(A) Introduction (Read the passage.)

I am indebted to Charles H. Spurgeon for the outline of this exposition. I will deal with: the widow's tears, the Saviour's intervention and the miracle's beneficiaries.

(B) The widow's tears

There are four reasons for the widow's sorrow:

(1) Her son's lifeless condition.

We can imagine the widow's son before his illness and death. He was a young man and doubtless full of life. I can picture him bounding into the house eager for his evening meal after a hard day's work, sitting down and watching his mother bustling about to prepare it for him. What a contrast existed between the woman's son in life and that still, inert, corrupting corpse upon the bier.

I can remember looking at the body of my mother a minute of two after her death. It was all there - her hands and feet, the fine grey hair, blue eyes and soft smooth cheeks - all there except the one thing that mattered most - her spirit had gone.

Christians mourn the spiritually dead. By nature men and women are dead in trespasses and sins. They have no meaningful relationship with God and no understanding of what God wants of them. Unbelievers own no allegiance to Jesus, make no effort to serve him and are not actively involved with the church. A void exists in their life where God's spirit should be.

(2) The loss of his company.

The widow had lost her darling boy - her only boy - who gave her a hug in the morning and a kiss in the evening. How she would miss her son's conversation, his jokes, the high spirits and laughter - the little confidences they shared.

The impossibility of having fellowship with unbelieving family and friends is one of the greatest regrets of many Christians. It is such a great tragedy when our nearest and dearest are strangers to what we treasure most. Wives grieve because they can never pray with their non-Christian husbands. Fathers mourn because their children react coldly to the one they love the most. Many, many tears are shed over unbelieving sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and husbands and wives.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us of God's sorrow whenever a man remains in the 'far country' and away from him. God was not happy when he lost the company of men and women.

(3) The end of usefulness

When the young man died his usefulness ended. He was his widowed mother's only means of support. His wage made the difference between eating well and not eating at all. Perhaps the young man was handy with his hands and a help to elderly neighbours. How those who depended upon him would miss him. If the widow's son was a skilled craftsman he would be a loss to the wider community.

We have all experienced sadness when someone who is very useful dies prematurely. My cousin Hilda's husband, Mick, was a very practical man. Not only did he help his wife about the house but also his cousins and several of the old ladies who attended his church. His early death robbed many of his practical help.

I sometimes think of all the boys and girls who attended our Sunday school and youth club through the years who were never converted. I think of all they could have contributed to our elderly fellowship and I mourn the loss of them. What a huge difference it would have made if just a few who still live locally had made a commitment to Jesus and his church. It is a grievous state of affairs that so many remain dead in trespasses and sins.

(4) The lack of continuity.

The death of the young man resulted in lack of continuity in two ways: (a) His life was tragically cut short. (b) The family line ended.

Continuity is in the will of God. Everyone inherits part of their father's and part of their mother's DNA. Children bear a likeness to their parents. God gave special instructions to Moses about preserving, as far as possible, the family line. If a married man died without children his nearest male relative was expected to marry the widow to raise up children for the deceased and preserve the family line. Jesus said that he did not come to destroy the law but to bring it to completion. Even at the resurrection of the body something of the old will be taken into the new. Jesus, the first fruit of them that sleep, still bears the marks of his crucifixion.

So the persistent unregenerate condition of the young is a twofold tragedy. There is no future for those that remain spiritually dead. It seems that anyone who dies without taking advantage of Jesus' sacrificial work will be raised to life at the judgment only to disappear into the eternal night. This is the ultimate, tragic discontinuity. Secondly, lack of conversions causes the ageing and slow decline of local churches. Eventually more and more churches close. A continuous Christian witness of perhaps hundreds of years finally ends. This looks likely to happen to my own church. The contemplation of it causes me real grief. When it actually happens the grief will not be any easier to bear. It surely cannot please the God of continuity.

(C) The Saviour's intervention

(1) A word to the sorrowful. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

Jesus addressed what seemed a hopeless situation with the words, "Don't cry." It must have seemed a very strange thing to say to the weeping mother and those that accompanied her. Surely, her tears were justified - her only boy was dead; her bright hope for the future was no more.

But we know there was hope for the bereaved mother. Jesus was there and not only that, his heart went out to her.

