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Luke Study #66 – Dead Man Walking

The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 7:11-17 (CEV)

11 Soon Jesus and his disciples were on their way to the town of Nain, and a big crowd was going along with them. 12 As they came near the gate of the town, they saw people carrying out the body of a widow’s only son. Many people from the town were walking along with her.

13 When the Lord saw the woman, he felt sorry for her and said, “Don’t cry!”

14 Jesus went over and touched the stretcher on which the people were carrying the dead boy. They stopped, and Jesus said, “Young man, get up!” 15 The boy sat up and began to speak. Jesus then gave him back to his mother.

16 Everyone was frightened and praised God. They said, “A great prophet is here with us! God has come to his people.”

17 News about Jesus spread all over Judea and everywhere else in that part of the country.

Dead Man Walking

Have you ever held a dead body? Historically most of us would have had some interaction with someone who had died, but these days unless you are there at the point at which a very close loved one dies, or you’re a professional who deals with the dying and dead then you’re not likely to have had much contact with a dead body.

So when I held my dead son’s tiny body when I was just 23 years of age I was pretty unprepared for the experience. I was unprepared for how cold his body felt, unprepared for the way in which his blood shifted and pooled under his skin, but mostly I was unprepared for how utterly obvious it was to me that he was gone.

And once you’ve held a dead body, you don’t forget what that looks like. Life looks like life. Sickness looks like sickness. Death looks like death. There’s no real mistaking one for the other.

All of which I say because what Jesus does here is pretty remarkable! So wild and remarkable that we might be tempted to write it off – tempted to assume that these “primitive” people just had it wrong and the guy wasn’t really dead.

But I’m telling you: death is unmistakable.

Which means this wasn’t some hoax – it couldn’t have been. This has to have been what really happened.

Jesus comes along and sees this woman. She’s a widow, we’re told, and this is her only son. That means that burying this young man does not simply leave this woman alone, or devastated by the experience of having to bury her child, but it leaves her with no possible way of providing for herself. Her son’s death means that she will now be destitute. Without a husband, without a son – in her culture, at that time – she was left with no means of supporting herself and no chance of that ever changing. This was the end for her, as well as for him.

But then Jesus sees all of this. He sees the crushing despair, sees the hopelessness of death, sees the impossibility of her situation. He sees her and he knows her and he is touched by compassion for her – a compassion that decides right there on the side of the path to do something for her to show her that she is precious.

Humanity in sight, he steps in. He reaches out a hand. He pauses her in her tracks, takes her son by the hand and calls him back.

Can you imagine the man in the coffin suddenly coming to life as the pallbearers walk out of the back of the church??? This is the point in the ritual and ceremony where everyone is just trying to make it through, and all of a sudden Jesus steps in and says, “or maybe not.”

There are only a few instances in the gospels where Jesus raises someone from the dead. Clearly it’s something he’s capable of, but it’s not like it happens all the time, everywhere he goes.

But when he does, it’s as if Jesus has taken the most devastating part of our human brokenness and blown it out of the water.Journal Questions:

  1. What does it mean if we serve a God who’s capable of raising someone from the dead?
  2. What does it change to find out that sometimes the Kingdom breaks in so boldly and strongly as to take away even the brokenness of death?
  3. What do we do with the fact that mostly, for now at least, the dead still stay dead?
  4. What would it look like to take the hope and the truth of a Kingdom that sometimes breaks in even to the brokenness of death out into the world that we live in today?

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