************ Funeral Sermon on Luke 7:13 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on July 18, 2003


Scripture: Luke 7:11-17
Text: Luke 7:13
Title: "Don't Cry"
Occasion: Eric Pelham Funeral

Our Scripture reading from Luke 7 is the story of two processions. One is going into Nain and the other is coming out of Nain. Nain is a town in the South of Galilee.

At the head of the procession going into Nain is Jesus. Jesus, since He comes from Nazareth only 7 or 8 miles away, is becoming well known in the area. Everyone has heard about his bold and direct teaching (cf Luke 4:14-30; 5:33-39; 6:1-5; 6:17-49); He was not scared to state His opinion about things. Everyone has heard of the miracles He has been doing: driving out an evil spirit (Luke 4:31-37; healing Peter's mother-in-law and many with various kinds of sickness (Luke 4:38-44); a huge catch of fish (Luke 5:4-7); the healing of a man with leprosy (Luke 5:12-16); the healing of a paralytic (Luke 5:17-26); the healing of the man with a shriveled right hand (Luke 6:6-11); the healing of the Centurion's servant (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus was becoming very famous so much so that He was followed by a crowd of disciples or followers. But not everyone in the crowd could be called a believer. Some, like the apostles, were convinced that He was a prophet sent from God. Others were sensationalists who hoped to see Jesus perform one of the miracles they had heard about. Still others were impressed by His teaching and wanted to hear more (cf Luke 5:1-11; 5:27-32; 6:12-15). In our passage this "large crowd" was on the move, a procession following Jesus into Nain.

Coming out of Nain is another procession led by a coffin and a corpse. The body is that of the only son of a widow. For the widow this was a huge loss for at that time it was the son or sons who looked after their widowed mother; this widow now had no family, no means of support, no place in the future covenant community, perhaps not even a place to live. We are told that a crowd had assembled around the coffin and the corpse. Some in the crowd knew and loved the young man in life and were now mourning his death. Others in the crowd knew the mother and shared her sorrow and pain much like today's crowd sharing the sorrow and pain of the Pelham and Koetsier families. Still others were professional mourners with flutes and cymbals and horns, called in much like we call in the undertakers. And, still others were the curious and the bored. In our passage this "large crowd" was also on the move, a procession following the young man's body out of Nain.

Two processions one going into Nain and headed up by Jesus, the Lord of Life; the other going out of Nain and headed up by death.

The two processions are on a collision course. Can't you just see it?! This kinds of reminds me of two freight trains hurtling towards each other on the same track. Or, it reminds me of the movie, "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson with a long line of British Redcoats and a long line of American Revolutionaries charging towards each other. You know something has to give.

Most people have come to believe that death never gives way. We've always been told that the two certain things in life are death and taxes. Death comes upon every person. The statistics are most impressive with the exception of Enoch and Elijah, 100% of those who have ever been born have died. And again, with a few exceptions, most of those who have died have stayed dead. Death is certain and death is immovable. When the young man, like Eric, entered death, it was his final step. When death takes hold of a person, there is no return, no going back, no appeal, no argument. Death is the end and it has the last word. And in our Scripture passage we see that it has spoken on the life of the only son of a widow in Nain.

However, coming to meet the procession headed by death is the procession headed by Jesus. Jesus also came to have the last word. Jesus is life Himself and He came that people should have life and have it to the full.

What will happen when these two processions meet at the town gate of Nain? Will it be the procession headed by Jesus or will it be the procession headed by the coffin and the corpse that gives way?

At the town gate Jesus sees the grieving widow and instantly knows she has lost everything. What does Jesus do? How does He respond? We are told that "his heart went out to her." He had compassion. He felt her pain and entered into her sorrow even as He feels the pain of the Pelham and Koetsier families and enters into their sorrow.

We see that in the first encounter between the two processions it is death that struck the first blow. Death has caused Jesus to react and perhaps has even caused a tear to form in His eye. Death remains as strong as ever and the Son of God appears to have weakened. The invincible and immutable God has been moved to stoop down for human weakness and frailty.

