The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 30, 2019
A Man with a Heart!
Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. 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. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
If someone asked you what Jesus is known for what would you tell them? That’s a pretty wide open question, isn’t it? If the context of the question were focused on Jesus as the true Son of God then we might emphasize Jesus’ divinity or Jesus’ power or Jesus’ ability to see into our heart and read our mind. If the context of the question were focused on Jesus as the true Son of Man then we might emphasize Jesus’ willingness to leave the glory and perfection of heaven and be born as our true Brother or His dedication to living a perfect life in our place or His willingness to suffer and die on the cross to pay for our sins. (Pointing to the cross)
In reality, our dear Lord and Savior is known for many different things— all of which would be worth our time to study. But as we study this particular portion of Scripture today I would like us to focus our attention on a characteristic of Jesus that perhaps does not receive the emphasis that it deserves. As we study this portion of Scripture let’s see that Jesus is known for being: A Man with a Heart.
I truly believe that in order for us to gain the full impact of what took place here in our text that we need to try and visualize in our minds what took place there at the city gate of Nain. So permit me to help you do just that. Jesus of Nazareth was now in the middle of what is commonly called His “Year of Popularity.” Jesus had just recently chosen His twelve apostles. He had just recently preached His now famous “Sermon on the Mount.” As we heard last Sunday, Jesus had just been in the city of Capernaum where He had miraculously healed the centurion’s servant without even going to the centurion’s house. As Jesus now made His way from Capernaum to Nain (a distance of about twenty-five miles) a “large crowd” was following Him. It certainly is not difficult for us to picture the joy and the happiness and the excitement that permeated these people’s hearts and voices as they walked and talked with this amazing Rabbi from Nazareth.
Now picture another crowd. This crowd is gathering in the city of Nain. There is no joy. There is no happiness. There is no excitement. One of their own— a poor widow— was preparing to bury her only means of support, her only hope for the future, her only son. Her closest friends help her bathe the body, wrap it in cloths and place it on the funeral bier— kind of like a wicker basket carried on a stretcher. As the procession left the widow’s home a funeral orator proclaiming the good deeds of the dead man was at the head of the funeral procession. He was followed by a group of women wailing over the loss of this son. Then came the dead man, his face uncovered, his hands folded across his chest. Directly behind the dead man was his immediate family— in this case, his grief stricken mother. Behind her was the crowd of townsfolk loudly mourning her loss.
So now we have two crowds and two processions that could not be more diametrically different from each other suddenly confront each other at the gate in the wall around the city of Nain. Custom would have Jesus and the crowd following Him stand off to the side and let the funeral procession pass by— much like when our funeral processions today are given the right-of-way at busy intersections. But, instead of standing aside in deference to the dead what does Jesus do? Luke tells us, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. 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.”
Note very carefully how Luke refers to Jesus as “the Lord.” This is the thirty-ninth time that Luke uses this name in his Gospel account. By using this name for Jesus Luke is here emphasizing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not just an ordinary man. This is not just an amazing rabbi. This is the LORD who created the heavens and the earth. This is the LORD who said to Moses, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). This is the LORD who promised King David that one of his descendants would rule over God’s Kingdom forever and ever. This is the LORD whose whole inner being was filled with so much compassion for this poor woman that He immediately took charge of the situation in a way that no one could have ever anticipated.
After lovingly telling the widow to dry her tears Jesus immediately went up to the pallbearers, brought them to a halt by placing His hand upon the funeral bier and said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” And he did! The dead man woke up from the sleep of death and was given back to his mother safe and sound. Now I have attended many funerals and I have even been a pallbearer at a few of them. But I have absolutely no idea what it would have been like to have been one of the people at the city gate of Nain when Jesus of Nazareth simply spoke a command and this young man rose from the dead. I have a feeling, however, that Luke only scratches the surface when he describes the reaction of the people with the simple words, “They were all filled with awe and praised God.”
