Do Not Weep
Scripture: Luke 7:11-17
We are called Christ Fellowship because, at the center of everything, we want to gather around the person and work of Jesus Christ. We believe Jesus IS a real person who lived in history, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead… and that we are united to Him by faith.
We spend time together studying the Bible because we believe it is God’s Word. It tells us who God is, we why exist, what He expects of us, and what He did to save us from the misery of sin and death.
I don’t spend much time in my preaching telling stories or sharing advice or trying to entertain you, because I don’t want to distract you from the Word of God. I want us to learn Scripture together, because I believe what Hebrews 4 says –
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
I believe the Holy Spirit uses the preaching of God’s Word to change people’s lives. I don’t need to dress it up and I certainly don’t need to try and use God’s Word for my own agenda. My goal is to rightly handle the Word, as Paul says in 2 Timothy, and I trust God to do the rest.
This morning we are in Luke chapter 7 – a story that clearly shows us the heart of God. It’s one of the most compelling stories in the Bible and I’m excited for us to study it together.
11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him.
12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.
This is a funeral procession. They are on the way to bury this man. But we need to consider the differences between a 1st century Jewish funeral and a modern, American funeral.
For us, a funeral may happen days or even weeks after the death takes place. But a Jewish funeral, even today, happens within 24 hours. This mother’s grief is fresh. She may still be in shock.
For us, funerals typically involve quietly crying. And no one makes much noise at all expect for maybe the family on the front row.
A 1st century Jewish funeral was loud! People wailed. There were professional flute players and mourners, typically hired by the family to add to the procession. Even poor people were expected to hire a few. That extra noise allowed the family to openly grieve without fear of embarrassment.
It was also expected that the whole town would attend the funeral – in this case, there were probably around 400 people walking out to bury the widow’s son.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Jesus ignores the crowd and the flute players and the professional mourners. He immediately sees the widow. He focuses on her.
Luke tells us that Jesus had compassion on her. Compassion is a feeling. It’s emotional language.
In contrast, consider the emotion of anger. What does anger physically look like? A tense body? A red face? A clenched jaw? A raised voice? It looks threatening to another person.
What does compassion look like? It looks calm… Focused. It speaks softly. It gently moves towards another person. It feels the other person’s pain and moves in.
Why might Jesus feel compassion for this woman? What does He see?
He sees a woman who has lost everything. She is already a widow and now her only son is dead, which is a huge economic disaster. He deeply understands this and senses her loss.
The modern equivalent here is something like losing your income, your health insurance, your pension, your savings, everything!
We also know that grief is extremely stressful. Grieving people experience sadness, anger, guilt, and fear – sometimes all at the same time!
In ancient times, people felt extremely guilty when a loved one died. Everyone assumed they were being punished for some particular failure.
And remember, this woman’s son died hours ago. This is raw.
And Jesus approaches this woman, and He tells her not to weep. He’s either being incredibly insensitive, or He is intentionally introducing hope.
This is a mother weeping for her dead child. When is it OK for a mother to tell her child not to cry? When she knows the pain will go away… It’s ok, child. Don’t cry.
Jesus is the ONLY One who has the right to tell us not to cry in the midst of suffering, because He is the ONLY One with the power to do something about it.
14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”
Notice that everyone kept moving UNTIL Jesus touched the casket. Jesus doesn’t wave them down or shout over the noise of the wailing crowd. He’s not trying to draw attention to Himself.
Instead, He walks directly to the source of the pain and immediately fixes it.
15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
This entire situation is really about the woman. He goes to her first and offers hope. He goes to the son second. Then he returns to the woman. This was a gift for her.
Understand, this was not a gift for the son. One of the reasons I am convinced that Jesus raised very few people is because no one really wants to live and die twice in this world.
Jesus did it a few times to demonstrate His power over death. But it was not a blessing for the dead man. The Apostle Paul said, “To die is gain.” I’d much rather wake up in the next life than wake up again in this life.
Still, it has a great effect on the crowd.
16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”
17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
The people worshipped God for what they saw, which is good. But notice, Jesus doesn’t seem concerned about their opinion of him.
If a modern preacher raised someone from the dead, what would happen next? “Preacher goes on world tour with formerly dead man” … sell the book rights… the movie rights… take up an offering in every town!
Not Jesus. He raised a man from the dead. Gave him back to his mom. And walked away…
Why? What does that tell us about the heart of Jesus? It tells us this was genuine compassion. This was NOT a means to an end. Jesus did not use this grieving woman to build a platform for Himself. His concern for her was genuine.
Likewise, God does not care about numbers or success the way we do. Love is not concerned with any of that stuff.
This story is about how God loves us. He looks at us. He feels compassion. He acts on our behalf.
Notice also, Luke never mentions the woman’s faith. He told us about the faith of the centurion last week. Very often, the Bible tells us about the faith of the people Jesus helped. But not here. There is no mention of her faith at all.
And that tells us that Jesus had the power to help whoever He wanted to help. He was not always bound by the faith of the person in need, as some modern preachers would have us believe.
One last thing… the reason everyone stopped when Jesus touched the casket. They were shocked… contact with a dead body made you unclean for a week. Even touching the pallbearers made you unclean. No one did that unless it was necessary. It was a risky thing to do in Jewish society.
But this is what Jesus does. He goes right to the source of the pain, no matter the cost.
It might help to consider that Jesus still does this. He still meets us right in the middle of our pain and suffering. He still sees us. He still moves towards us. He still has the power to do something.
He may not do what you want or expect Him to do in those moments. Jesus didn’t raise every dead man or heal every sick servant. But One day He will. He promises to One day make everything new. No more sickness. No more death. No more tears.
And He proved His love and His power to do it at the cross. Jesus met us right at the source of ALL pain. He carried our sin and fell under the judgment we deserve.
God looked at humanity. He was moved with compassion. He did something about it.
As followers of Jesus… as people who have experienced His compassion… we are also being taught by the Spirit, how to show compassion for the people we meet. How to see them… how to move toward them… how to meet their needs if we can or pray if it’s something beyond our ability.
I would like us to be known as a compassionate church. Jesus said, they will know us by our love for one another. There is no perfect church, but love covers a multitude of sins.
Consider ways we can do this together. Consider ways we can serve together.
Let’s pray to the God of compassion and ask for His help.