Morning Sermon: An Only Son Raised From The Dead, Luke 7:11-17

Old Testament Reading: 1 Kings 17:8–24

“Then the word of the LORD came to [the prophet Elijah], ‘Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.’ So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.’ And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, ‘Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.’ And she said, ‘As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.’ And Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’ And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, ‘What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!’ And he said to her, ‘Give me your son.’ And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, ‘See, your son lives.’ And the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.’” (1 Kings 17:8–24, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Luke 7:11-17

“Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 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. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he 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. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’ And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.” (Luke 7:11–17, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


At our youth study last Wednesday evening one of our young people asked a good question about the Gospels in general: should we think that every miracle that Jesus ever performed is recorded for us in one of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? My answer was, I don’t think so. In fact, the last verse of the Gospel of John says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, ESV). So then, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were selective in their reporting of the deeds of Jesus. This is a significant observation, for it helps us to see that the Gospel writers – Luke included – did not intend to provide us with an exhaustive chronological account of everything that Jesus said and did. Instead, they told us the truth about what happened in a very careful, selective, and artful way, so as to communicate a message.

Stories – at least the good ones – do this, wouldn’t you agree? Good storytellers know how to introduce characters and develop themes in such a way so as to convey a message. And there is something like this going on in the Gospels. The Gospels are a record of true history, but the sayings and events recorded are carefully selected and stitched together so as to convey a message.

I attempted to show you this in the sermon last Sunday on Luke 7:1-10. There Luke tells the story of the healing of a Roman Centurion’s servant. He tells this story right after his account of Jesus’ sermon on the plane, not merely because the one event happened after the other, but to hold this Roman Centurian up as an example of one who lived according to the ethic that Jesus had just preached about. This Centurion was commended by Jesus for his great faith. And what was so great about his faith? One, he believed that Jesus could heal, even from a distance. Two, he believed Jesus could heal because he knew something about who Jesus was – a holy man with great authority; the Messiah; the Word of God incarnate. And three, his faith was great because he did not only talk the talk, he walked the walk. He lived the kind of life that Jesus called all of his disciples to live in that sermon that he preached on the plane. The Centurion was humble. He loved even his political enemies. He was gracious, generous, and kind to others – yes, even to this lowly servant, and the Jews, over whom he ruled. Furthermore, when Jesus commended the Centurion for his great faith he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9, ESV). This comment should prompt us to contrast the great and astonishing faith of the Centurion with the great and astonishing lack of faith of the scribes and Pharisees. Notice that their lack of faith was described immediately before Luke’s account of Jesus’ sermon on the plane.  So then, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ sermon on the plane is bracketed by examples of those who, on the one hand, lacked faith in Christ and lived self-centered, self-righteous, judgemental, and un-loving lives, and on the other hand, a man who was humble and lowly, who loved even his enemies, and treated others with generosity, kindness, and respect. And what is so astonishing about these two examples? Well, they are the opposite of what you would expect. You would expect the religious elite of Israel to have great faith and to live humble and godly lives, but they lacked it. This Roman Centurion, on the other hand, possessed great faith and lived a humble life before God and man. It’s astonishing, isn’t it? And that is the point. God’s grace is astonishing. It is astonishing to see how Jesus takes everything and turns it on its head. 

So, all of the stories that Luke tells about Jesus – his words and his deeds – are carefully selected and placed. They are stitched together so that they convey a message – a message bigger than the individual stories themselves. Ultimately, Luke wrote what he wrote, so that Theophilus (and all who love God along with him) “may have certainty concerning the things [they] have been taught” (Luke 1:4, ESV). 

So now I ask, why does Luke tell us the story of the raising of a widow’s only son from the dead?  Three reasons come to mind: 


So That We Might Know For Certain That Jesus Is The Promised Messiah

First, so that we might know for certain that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The miracles that Jesus performed, including this one, were signs. They were signs to confirm that Jesus was who he claimed to be – the promised Messiah – and that his words were true.

By the way, the Apostles of Jesus were also enabled by God to work miracles in the days of the early church after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. The Book of Acts tells us about this. The letters of Paul also make mention of those who had miraculous gifts in the early church – the gift of healing, etc. And these miracles performed by the Apostles of Jesus (and some who were associated with them)  functioned in the same way. They were signs that confirmed their word was true. Take Acts 14:3 for example. This is about Paul and Barnabus in Iconium. They had a hard time in that city. We are told in verse 2 that “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” In verse 3 we read, “So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3, ESV). 