There is still hope for sinners. We should not despair of our nearest and dearest being saved. Jesus' compassion has not waned. He still waits to be gracious.

          Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling -
          Calling for you and for me!
          Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching -
          Watching for you and for me!

          "Come home! ..... come home! ....
          Ye who are weary - come home!"
          Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling -
          Calling, O sinner, "come home!"

(2) Jesus arrived just in time.

If Jesus had entered Nain any earlier the body of the widow's son would have been still in the house - any later and the body would have been hidden in the tomb. Jesus arrived at just the right time to intercept the funeral procession. This was no accident but in the providence of God.

Jesus intervenes in the lives of the spiritually dead at the right time. Saul of Tarsus was not confronted by a blinding light and voice from heaven until he had spent many months struggling with his conscience and kicking against its pricks. See exposition on Saul's conversion.

Jesus makes his approach only when a soul is ripe for the plucking. I have just read the testimony of Dennis Mullen. He bought his wife, at her request, a Bible as a birthday present. She placed it on her bedside table and there it sat unread. Dennis became very irked that his wife never actually read the Bible he had taken the trouble to buy her. One day as he walked through the bedroom and angry thoughts surfaced as he caught sight of the unread Bible he heard a voice, clear as a bell, saying, "It's not for her. It's for you." Dennis picked up the Bible and opened it at the story of Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Just as Jesus spoke to Paul he spoke to Dennis. But why did Jesus choose that particular time to speak? This is what Dennis wrote: I have asked the Lord many times why it was that I had never read the Bible until that moment. I have been an avid reader all of my life and it has always amazed me that I had never opened a Bible, except to look up crosswords puzzle answers, and He told me that all I had read prior to that moment was in preparation; that all the history, philosophy, sociology, psychology was necessary so that I might see all the little half truths and the emptiness of these man centred answers to life's questions. If I had read His Word prior to that moment, I would have dismissed it as just another book, and that I needed to be at a place where He could reveal complete and inerrant truth to me.

(3) Jesus brought an end to dismal proceedings Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. v14.

A funeral procession was not a jolly affair! It was accompanied by loud weeping and wailing from the professional mourners. People at the time of Christ thought this highly appropriate - a body was heading for the tomb with no sure and certain hope of resurrection from the dead. When Jesus arrived he stretched out his hand and halted the dreary procession. We read that all stood still. What a moment of sheer drama as a hush fell upon the crowd.

So many have careered out of control down the broad road that leads to destruction. Their condemnation seems inevitable. They are heading heedlessly for the grave and the eternal darkness. Then Jesus puts out a hand and halts proceedings. Time stands still. Suddenly a man or a woman is given a window of opportunity to change their eternal destiny. Such was the case for Saul of Tarsus, the Philippian jailer and Lydia.

Kevin Haag was raised in a Christian home by a godly mother but by his early twenties was caught up in dissolute lifestyle. After spending one night taking drugs and drinking with seven friends in his apartment he felt he just had to get away from it all. So he pretended to go out for some breakfast. In the providence of God no-one else wanted any. Kevin made his way home - back to his mother. It was there that God gave him the opportunity to change.

(4) Jesus dealt with the young man's condition.

There are three things to note about the way Jesus proceded:

    (a) He spoke to the widow's son personally. Jesus said, "Young man ..... ." There was no showmanship! The Saviour did not address the mother or make a stirring statement to the crowd. He did a very strange thing - he spoke to a dead man!

    Salvation is always an issue a sinner and Jesus must settle between them. It is a deeply personal matter. Becoming a Christian is not like an arranged marriage. Intermediaries cannot fix it for you! When Kevin Haag came to his sense he talked about becoming a Christian with his mother and his friend Matt but in the end he, himself, had to ask God to forgive his sins and Jesus to become his Saviour and Lord.

    When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection on the shore of Galilee he drew Peter aside and asked him, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" John21v15. Jesus waited for Peter's answer. Only he could make it. "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus' question was intensely personal. It is a question he insists we answer today.

    (b) He spoke with authority. Jesus had power in himself to give life. This is clear from what he said: "I say to you, get up." In this instance Jesus did not speak in the name of the Father or of the Spirit.