But, thank God, the story does not end on this note. Jesus says, "Don't cry." This is a command. I am sure there were those in the crowd who thought to themselves, "What do you mean, 'Don't cry.'" That sounds like a cruel command because that is the only thing the widow wants to do and can do in this situation. That's like me saying, "Don't cry, Kim." "Don't cry, Mahlon and Gloria and Kristin." Don't cry, those of you who knew and loved Eric." That is not a compassionate thing to say.

But we need to read further. We need to watch carefully as the two processions collide into each other at the town gate of Nain.
(Lk 7:13-14) [Jesus'] said "Don't cry." (14) Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!"

Do you hear the authority in Jesus' words and voice. He did not speak as did the scribes of His day. They never dared to say anything unless they had a long list of supporting footnotes from previous generations of scholars and scribes. But not Jesus. He spoke on His own authority as the Son of God.

"Young man, I say to you, get up!" Try to imagine Jesus saying that to Eric. This means death does not have the last word. This means that Jesus has an authority that is higher and greater than that of the coffin and the grave. This means that Jesus countermands and contradicts the power of death.

"The dead man sat up and began to talk." Doesn't this statement sound like nonsense? If he were dead he could not possibly sit up and talk. If he could sit up and talk he could not possibly be dead. It is either one or the other. Or is it?!

The message of this Gospel story is the same message that was proclaimed by Paul to the church at Corinth: "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor 15:54).

Now we hear what Jesus is saying. "Don't cry," He says, "because death is not the end." "Don't cry," He says, "because death does not have the last word." Death did not have the last word with the son of the widow from Nain. And, I want to tell you who are the family and friends of Eric Pelham, death does not have the last word with Eric either.

"Don't cry." "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

Two processions one going into Nain and headed up by Jesus, the Lord of Life; the other going out of Nain and headed up by death. When they collide there is a resurrection. Why? Because death cannot hold sway in the presence of Christ. Death cannot reign when Jesus is around. Death is powerless and has to give way when it meets Him Who is the resurrection and the life, the Lord of Life. "Don't cry."

If you look through the Gospels you will see that Jesus had a nasty habit of breaking up every funeral He attended nasty, that is, if you are Satan, the Prince of Death. Every time Jesus attended a funeral He interrupted it with a resurrection. Every time Jesus attended a funeral death got swallowed up in victory. That happened with the son of the widow of Nain. That happened with Lazarus. That happened with the daughter of Jairus. That happened with Jesus own funeral. And, I want to tell you, because Eric Pelham believed in Jesus, that has happened with Eric as well. "Don't cry."

Eric died as a believer in Jesus Christ. And death, final as it seems, was not the end. It did not have the last word. Because the Son of God, moved by compassion, met Eric at death's gate, disarmed death, and gave him eternal life. This means Eric is still alive and with the saints in heaven. This means that someday his body will rise from the grave and, like the young man of Nain, he will again sit up and begin to talk. "Don't cry."

Are you in Jesus? Do you believe in Him? Have you, by grace, given your life to Him? For that is the only way death cannot keep hold of you either. That is the only way you can look forward to continued life and the resurrection of the body. That is the only way your loved ones can take comfort when you die. "Don't cry."

I want you to notice what happens after this. The two crowds got all mixed in with each other the procession following Jesus and the procession following the coffin. They formed one great crowd. And, "They were all filled with awe and praised God" (Lk 7:16). Tears have been turned into smiles. Cries have been turned into shouts. Mourning has been turned into laughter and joy. Because the power of Jesus is greater than the power of the grave.

Two processions one going into Nain and headed up by Jesus, the Lord of Life; the other going out of Nain and headed up by death. When they collide there is a resurrection. Why? Because death cannot hold sway in the presence of Christ. Death cannot reign when Jesus is around. Death is powerless and has to give way when it meets Him Who is the resurrection and the life, the Lord of Life. "Don't cry."
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