeral was especially sad because his mother was a widow. First she lost her husband, then she lost her only son. There were few paying jobs for women, back then, so she would also become poor. This was the saddest day of her life.
Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, Don’t cry.
This is something you should never say to a woman who has lost her only son, and her only source of income. She suffered a terrible loss and needed to grieve more than ever. For Jesus to say Don’t cry seems more than a little insensitive. But Jesus knew something she did not. He would turn her grief into joy, and her sorrow into happiness.
This is the kind of Savior Jesus is, and what he will do for us. [W]eeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5), wrote David. We might grieve for a while, but Jesus will dry our tears and banish them forever (Revelation 21:4).
Luke 7:14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still.
They may have known who Jesus was, and heard about his miracles. But Jesus had not raised the dead before, so they did not know what to expect. Then he said, Young man, I say to you, get up! The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother (Luke 7:15).
Instead of going to the cemetery, they went back to their village, to enjoy the rest of their lives. If they had planned a funeral meal, it became a party. The conversation went on for hours as they talked about Jesus’ amazing power over death.
This reminds us of our own resurrection and eternal life in the kingdom of God. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4b), wrote John. What Jesus did for this young man, he will do for all who believe in him. Imagine being united again with precious loved ones who died in faith. I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25), he said.
Luke 7:19 Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?
John the Baptist was in prison for preaching against King Herod, who had married his brother’s wife (Mark 6:17-18). John could not leave this alone, so he found himself in prison, where he would shortly die (Mark 6:27-28). During this time his faith began to waver, so he sent a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus, Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?
These are the last recorded words of John the Baptist, and we are surprised by them. When John baptized Jesus, he saw the Spirit descend on him like a dove, and heard a voice from heaven saying, You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Luke 3:22).
John had visual and audible proof that Jesus was the Messiah. But in the dungeon of despair, he began to doubt. Deep in his soul he wondered if he had been wrong. If Jesus was the Messiah, why didn’t he help John in his hour of need?
For many people, doubt is a matter of convenience. It is easier to doubt than to follow Jesus Christ, so many remain in a state of doubt, to avoid the cost of discipleship. But those who doubt most earnestly are those with a serious faith that has been seriously challenged.
A young mother’s baby was born with a birth defect that ran up medical bills, impoverished the family, and caused her husband to leave. As life crumbled around her, she began to doubt what she once believed about a loving God.
In such cases the Bible says, Be merciful to those who doubt (Jude 1:22). Faith and doubt of this kind are not opposites, but alternate rungs on the ladder of spiritual growth. In order to reach the next level of faith, we have to climb over some doubt.
A complete absence of doubt can even be a sign that we have not truly believed. Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself (Madeleine L’Engle).
Luke 7:22 Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
When the disciples of John arrived, Jesus was healing the sick, just as the prophet Isaiah foretold. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy (Isaiah 35:5-6).
This was compelling evidence, but John was hoping for more. He expected Jesus to set up the kingdom of God (Matthew 3:2), and rule over the world. The healing miracles were fine, but they fell short of the kingdom John was expecting.
He may have also expected great things for himself. If Jesus was king, wouldn’t John have an important role in his glorious kingdom? Instead, John was languishing in prison while the wicked King Herod was still on his throne. The difference between what John hoped for, and what he received, was causing him to wonder about Jesus Christ. Like millions after him, John was trying to pick up the pieces of a once unshakeable faith (Philip Yancey).
Luke 7:23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.
Jesus sent a promise of blessing to John that applies to anyone who refuses to stumble on account of Christ. John was very close to stumbling, and this is what he needed to hear.
Perhaps he got down on his knees and prayed something like this: Dear God, this is not what I expected. I thought Jesus would set up his kingdom, and I would help him rule. I thought kings would bow down to Jesus, but King Herod has thrown me in this prison. I don’t understand what’s going on, God, but I’m going to trust you, and your Son Jesus Christ, to the very end.
Some time later, one of Herod’s men stopped by with a sword. John put his head on a block (Matthew 14:6-12), and opened his eyes in a better place. He fulfilled his mission on earth, and received his reward in heaven.
One of the things we learn from John is the importance of taking the long view. If we expect too much in this life, we will be disappointed. But if we expect great things in the age to come, our disappointments will not derail our faith. The message of the Bible is never a great life now, but always a great life then.
Reflection and Review
How does Jesus change our view of death?
Why did John the Baptist doubt?
How can we overcome our doubts?