    Jesus has the authority and power to change individual lives for time and eternity. He is the one to ask for salvation; he is the Saviour of the World.

            He did not come to judge the world,
            He did not come to blame;
            He did not only come to seek,
            It was to save he came;
            And when we call him Saviour,
            And when we call him Saviour,
            And when we call him Saviour,
            Then we call Him by His Name.

    Jesus, at a word, can send the Spirit into a sinner's life to save and change him. The Spirit will give new life to anyone who repents and asks Jesus for salvation. The simple words of old Sankey hymn are true:

            Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
            There's mercy with the Lord;
            And He will surely give you rest
            By trusting in His word

            Only trust Him! Only trust Him!
            Only trust Him now!
            He will save you! He will save you!
            He will save you now!

    (c) He spoke as if the dead could respond. Some might say, "What is the good of that! The dead are incapable of making any response." There are still a few Christians, extreme Calvinists, who argue, "What is the point of appealing to the dead in trespasses and sins to trust in Jesus. They have to be regenerated first by the sovereign will of God before trust is possible."

    The fact remains the dead man did hear Jesus and he responded. I believe any man and woman - however spiritually dead - who has been prepared by God can believe in Jesus and be given new life in him. My friend, don't say that you can't! If a physically dead man could hear Jesus and get up off his bier so you can believe in Jesus and live. He will give you a spiritual appetite, an enthusiasm for Christian service and a love for God's people.

(D) The miracle's beneficiaries.

There were four beneficiaries: the young man, his mother, the witnesses and the wider world.

(1) The instantaneous change in the young man. The dead man sat up and began to talk. v15.

Immediately there was every evidence of new life. Jesus' intervention was not like a dose of antibiotics. There was no delay before his words took effect.

When a person puts their faith in Jesus there are signs of new life at once. Just as the young man sat up and took notice of the world around him so the new convert begins to take a keen interest in the 'things of God'. In the same way that the widow's son began to talk to those around him the new Christian will be eager to tell others about the one who has changed his life. In Acts, Luke describes how Paul behaved immediately after his conversion: Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Acts9v20.

Kevin Haag who was in such a mess before being saved said that God immediately began working in his life. He started attending church again! He is now able to write: Over the past 10 years, God has given me opportunities to serve Him. On several occasions, God has given me the great privilege of sharing the Gospel message with others. I have seen friends, strangers, and co-workers come to faith in Christ! I have had the opportunity to teach God's Word to others in Sunday school class, Bible study groups, and one on one (discipleship). It brings me great joy to be able to share with others the truth that God has revealed to me through His Word.

(2) The fellowship between mother and son was restored.

Jesus gave him back to his mother .. . Isn't that just wonderful! A great tenderness is conveyed by Luke's graphic description of what happened. It is not difficult to imagine the widow of Nain's intense joy as she received back her boy.

There is a sense in which whenever a man is converted Jesus gives him back to his Father. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reveals how God feels about his children lost in the far country. Oh, the joy of the father when his boy came home. He said to his oldest son: "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

It is a joyful day when those near and dear to us by the ties of nature also become one with us in faith and enter the family of God. One of the happiest days of my parent's life was the day my brother Paul and I were baptised. Mrs Haag rejoiced when God heard her prayers for Kevin and brought him to saving faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

(3) Encouragement to the people of God. They were filled with awe and praised God and said, "God has come to help his people."

Nothing encourages God's people more than conversions. The statement, God has come to help his people is never truer than when a sinner is saved by grace. Oh, that there were more conversions in my small church. Our chapel is only full now for a funeral. How wonderful it would be if a saint's witness in death led to conversions and the revival of our fellowship.

(4) Witness to the world. This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. v17.

If the church is to influential again in England it won't be because a charismatic Christian spokesman vigorously and successfully promotes Christian values in Parliament. What is desperately needed is for the Spirit to move and for large numbers of men and women to experience conversion - to be born again. The only way to change the ethos of our nation is through evangelism and church growth. This is the most powerful and enduring witness to a disinterested, sceptical and downright hostile world. The main reason why Elizabeth Fry, William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftsbury were successful Christian reformers in the nineteenth century was because a large proportion of the population were Christian. It was a century blessed by revival.