Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
August 3, 2008
11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
1901 ASV Translation:
11 And it came to pass soon afterwards, that he went to a city called Nain; and his disciples went with him, and a great multitude.
12 Now when he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, there was carried out one that was dead, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
14 And he came nigh and touched the bier: and the bearers stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.
16 And fear took hold on all: and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet is arisen among us: and, God hath visited his people.
17 And this report went forth concerning him in the whole of Judaea, and all the region round about.
- I. "The Day After". This is a translation of a phrase that is literally "in the next". It is a word that only Luke uses in the New Testament and its focus is upon "the next event" of the record rather than, literally, "the next day".
- A. The city was twenty-five miles from Capernaum. Even when walking is the main mode of transportation, twenty-five miles is a long walk. The text is not "about" Jesus making a "forced march" to Nain from Capernaum; it is "about" the "next" issue in Luke's mind as he addresses his picture of Jesus. He presented Jesus as the "Presentor" of the realities of the Kingdom of God (6:21-49) which conclude with Jesus' description of those whose lives are a response to His presentation. Then (7:1-10) he deliberately chose to record the "unique" faith of a Gentile soldier -- a man who exercised a kind of faith that Jesus had not found in Israel. That "faith" was a response rooted in a very firm awareness of the reality of "authority". Now (7:11-17) he records what would be called the most potent demonstration of this "powerful authority" as is found in the visible universe. Life from the dead is pretty universally grasped as "more" than exorcisms or healings of lesser problems than death.
- B. We pretty much have to conclude that what Jesus, and Luke, are doing is making the case for 6:48: the man who hears the Presentor's words and does them.
- II. The City Called Nain.
- A. Online Bible says this city is twenty-five miles southwest of Capernaum with a view of the "great plain of Esdraelon". This is the only reference to this place in the New Testament. No other Gospel writer records this story in connection with "Nain".
- B. It is interesting that the place is named. The name comes from Hebrew and means something akin to how a shepherd would describe seeing a vast area suitable to the needs of his sheep..."green pastures", or "beautiful", or something like this.
- C. The point of Luke's story is the magnitude of the demonstrated power of Jesus in respect to the pain of death. Its relationship to the "city called Nain" is conjecture, but the reality of death's impact even upon the "beautiful places" is indisputable. Likewise, the restoration of the dead in a "beautiful place" is suitable.
- III. The Attending Group.
- A. The AV says "many" of His disciples. The Greek traditions behind the text are not clear. The word is used in contexts where something is "sufficiently significant to motivate". It is used in 7:6 where the centurion explains that he is not "worthy" -- sufficiently significant to have Jesus come under his roof. If Luke actually wrote this word into this text it would have the impact of establishing the story as legitimate.
- B. There is no debate about the text of "much people". There were "many" with Jesus and there were "many" with the widow whose son was being transported out of the city. All in all, Luke is making sure that no one who takes his words in any sense as historical can say, "this did not happen".
- IV. The Curiosity: He Had Compassion on Her.
- A. It is not "curious" that Jesus "had compassion" on the widow in her loss.
- B. It is "curious" that Luke makes this the focus of His motivation.
- 1. It is the perennial question that if "compassion" moved Jesus to raise the dead son of a widow, why is it not more obvious that He is compassionate?
- 2. People die all day long every day: God, like Paul, has a great heaviness and continual sorrow in His heart over their plight (Romans 9:1-2): so why does Luke raise the issue of this very real compassion in the case of the woman of Nain when the compassion of God is not seen like this on any given "typical" day?
- C. There is no doubt that mankind tends strongly in the direction of seeing records of Jesus as embellished fabrications. Many of the rest tend strongly in the direction of seeing those records as examples of what He would do if we just had "faith". A few of us simply wonder: why does "compassion" do this in one case and do "nothing" in another?
- 1. There is an answer; but we may not like it.
- 2. At least part of the answer involves at least part of the basis for the compassion of Jesus. It is inconceivable that Jesus simply considered the immediate present, the exclusively material, and the "outer" tears. Instead, He considers both short and long term issues, both material and spiritual issues, and both "outer" tears and "inner" emotional factors. In the flow of Luke's record, Jesus has laid out the issues of the final future in the Kingdom of God and told His disciples what was "required" if they wished to inherit well in that final future: capitulation to the inevitability of evil and the suffering it causes without participation in the evil and without escape from the suffering it causes. Then he highlighted Jesus' declaration of the "kind" of faith He was looking for from men. And now this story fits into that flow by showing us the degree of effective power that Jesus exercises for those who exercise that "kind" of faith. I am not referring here to the power to "raise the dead". I am referring to the power to empower disciples of the Kingdom for their task. But, this question stands: how will Jesus raise the expectation of the power to empower without clear demonstration on a level that men can grasp? Does not the power to raise the physically dead argue for the power to raise the spiritually dead? The biblical picture of Jesus has never been simply a physical-miracle producer: He has always been pictured as the Redeemer Who can, and did, "handle" the problem(s) of Sin in the human race. That physical death is one of those problems is indisputable, but that "resurrection" or "resuscitation" is an adequate answer to those problems is not indisputable. All men shall be resurrected, but not all men shall enter into the final resolution of the Sin issue(s). Solving the physical without solving the spiritual is no real solution. Using the visible physical realm to give evidence for the power to solve the invisible spiritual realm is a part of a real solution because "faith" is an integral requirement for that real solution and "faith" does not just "happen". It is impossible to solve the antagonism between God and men without both trusting one another and that is not going to happen unless some very real evidence is given that "trust" is a legitimate act. So, at least part of our "answer" is this: Jesus was not "about" simplistic compassion that only views the externals as the problem; Jesus was "about" comprehensive compassion that views externals as a way to open the gates to "faith" in the subterranean places of the mind and heart...so He went to Nain.