As glorious as this miracle is, my friends, today I would like us to especially note the motivation behind this miracle. Here in our text Luke says that when Jesus saw this poor widow preparing to bury her only son that “His heart went out to her.” The Greek word that Luke uses here refers to one’s “inmost self.” It may be akin to when we say that someone “pours out their heart and soul.” Sometimes we forget that the LORD— the Creator of heaven and earth, the eternal I AM— is not only the God of perfect love and amazing grace, but the LORD is also the God of perfect endless compassion. Think about it. What motivated the LORD to create the heavens and the earth? What motivated the LORD to not only spare Adam and Eve when they rebelled against Him but also promise to provide a Savior for all of mankind? What motivated the LORD to raise this dead man back to life and give him back to his grieving mother? The answer to all of those questions is found in Luke’s simple words, “His heart went out to her.” Jesus was so “moved” in His “inmost self” by the plight of this poor widow that He simply could not just step aside and watch this funeral procession pass Him by. He had to do something to help because He is a “Man with a Heart.”
The fact that our Lord is indeed a “Man with a Heart” is a truth that you and I can— and need — to depend upon, my friends. When our heart is grieving over the loss of a loved one, the LORD’s own “heart” goes out to us. When we feel overwhelmed by the events of our life and aren’t sure what to do, the LORD’s own “heart” goes out to us. When we come face-to-face with illness or injury or our own mortality, when Satan seizes upon a situation in our life to try and fill our hearts with doubt and fear, the LORD’s own “heart” goes out to us. No matter what we may be confronting in our own personal lives we not only have the confidence of knowing that our LORD is the Almighty God of heaven and earth, but we also have the comfort of knowing that our LORD has a “heart” that is filled with so much love and so much compassion for us that we can confidently turn to Him for help in any and every situation. The apostle Peter put it well when he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).
Here is where I think we can make a very appropriate application of this text to ourselves— especially us men. Gentlemen, as men what are we known for? Sometimes men are known for their focus on providing for their family. In fact, they work so hard and so much that they hardly have any time to spend at home with their family. Sometimes men are known for their “Do as I say—Not as I do” philosophy on life. Whether it is the priorities they set or the kind of language they use they send their children some very “mixed” signals at best. Sometimes men are known for their harsh fear-instilling discipline. And then there are those axioms that just about everyone has heard— axioms such as: “Real men don’t cry,” or, “Real men don’t eat quiche.” All those “Real men don’t…” axioms that we all too often hear and hand down to the next generation can give both us and our children a distorted view of what our heavenly Father is looking for from us very “real” men.
Just as the Lord Jesus is a man with a heart so also He wants each and every one of us to have a heart for others. Yes, there are times when we need to discipline our children— just as there are times when our heavenly Father needs to discipline us. (See Hebrews 12:5-11) But we can discipline with a “heart.” Yes it is true that especially when children are young they need their parents to be their parents and not their friend. But that need not prevent us from hugging them and telling them how much we love them. When our children or grandchildren see that by God’s grace and with God’s help we are striving to live up to the responsibilities that the Lord Himself has given to us, when our children and grandchildren see that by God’s grace and with God’s help we are striving to reflect the “heart” of our Lord Jesus Christ to others then we will enjoy both their respect and their admiration.
There are just two more points I would like to emphasize— just in case picturing that funeral procession at the city gate of Nain brought back painful memories to your heart and to your mind. First, remember the power that Jesus possesses as the Lord of life. Just as our Savior was able to raise the widow’s son back to life by simply saying, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” so also Jesus will use that same power to raise our loved ones back to life at the resurrection on the Last Day. Second, remember that Jesus is indeed a Man with a Heart. The “heart” that Jesus reveals so clearly here in our text, the “heart” that ultimately led Him to the cross on Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) not only goes out to us when we grieve over the loss of a loved one, but it also comforts us with the knowledge that everyone who dies trusting in Jesus as their Savior immediately and eternally inherits the glory and the perfection, the joy and the happiness of living with Jesus in His eternal heavenly Kingdom. Let that truth comfort you if you are still grieving over the loss of a loved one.
If someone asked you what Jesus is known for what would you tell them? We could tell them about His divine power. We could tell them about His unparalleled humility. We would most certainly want to tell them all about His cross and what His cross means for them. (Pointing to the cross) But let’s make sure that we don’t forget to tell them that Jesus is a Man with a Heart. May God grant that like our Savior we too will always be known as a man, a woman, a child with a heart.
To God be the glory!