How Jesus Stopped A Funeral
( Originally Published 1915 )
JESUS WENT on a journey for preaching through the southern parts of Galilee, as before he had visited the villages among the mountains near the sea. He walked out of Capernaum with the twelve disciples and a crowd of followers which grew larger as he went on. They passed by Mount Tabor, and just before sunset they came to a small city at the foot of another mountain, the Hill Moreh. This place was named Nain. Outside the gate Jesus and his followers paused to allow a funeral procession to pass by. In front were women wailing aloud, flinging their arms up and down and chanting a song about the young man who had died. The body was wrapped in long strips of linen, and was lying upon a couch, carried by bearers. After it walked an old woman, the young man's mother, who was a widow, burying her only son; and with her were many of the people in the city, showing their sorrow for the widow at the loss of her son.
When Jesus saw this weeping mother, he felt a great pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." He stepped forward and touched the couch on which the body was lying. The men who were carrying it stood still with wonder at the coming of this stranger, whose look showed power. Standing beside the dead young man, he said:
"Young man, I say unto you, Rise up!
Instantly the young man sat up and began to speak.
Jesus took him by the hand and gave him to his mother.
She received him into her arms, and found his cold body now warm with life, the dull eyes now bright. Her son that had died that day was alive once more.
The people who were looking on now felt that indeed a marvelous work had been done. Many of them had seen Jesus before, and knew him; and even those who had
Ruins of Nain, near which Jesus restored to life the widow's son
not seen him had heard of him, and said, "This must be that great teacher from Nazareth!" Many fell on their faces before him; and some said, "A great prophet has come among us," and others said, "Surely God has visited his people!"
The news that Jesus had raised a dead man to life spread through all the land and even to the countries around. More and more people after this sought to see Jesus and to hear his words.
While Jesus was slowly journeying through southern Galilee, visiting the towns, teaching the people and curing the sick, two men came asking to see him. These men were followers of John the Baptist, who was still in the prison where Herod had sent him. In his prison John heard of the works that Jesus was doing and of the teaching that Jesus was giving. It may be that John was expecting Jesus to set up his kingdom at once, instead of merely going up and down the land as a teacher. Perhaps also, John, shut up in prison, had grown discouraged and doubtful. In other days he had said to all the people that Jesus was the Coming King, so high above him that he was not worthy to tie his shoestrings. But now these two men had brought from John this question to Jesus:
"John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask—are you the Coming One, the promised King of Israel? Or are we to look for another?"
Jesus did not at once answer this question. He acted for a time as though it had not been asked, and left these two men standing, while he turned to the people about him.
At the Saviour's feet were many suffering people—the sick brought upon couches by their friends, the blind crying for sight, the deaf and dumb holding out their hands toward him, the lepers with all their horrible sores, the wild people in whom were evil spirits. Jesus attended to the needs of all these sufferers. He laid his hands upon the sick, and they rose up well; he touched the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, and gave them their sight and hearing; he gave each leper a new, pure, perfect body; and he cast out the evil spirits by his words. Then he went on and made his usual talk to the crowds about the Kingdom of God, and how any man might come into it.
When at last his morning's work of healing and teaching was over, he turned to these two message-bearers from John the Baptist, and said to them:
"Go back and tell John in his prison what you have seen and heard. Here are men once blind who now can see; lame men who now can walk; leprous men who have been made clean; deaf men made to hear; men having in them evil spirits, who are now free from their power. You have heard too of dead men raised to life; and you have listened while the gospel has been preached to the poor. You go and tell John all these things that you have seen and heard. Then let John think about these things and judge whether I am not the One whom he promised should come.
That was a far better way to bring John the Baptist back to believing fully in Jesus as the promised King of Israel and the Saviour of the world than to send the answer back, "Go and tell John that I am the Saviour." For John's faith would be the stronger, because he would now have the proofs that Jesus was the' promised Lord.
After these messengers from John the Baptist had left, Jesus began to talk to the people about John. Some may have thought that in sending this question to Jesus, John had showed weakness and a change of his mind. Jesus said to the people :
"What was it that you went out to the desert to see?
Was it a reed swayed to and fro by the wind? No, this man John was no weak, wind-shaken reed. Did you go out to look at a man clothed in the robes of a prince, and eating delicate food? No, that skin-clad man in the désert was no such princely person. To see such people you go to the palaces of kings. Come, what did you go out to see? Was it a prophet, a man sent from God?
Yes, I tell you, John the Baptist was indeed a prophet, and more than a prophet. He was the King's messenger, to prepare the way for the King himself. Of a truth, I tell you all that no greater man was ever born into this world than John the Baptist. And yet he that is least in the Kingdom of God is higher even than John."
Jesus meant that those who could come into the Kingdom of God, as those who heard the gospel might come, were higher than even the greatest of those who prepare the way for the Kingdom.