Super Natural is a sermon series on the miraculous works of Jesus in the Bible. The Gospel is Preached to the Poor — God’s heart is moved by our needs. God’s only Son was given for our greatest need. The poor respond in worship and witness. Recorded on May 16, 2021, on Luke 7:11-17, by Pastor David Parks.
So all year, we’ve been focusing on the Person and Work of Jesus. And today, we’re finishing a series called Super Natural. As we’ve said, everywhere Jesus went, he did three things: he preached about the kingdom of God, he called men/women to follow him, and he did miracles. Jesus said about his ministry, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” And we’ve looked at each of these miracles in turn, as signs authenticating the person/work of Jesus. But also, as living parables teaching us about the character of God and his desire for us, his people. So today, we’ll finish this series by considering the statement, “and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” What does that mean? Why would that matter? Well, if you have a Bible/app, please open it to Luke 7:11.
Luke 7:11-17, “11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.”
Now, at first reading, this might not seem like the best example of preaching good news to the poor, but I think you’ll understand more after we unpack this text together. So first, Luke was a physician and a historian who became a Christian through the ministry of the Apostle Paul around the city of Ephesus. Luke didn’t follow Jesus in Palestine but rather did a careful investigation into the person/work of Jesus by interviewing eyewitnesses who had followed Jesus. v. 11.
Luke 7:11, “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.” Ok, so Nain, right? We all know where that is. Well, let’s look at a map here. Nain was in the region of Galilee near Nazareth and southwest of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus did much of his early ministry. Luke says that his disciples are with him and there’s a large crowd of people following as well. Perhaps they had heard about Jesus and wanted to hear him preach. Or perhaps they had a need and were hoping for a miracle from him. But either way, Jesus is very popular at this point. Let’s keep going with v. 12.
Luke 7:12, “As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.” Let’s pause here. So the crowd following Jesus meets with another crowd, one who is part of a funeral procession. And who died? Luke says that it was the only son of a mother who was also a widow. Now, this is significant. Why? Because in this day, in this time/place, a woman’s security was found in her family. There were few social safety net programs, no government aid. You either had a family who could work and provide and take care of you as you got older, or you were on your own. So for a widow to lose her only son, this was especially tragic, her son representing her hope and her future. Imagine how you would feel if you were her — walking beside your son’s body being carried to the tomb. Now, there was a large crowd from the town with her, so she wasn’t alone. But the rest of the town likely understood what a tragedy this was which was why they were all supporting her in this time of grief. What would Jesus do? How would he respond? v. 13.
Luke 7:13-15, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” How did Jesus respond? Luke says, when the Lord saw her, what? His heart went out to her. His heart was moved with pity and compassion. He couldn’t let this procession pass. He was moved to action, saying, “Don’t cry.” The Lord was going to act. He was going to do something that would take away their mourning and grief. He would do something which would turn their tears into tears of joy. And what does Jesus do? He went up and touched the bier, or the frame they were carrying him on. Imagine if you were watching this unfold. Two crowds of people, probably a few thousand eyewitnesses. What did the widow think? Did she know Jesus? Had she heard of him? If Jesus didn’t have the power of God to raise the dead, think of how awkward this would’ve been! But Jesus was moved with compassion and physically stood in between this young man and his grave. He blocked the process of death. Also, he touched the pallet that the young man was laying on. This would’ve rendered Jesus ceremonially unclean. But he did it anyway. Jesus wasn’t concerned about looking awkward or becoming unclean by death. He was concerned with doing something to fix it. So he said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” And what happened? “The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Here, Luke points out the great tragedy of a widow who loses her only son, until Jesus intervenes and restores him to her. What a dramatic scene. What a great reversal! How did the crowds respond?? Let’s finish this text in v.16.
Luke 7:16-17, “They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” They were all filled with awe and praised God. And folks, if there’s anything I want you to take away from this Super Natural series it’s this: this is Jesus. We clearly see his character and his power. This scene is just so typical of Jesus. But how does this relate to the statement that “the good news is proclaimed to the poor”? Well, in this brief interaction, we see three things that have everything to do with good news for the poor. We see three things: God’s heart and God’s son which constitute the good news, and third, we see the response of the poor. So first, God’s heart.