And we should remember the  1 Kings 17:8–24 text that we read at the beginning of this sermon. In that story, a great miracle was performed through Elijah the prophet. A widow’s son was raised. And at the conclusion of that story, the widow spoke to Elijah, saying, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth” (1 Kings 17:24, ESV).

So then, the miracles performed by the prophets of old and the Apostles of Jesus (and their associates) in the early days of the church were intended to confirm that the word they spoke was true. And the same must be said of the miracles performed by Jesus. They were signs – signs that confirmed his message – signs that confirmed his claims. Jesus is the Promised Messiah. The miracles he consistently performed demonstrated that it was so.    

You can see that this was the effect that this miracle had on those who witnessed it and those who heard about it. In verses 15-17 we read, “And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’ And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country” (Luke 7:15–17, ESV). 

It hardly needs to be said that ordinary men do not have the power to raise people from the dead. And this young man was certainly dead. He had been dead long enough to make preparations for a funeral procession. When Jesus touched the bier (which was more like an open cradle or couch than a closed casket) and said, “Young man, I say to you, arise”, the young man was raised and even began to speak, which indicated that he was truly alive and restored. It is no wonder that this got everyone’s attention, for God alone has the power to give life to those who are dead, and yet Jesus raised him by the word of his power.  

That the miracle of the raising of the widow’s only son functioned as a sign that Jesus was truly the Promised Messiah and God with us, is also seen in the passage that follows. That passage is about the question that John the Baptist sent to Jesus. Verse 20: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus’ answer is found in verses 22-23: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Notice that Jesus did not relieve John’s doubts by saying, Go and tell John what you have… heard, but rather, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” The good news of the arrival of the Messiah and of God’s Kingdom was accompanied by the signs and wonders worked by Jesus, and these signs confirmed that the words of Jesus were true. Here Jesus raised a young man from the dead – a marvelous and powerful sign indeed. 


So That We Might Know For Certain That Jesus Is Compassionate And Kind To Poor Sinners Plagued By Sin And Its Awful Effect 

But this is not the only reason to be observed. Secondly, we should see that Jesus raised the widow’s only son (and Luke tells us about it) so that we might know for certain that Jesus is compassionate and kind to poor sinners plagued by sin and its awful effects. 

Truly, this is a heartbreaking story. Here we are told of a mother grieving the death of her son. A situation like this is very sad under any circumstances. But we are also told that this woman was a widow. And that this was her only son. And that he was a young man. This is a terribly sad story, isn’t it? J.C. Ryle, whose little commentary on Luke I have come to appreciate, says, 

“All funerals are mournful things, but it is difficult to imagine a funeral more mournful than the one here described. It was the funeral of a young man, and that young man the only son of his mother, and that mother a widow. There is not an item in the whole story, which is not full of misery. And all this misery, be it remembered, was brought into the world by sin. God did not create it at the beginning, when he made all things ‘very good.’ Sin is the cause of it all. ‘Sin entered into the world’ when Adam fell, ‘and death by sin’ (Rom 5:12).”     

The effects of sin are truly awful, and we are reminded of this by the story that is before us to today. Our catechism also helps us to remember this in question 22 by asking, “What is the misery of that estate whereunto man fell?” Answer: “All mankind, by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.” This is true. And our catechism reminds us of this terrible truth to prepare us for the good news of Jesus Christ. The very next question – question 23 – asks, “Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?” Answer: “God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.” And from there our catechism tells us all about this Redeemer – he is Christ the Lord. We learn about his person, the salvation he has accomplished, and how this salvation is received – through faith in him alone!

Brothers and sisters, can you see that these truths which are stated so beautifully in our catechism about our sin and misery and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, are pictured here in Luke’s Gospel as he tells the story of Jesus raising the only son of a widow from the dead? 

The situation was a miserable one. Death had ravaged the life of this woman. And death, we know, is the result of sin – Adam’s first sin, and also ours. This scene of miserable sorrow and morning illustrates the miserable and mournful condition of the human race, now that sin has entered the world, and death through sin. Left to herself, this poor woman had no hope concerning the death of her son. And so it is with the human race. If God were to leave us alone in our sin and misery, we would be without hope. Death would swallow us up, and after death, there would be only judgment.   

But notice that in our story, Jesus is present, and this makes all the difference. 

Why did Jesus decide to go to this small town called Nain? Luke does not say. Perhaps we are to think that he traveled to this town for the very purpose of drawing near to this woman in her misery and to raise her only son from the dead. In fact, I wonder if this little story is not meant to be a picture of a much larger story – the Son of God’s entrence into the world in the incarnation to accomplish our redemption.   

