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The Dead Raised

A Miracle in Nain:

Today in the little Arab village of Nain in Galilee (the Nain of Scripture) stands an old Christian shrine. Inside it is virtually empty - until you look up into the high vaulted ceiling and there, at either end, are two large paintings. At first glance they are very similar. Both show the same scene and the same three people, a man, a woman (obviously a widow), and a young boy, with a crowd in the background. But look more closely at the woman 5 face: in one picture she has a look of despair and grief, in the other utter wonder and delight. And look at the boy: in the first picture he is lying prostrate and lifeless on a funeral bier, in the second he is sitting up and speaking. What has happened in between to cause such a difference?

The great enemy, death, that had come to that family, had been defeated that day, even as they made their way to the burial place. How totally unexpected it had been, and how it had restored to that poor woman her joy and hope.

"Lord, if You had been here...

This miracle at Nain is described in Scripture in Luke 7:11-17 and it was the first of at least two occasions when the Lord Jesus performed what can be regarded as the greatest of all His healing miracles. Later in Bethany, in

Judea, He would raise His dear friend, Lazarus, who had been dead for four days and had already been buried (John 11). The Lord's miracles of healing were well known by this time, and had in fact almost become expected of Him. Both Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, said to Him what they had probably repeated many times during their four days' mourning: "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died". Others at Bethany were sceptical, saying, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"

As long as life continued, there was hope - a reversal of the illness was possible, no matter how advanced it was. Where doctors had failed, Jesus had proved Himself capable in every case. But once that line was crossed, once death finally arrived, there was no hope: it was all over.

Jesus saw the crushing effect that this great universal enemy, death, had on those He loved. How successfully the evil one was holding them all in bondage throughout all their lives because of their fear of it (11eb. 2:15). And so He wept' and groaned in His spirit - not because Lazarus was gone, but at the effect of death on the living.

Both Pity and Power:

We too are often sympathetic to those who are in distress. It evokes a natural emotion within us, and yet how conscious we often are of how powerless we are to do anything to remedy the situation. Words alone can seem so empty. How delightful it is to see the Lord Jesus involved emotionally in the lives of those He healed. He wasn't detached or indifferent in the dispensing of His power, but was often "moved with compassion". As God and Man, He had both the pity and the power - so that in His compassion He took action to overcome and remedy the condition, to restore health, joy and even life itself, to the victims. Truly He had come to abolish death (2 Tim. 1:10).

"I Am the Resurrection and the Life":

To Martha He said, "Your brother will rise again". Martha took this to mean the future resurrection of all people, because she knew the promise of Scripture to that effect. But the Lord had a more immediate victory in min~

What she did not already know was that He was about to show her that He was, embodied, "the Resurrection and the Life". Jesus never made any of His "I am" claims without demonstrating them by His actions; He fed those to whom He said "I am the Bread..."; He revealed the way to God to those to whom He said "I am the Door". How impossible it would have been for "the Resurrection and the Life" to encounter death and pass it by!

Martha said to Jesus: "even now I know that whatever You ask of God,

God will give You". Did she have an inkling of what was to occur, despite her reluctance to open the tomb? Had she perhaps heard of the young man at Nain?

A Witness to the Messiah:

Neither of these great events - the raising of a young boy at Nain nor a grown man at Bethany - was done in secret. Both events were seen by many witnesses, just as the Lord's own resurrection later would be witnessed by several hundred (1 Cor. 15:6; Acts 10:41). This was an essential demonstration of His deity. Unbelievers may attempt to explain away some of His miracles, but how could they refute the raising of the dead to life?

For this reason the Lord's fame became even more widespread. After the first occasion at Nain, the report spread to Judea and beyond. It reached John the Baptist in Herod's prison, prompting John to ask for confirmation that Jesus was indeed the Messiah they were waiting for. The Lord's response was indirect but clear: "Tell John the things you have seen and heard... the dead are raised..."(Luke 7:22).

For the Glory of God:

For the Lord, the occasions of sickness and death that beset so many around Him were occasions for Him to reveal the glory of God, who was indeed visiting His people at that time. "This sickness is not unto death.' He said to His disciples when He heard of Lazarus' condition. It would result in his death, although only temporarily, but it was for a divine purpose beyond

That it was to give glory to God in the presence of His people, and His Son on earth would share in that glory. This is exactly what happened as, later on, the chapter tells us that "many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him". And many came later to see the man who had experienced death and was now alive again (12:9).

The Two Day Delay:

It was a puzzle to Martha and Mary, and to His disciples also, that Jesus did not go to Lazarus immediately. He had been summoned by them in faith; they firmly believed He could heal their ailing brother and prevent his death. But Jesus stayed a further two days. Was His business there more important than saving a life? Was He afraid to go so near to Jerusalem where His enemies were? Did He not care?

So often we are filled with such questions. We expect an instant answer to our prayers, an instant cure for our problem. But sometimes that answer is slow in coming. Perhaps, as in Lazarus' case, the Lord has a bigger purpose in mind for us, a greater revelation of Himself that we would otherwise miss. Far beyond being miraculously healed of disease, Lazarus and his sisters would see firsthand the resurrection life-giving power of this Man they had grown to love as a friend, but whom they also acknowledged as the Son of God. Perhaps they had heard Him say, "As the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself' (John 5:26). "Loose him, and let him go", the Lord commanded, and Lazarus was loosed from more than the grave clothes, even from the imprisonment of death itself.

A New Hope:

What a difference there must have been in this home in Bethany, as in Nain previously! And what a testimony would have been borne to the divine power of the Lord Jesus. Previously death was a dreaded unstoppable force; but to the Lord it was like "sleeping". No wonder He said, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?"

That is, still true. To the believer in Christ today, there is hope. Death has lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55). When death occurs to someone we love, we do not sorrow as others do who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13). What a difference! What a triumph! "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57).

Amazing Unbelief:

But not all believed. In Luke 16:31 we read that the Lord related Abraham's words to the rich man in Hades: "neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead". The hardness of the hearts of some of the Jews who actually saw, unmistakably, the act of resurrection, merely prompted them to report it to His enemies. This is what triggered the final opposition of the Jewish leaders against Him, including the Sadducees who refused to believe in any resurrection.

But did they really believe that One who had raised a man to life four days after his death, could Himself be overcome by death at their hands? How much Satan had blinded their minds!

"If Christ is Raised" These miracles of resurrection by the Lord Jesus during His lifetime had a purpose even more than as responses of compassion at the time, or opportunities to display the power of God. They were a foreshadowing of His own future resurrection which would testify to the accomplishment of our justification. Lazarus and the boy in Nain would one day die again, hut Christ was raised never to die again in the power of an endless life. "I am He who lives, and was dead, and

behold, I am alive forevermore" (Rev. 1:18). Death is finally conquered; Satan's greatest weapon has been defeated. In this? ,the gospel of Christ is distinguished from every religion of man. Our Saviour is alive!

And still there's more. He is the first fruits. Because He lives, we shall also live. As to their bodies, the death of the believer in Christ is described as being "asleep in Jesus". One day they too will be awakened by His shout' just as it awakened Lazarus, to be raised to new, incorruptible, glorified, spiritual bodies like His. "Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23). All quotations from NKJV.