June 9, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“As [Jesus] 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. And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”
“Do not weep.” Jesus gives that command to the widow who trudges out of Nain. She has all the reason to weep, mourn, and cry. That reason was made clear in the Gospel Writer’s description of events: “As [Jesus] 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.” What else should be expected in that situation? Why wouldn’t this widow be drenched with her own tears? Her only son was dead and his burial was about to take place.
But Jesus says to her: “Do not weep.” Why would He give such a command to her? Is Jesus ignorant of what is taking place at the gates of Nain? Is Jesus a great adherent of Stoicism that demands a mastery over emotions? Is He making some bumbling attempt at comforting her? Or is it simply that Jesus is from Mars and this widow is from Venus—a matter of the different makeup of male and female? No, these are not why He tells her: “Do not weep.” The reason is much, much different.
Note well how Jesus is described when He speaks this command: “And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to hear, ‘Do not weep.’” This reveals the reason for Jesus’ words. Compassion drives Jesus’ actions in Nain, including the command that He speaks to the widow. The pathetic sight of the funeral procession going through the gates of Nain moves Jesus. The Only Son of God and of His Mother understands quite well what is taking place. He knows what this widow is facing—the tragic finality of death and the calamity that it would cause in her life from that day forward. So Jesus gives the command to her: “Do not weep.”
That command comes from Jesus’ mouth because He is going to remove the cause of the widow’s weeping. His compassion moves Him to do so. In that village, Jesus is about to demonstrate His authority, even over the power of death. And when He displays that authority, it will bring the widow’s weeping to an end: “Then Jesus came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” Another command is spoken, a command that can only come from the One who is the Author of life. When Jesus speaks that command for the young man to arise, the time for weeping ends—not that the culturally prescribed morning period draws to a close, but that weeping no longer has any valid reason to be done. The dead has risen; the son has been returned to his mother; death’s power has been overcome; burial has turned to rebirth. With that, the reason for mourning is ended.
This same dynamic is found today. Even now, Jesus speaks the same command: “Do not weep.” He speaks it to you. Why does He do so? For the same reasons that existed in the ancient village of Nain. Jesus knows quite well what drives your mourning. There are so many causes for your weeping. You suffer pain of body. Hurt emotions are not unknown to you. Witnessing the pathetic sights of calamity broadcast from places like Moore, OK, in the past weeks brings sorrow. Broken relationships and the severed bonds of friendship wreak their havoc. You lament over your sinful acts. And last, but certainly not least, there is the path that you trudge, just as the considerable crowd did at Nain, bearing the body of the deceased to be buried. These all bring forth weeping and wailing.
But Jesus says to you: “Do not weep.” He does so because compassion has driven Him to act for you. Compassion has led Him to do something drastic to put an end to these causes of your weeping. The drastic action is this: the Only Son of God and of His Mother dies and is carried out of the gates of Jerusalem to a borrowed tomb for His own burial. But that drastic action also includes the Only Son of God and His Mother being raised from that tomb, standing alive again, and showing that He has broken the power of death.
This drastic action that Jesus does is the answer to all the causes for weeping. By resurrection, He addresses the reasons for tears to flow. They are done away with. Physical suffering is brought to an end. The restoration and renewing of creation has begun. Harmony between God and man is established and from that reconciliation flows the same between people. The guilt of your trespasses is paid. And last, but not least, death is swallowed up and replaced with life everlasting. This is what Jesus does for you. The acts are driven by His compassion and pity. He knows well what drives your mourning, but He also knows what He has done to overcome it. And so He says to you: “Do not weep.” Why? Because this is all for you.
But when the weeping is ended, when that command is obeyed, there is not just a remainder of silence. The village of Nain, including its widow, did not remain quiet. Yes, the weeping was ended. But there was more: “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited His people!’” Jesus’ drastic action of raising the widow’s son elicited the testimony of belief about Him. It is the same reaction that came in Zarephath when Elijah raised the widow’s child: “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” This joyful confession of faith replaces the weeping. The wailing mouths turn to worshiping mouths. The sorrowing soul turns to celebratory spirit. Heavy hearts experience hilarity. That is what Jesus’ drastic actions bring forth in the people.
And so it is today. The resurrection song flows out of your mouths. You join with the psalmist: “O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit…. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed the sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.” You cannot speak such words unless the Lord has removed the cause for your weeping. But that is what He has done. As you have received the gospel of Jesus—the testimony about His dying and rising for your salvation—those joyous words become yours to speak.
Those words of joy are yours to speak because Jesus has died and risen to bring you a blessed end. That same Risen Jesus says to you, “Do not weep.” And His command is followed up with the other words that He says to you, the words that you have heard from Jesus during this past Easter Season: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy…. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world…. Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades…. Behold, I am making all things new.”
Remember that these are not the words spoken by someone who is ignorant of what you experience. These are not words spoken by someone who was just trying to push emotions out of the way. No, these are words spoken to you by One who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He has borne that Himself for you. So your Lord Jesus says: “Do not weep.” And His works show why that command can be obeyed. The same Jesus not only tells you that the reason for your mourning is at an end; He also speaks and calls you to arise and share in the everlasting life that He has won for you.
That is your hope and your faith. This is the testimony that you carry. This is the report that you spread about Jesus through the surrounding country, into the world that suffers, so that the resurrection song can become theirs. Then they can say with you: “Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning…. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.