God’s heart is moved by our needs. Where do we see this in our text? Right there in v. 13, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”” The action of Jesus was anticipated by his emotions. Now I don’t know what you picture when you think about God. I don’t know what character attributes or images come into your mind or how you feel about yourself in relation to him. But one of the main ideas about who God is, according to the revelation of the Bible, is that God is compassionate. He is not far off and removed from the brokenness of the world. He is not cold and unfeeling or apathetic to the struggles in your life. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” God is just and always does what is right, but the really good news is that God is compassionate and gracious. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush in Ex 3, do you remember what he said? “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.” Or years later, when Jesus saw the crowds, in Matthew’s gospel it says that, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Whether our needs are needs for food/shelter/healing/life/friendship/forgiveness/reconciliation, God’s heart is moved by our needs. But what good would that be if God failed to do anything about it? What good would God’s emotions be for us if he took pity on us but refused to act? That brings us to point number two, the other half of the good news: God’s Son.
God’s only Son was given for our greatest need. Luke mentions the crowd following Jesus meeting the crowd at the funeral. When God sends his only Son to us, and Jesus halts the funeral procession of humanity, breaking the power of death itself. It’s not done in secret, off to the side of history. It’s done on the world stage, before all of creation. In this text, literally in front of what was likely thousands of eyewitnesses with angels and all of the heavenly host watching with bated breath. With the full power and intentionality of the Father in heaven. The multitude following Jesus meets the multitude in mourning and the result brings holy fear and reverential praise. Who could do what Jesus has done?? Who has the power over death? Who can restore what is utterly lost? Who can give hope to the hopeless and life to the dead? Well Jesus, of course. Now, I don’t think it’s an accident that Luke mentions the fact that the widow’s son is her only son. Let’s look at v. 12 again.
Luke 7:12, “As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.” As I mentioned, this was a very big deal for the widow in her culture. But this language is familiar. In fact, the Apostle John uses the very same language to describe Jesus as the Son of God. John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” This language emphasizes the absolute uniqueness of Jesus as the Son of God, who was God himself. Jesus had raised this young man from the dead and gave him back to his mother, but this young man was destined to die once again, unless…unless death itself could finally be overcome. God’s heart is moved by our needs, but could God do something about our greatest need? The need for spiritual life and love and peace with God? Yes, but it would only come by the death of another son. When all of humanity was laying on the frame, dead in its transgressions and sins, who stopped the procession? Who intervened? Who came on a rescue mission to seek and to save the lost? It was none other than the one and only Son. When we were separated from God by our sins, who came to pay the price that we could never pay by dying on the cross in our place? It was Jesus. God’s only Son was given for our greatest need. In his great heart of love, moved with pity and compassion by our greatest need, God sent his own Son into the world, to live and die and rise again. And he is reigning and ruling today as the great Lord of all creation. And he will one day return and make all things new, finishing the work that he started all those years ago.
And isn’t this good news? This is who God is — the one who created the heavens and the earth, the one who has the power to rescue and redeem. And this is what God has done and is doing and has promised for our future in Christ. This is what Christians call the gospel or the good news. And it’s centered on the person/work of Jesus. When Jesus came, he could preach/proclaim this good news because he embodied the good news, he was the good news. But for who? The poor.
The poor respond in worship and witness. Why do I say, the poor respond? This passage doesn’t say anything about the economic condition of the widow. Who knows, maybe she was wealthy. So where does this come from? Well, in the chapter before this, in Lk 6, Luke records the teaching of Jesus that in Matthew’s gospel is called the sermon on the mount. And in it, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Matthew has Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” So economic poverty is a picture of our spiritual condition. We aren’t just a little short of what we need, we are utterly spiritually bankrupt before God. So the arrival/person/work of Jesus, is fantastically good news for those who recognize their need, regardless of what they have in their bank account. We are poor and in desperate need before God, however, there is a blessing to this realization. Why? Because this is the only prerequisite for receiving the work of Jesus on our behalf. And how do the people respond when they understand all they’ve been given in Jesus? In worship and witness. They praise/worship the Lord, and they tell everyone about him. This is still the best way to respond to the gospel. To sing the praises of the greatness of our God. And to tell everyone about him. I was in my mid-twenties when the depths of the gospel became a reality to my heart. And when I my eyes were opened to who God is and what he had done for me in Jesus, I realized: everyone needs to hear about this. In fact, that was the driving heartbeat for planting Appleton Gospel Church. And ever since, our mission has been all about sharing good news. All of the miraculous works of Jesus are a picture of this good news. Healing and joy and peace and life are found in Jesus’ name. Do you believe that this is true? Have you trusted in him? Come to him. He is compassionate and gracious. No matter who you are, you won’t be turned away. Come to him. He was given on the cross for our greatest need. Whether we have another 10 years as a church or 100 or 1000, may we enjoy him and sing his praises forever and ever, the one and only Son who died and rose again.