The text says in verse 12: “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.’ Then he 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.” (Luke 7:12–15, ESV).

Why did Jesus enter Nain? Well, perhaps we should also ask, why did the eternal Son of God come into this world by taking to himself a true human nature through the womb of the virgin Mary? 

Answer: He came to show us compassion, love, and grace.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16–18, ESV)

Jesus came into this world to touch us and to remove the sting of death. 

As Paul says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56–57, ESV). It is because of the victory Christ has won that, “Death is swallowed up in victory” and we are able to confidently say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55, ESV).

Furthermore, Christ came into this world to say to those who trust in him, “do not weep”. 

Indeed, “He will wipe away every tear from [the] eyes [of those who trust in him], and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).

And Christ came into this world to say to those who trust in him, “arise”.

1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 says, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

The point that I am here making is that this little event in the life of Jesus wherein he willingly entered the town of Nain, had compassion on a woman trapped in hopeless grief and despair because of sin and death, drew near to her, touched death, and by the word of power, defeated death, bringing life out death, is a small picture of his mission from God the Father. It is through of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the only and eternally begotten Son of God, that God has shown compassion to sinners, that the sting of death is removed, and that Christ will be able to say to us, “do not weep”, and “arise” on the last day. This grieving widow in Nain was given a taste of this gift. All who have faith in Christ will enjoy the full benefits of the victory that Christ has won when at death and especially when he returns to make all things new.   


So That We Might Know For Certain That Jesus Has Power And Authority Over Death

Why did Jesus raise the widow’s son, and why does Luke tell us about it? Firstly, so that we might know for certain that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Secondly, so that we might know that he is compassionate and kind to poor sinners plagued by sin and its awful effects. And now, thirdly, Jesus raised the widow’s only son so that we might know for certain that Jesus has power and authority over death. 

Death is a terrible thing. In fact, it is worse than most people understand. Many think only of the physical. They forget about the soul. When a person dies physically, they do not cease to exist. Their souls live on. Those who die bodily in their sins and apart from Christ go to eternal punishment in their soul. This is what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 2:16 when he speaks of those not in Christ passing from death to death. If you are not united to Christ by faith, you are in a state of spiritual death (see Ephesians 2:1). And when your body dies, your soul will continue to exist. But you will not pass from death to life (as so many think). Rather, in not in Christ, you will pass from death to death. Stated differently, things will go from bad to worse for those who die in the guilt of sins. This is the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. When you attend a funeral for someone who did not trust in Christ and you hear someone confidently say, “they are in a better place”, you have been told a lie. The Word of God says otherwise (see Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 20:11–15). The souls of those who die in their sins do not go to a better place, but go to punishment and torment (see Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 20:11–15). 

Question 42 of our catechism tells the truth by asking, “[W]hat shall be done to the wicked at their death?” By the way, all are wicked by nature. But those with true faith in Christ cannot be called wicked, for they have been washed and renewed. The word “wicked” here refers to those who do not have Christ as Lord and Savior. Answer: “The souls of the wicked shall, at death, be cast into the torments of hell, and their bodies lie in their graves, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day. (Luke 16:22-24; Ps. 49:14)” 

Question 43 then asks, “What shall be done to the wicked, at the Day of Judgment?” Answer: “At the Day of Judgment, the bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves, shall be sentenced, together with their souls, to unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels forever. (Dan. 12:2; John 5:28,29; 2 Thess. 1:9; Matt. 25:41)”

As I have said, death is a terrible thing. It involves far more than the death and decomposition of the body. The soul continues to exist. Those who die in their sins transition from death to death. And these will be raised bodily on the last day, and will be judged, sentenced and banished from the presence of God, body and soul forever. 

But death for the Christian is different. I will not say that it is a pleasant thing. It is still a trial. It is still a grievous thing, both for the one who dies and for the loved ones who are left behind. But the sting and victory of death are removed for all who are in Christ Jesus. Death for the Christian is like the bite of a snake whose fangs and venom have been removed. It is still an unpleasant thing. It is a troubling thing. But it is not a damaging or deadly thing, for all who are in Christ Jesus will pass from life to life through the doorway of death, unless we are alive when the Lord returns. 

Listen to Baptist Catechism 40: “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?”

Answer: “The souls of believers are at death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection. (Heb. 12:23; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Luke 23:43; 1 Thess 4:14; Is. 57:2; Job 19:26)”

Question 41 then asks, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the Resurrection?”

Answer: “At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in full enjoyment of God to all eternity. (Phil. 3:20,21; 1 Cor. 15:42,43; Matt. 10:32; 1 John 3:2; 1 Thess. 4:17)”

How is this possible? How is it possible that the sting and victory of death has been removed for these? It is possible because of the victory that Jesus has won. He lived for those given to him by the Father. He died for these. He was buried for these. And he was raised again from the dead on the third day for these. Christ has defeated sin, Satan, and death for his people. All who trust in him share in his victory. 

To quote Hebrews 2:9, Jesus Christ is the one “who for a little while was made lower than the angels,… crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10, ESV). Christ tasted death for everyone, that is, for the “many sons to glory” given to him by the Father. 

Or consider Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20–26, ESV). All who are in Adam are in a state of death and will remain there. All who are in Christ, united to him by faith, are in a state of grace and life. 

Notice that when Jesus touched the dead son of the widow, he spoke with personal authority. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Notice that he did not pray that God would raise the young man. Contrast this with the story of Elijah raising the widow’s son as recorded in 1 Kings 17. Elijah the prophet did not speak with personal authority, as Jesus did. No, “he cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.’ And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah.” You see, it was not Elijah who raised the widow’s son in those days, but the Lord working through him. But Jesus spoke as if he himself possessed authority over death and had the power to give life. He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Jesus could raise the dead by the word of his power because he is the Lord God. He raised the dead by the word of his power three times in his earthly ministry – he raised this widow’s son (Luke 7:14), the young daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:54), and his dear friend Lazarus (John 11:43). He was able to raise them up by the word of his power because he is God incarnate. And he is able to raise the dead on the last day and to impart eternal life to all who come to him by faith, because he is the Lord’s Messiah, the God-man, the second and greater Adam, who has won the victory over sin, Satan, and death. By his victory, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). And it is because of his victory that he is able to show compassion to his people, lay his hand on them, and say, “do not weep”, and “arise”.  



I’ll move this sermon toward a conclusion by asking you a few questions that I hope will help you to apply this text to your own life. 

First of all, do you believe that Jesus did in fact raise this widow’s only son from the dead by his own word and authority and that he himself was raised from the dead on the third day after being crucified and buried for the sins of others? Do you believe that what the Scriptures say is true?

If so,  secondly I ask you, do you understand the significance of these things? If Jesus raised the dead, and if he himself was raised from the dead to an incorruptible and eternal life in glory, then he has conquered death – and this can be said of no other man. The son of the widow that was raised by God through Elijah was truly raised, but not to an incorruptible life in glory. He was raised to live in this world and in this life again. He died again, therefore. The same is true for the son of the widow in Luke 7, for Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus. But Jesus was raised to glory. Jesus was raised, and afterward, he ascended into heaven. This means that he does not only possess the power to raise us from the dead so that we might die again. No, he has the power to raise those who are his bodily and to bring them to glory, body, and soul, and to keep them incorruptibly forever and ever in the place that he has prepared for them. Do you believe that Christ rose from the dead and ascended? And do you understand the significance of this event?

Thirdly, I ask, have you turned from your sins and placed your faith in this Jesus who was crucified, buried, raised, and then ascended? For it those who trust in Jesus and have him as Lord that benefit from the victory over sin and death that he has won. You see, it is through faith in him that we are united to him in his death and resurrection. It is through faith in him that our sins are washed away. It is through faith in him that we have the hope of life everlasting. Faith, or trust (which is always accompanied by obedience), is the thing that links us to Jesus. Do you trust in him? Or are you still trusting in some other thing? 

The fourth and final question is for all who have professed faith in Christ. Do you have joy, hope, and peace in your hearts today, and will you have it, even at the moment of death? I’m afraid that many who have sincere faith in Christ lack joy, hope, and peace in life and in the face of death, in part, because they have not reflected deeply on the truths that we have considered this morning. Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to go to the town Nain and to carefully contemplate this scene of misery and morning followed by hope and rejoicing. Better yet, go to the foot of the cross of Christ. Contemplate deeply the darkness and the death of our Savior. Follow his body to the tomb. See that on the third he was raised. And do not forget that forty days later, he ascended to glory. Contemplate these truths carefully, and then ask, what difference should this make for me today, and especially at the hour of my death? Brothers and sisters, if we truly believe that these things happened, grasp their significance, and have personal and heartfelt trust in Jesus, the result should be unending joy, hope, and peace – yes, even at the moment of death.

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief. 

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