"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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    Images of the Savior (18 – His Raising the Widow's Son)

    And having approached, he touched the bier, and those bearing it stood still; and he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” And the dead sat up and began to speak, and he gave him to his mother. – Luke 7:14-15

    As manifold and diverse as are the wretched effects to which sin has given rise, they may all be brought under this one heading, death. So God spoke to man in the beginning, solemnly testifying that, in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, he would surely die (Genesis 2:17); and such in fact occurred, that first man and all after him being suddenly and irretrievably plunged into that spiritual death which consists of separation from fellowship with God, who is our life. And ah, how the effects of this death spread throughout the earth, engendering in men the death-thoughts and lusts which may never be found in God's presence, plunging the very world into chaos and confusion, covering the earth's fruitful soil with thorns and thistles, filling the instincts of all the brute beasts with rapine and cruel bloodshed, and finally bringing down the afflicted body of every death-cursed man in sorrow to the grave. And for all this, it is only the beginning, the first death – and oh how fearful will be the second death of eternal torment which awaits fallen man at the final judgment (Revelation 20:14)! Truly may it be said, that when we were in this miserable condition, we were, through fear of death, held in perpetual bondage under our cruel master, the Devil and Deceiver of mankind (Hebrews 2:14-15). Ah, wretched men! Who shall be found to deliver us from so great a calamity? But there is one who fully participated in our flesh and blood, in order that, by tasting death for us, he might destroy the one who possessed the power of death, and so reconcile us to God! To this mighty Conqueror of the grave, let us now turn our attention.

    We have already seen the mighty works of our Savior in overturning the effects of sin and the curse, healing, forgiving, and restoring hopeless men; but if his power stopped with the mere effects and fruits of sin's potent death-strength, then all would be to no avail. What profit would it be to be healed from our diseases and delivered from our demons, if only to be finally swallowed up in eternal death a few short years later? If the raging stream of miseries which overwhelms our souls should be forever cut off, then the fountain from which it flows must be finally stopped up – and that fountain is death, the mighty arm of sin and rebellion. In light of these things, as we look at this mighty work of Jesus, how our troubled hearts should leap with joy! For just as he has displayed his power to reverse the effects of sin in this world, to heal and deliver from bondage, so now he signifies his power to cut off their very source and strength, and so keep us from them forever.

    Now, let us consider the text. We see that the ultimate cause of this great work was nothing other than the compassion of Jesus the Savior. What an incomprehensible thought, that the Almighty God should be compassionate to those who deserve no compassion! We might understand his holiness and righteousness; if he had passed by this woman without a word, how could we fault him, whose justice would thereby be displayed in his giving over of sinners to their fitting recompense? But who can understand his compassion? From what unfathomable sources of the all-glorious nature of divinity does it flow? Who can give words to the love of Christ? It is too deep and wide and broad and high ever to be measured or counted (Ephesians 3:14-19). Ah, let us swim in its depths forever! Let us dive deep as we may, for though we sound out its bounds for all eternity, we shall never find the end. Let us consider no other source of our calling, election, salvation, and inheritance of glory, than the free and unmerited love of the triune God (see I Thessalonians 1:4).

    And ah, what love is this: for the all-sufficient and all-happy God came down to us in the person of Jesus Christ, to be touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:14-15), and to be afflicted in all our afflictions (Isaiah 63:9). Let us not think of the love of Christ as something which he was able to bestow easily, at no cost to himself – no, it cost him everything, and its proof is in his willing condescension to take upon himself all of our sorrows and sicknesses, death itself, and (oh, the wonder!) even our sin. So Jesus, when he saw this widow weeping, was afflicted with her. He saw her desperate straits, having been separated from her husband and now her first-born son as well, and so cut off from all comfort and hope of livelihood; but he did not just recognize her sorrow; he took it within himself, absorbed it in the depths of his own divine person, and so, having exhausted its power, he stripped it of its strength to afflict her any longer, and whispered, “Do not weep”. What a Savior we serve!

    The next thing we read of is Jesus' action in touching the bier, and so compelling its bearers to stop. Let us consider this well: for it is a sign for our instruction. Were we not dead and impotent, and was not our bier being carried to a fiery death? And what powerful bearers were conducting us there! Sin grasped the right side of our coffin and mighty Death the left, and before and behind were Satan and all his demons, whisking us away with unstoppable force to our abode in hell. How could we resist such mighty foes, being ourselves dead and utterly impotent? But Jesus has touched our coffin, Jesus has stripped our foes of all their power, Jesus has halted them in their tracks, and has forever barred their pathway to cast us into the lake of fire.

    Now, the grave-bearers having been stopped, Jesus speaks his almighty word of life, and this young man rises to life. Let us never grow weary of reflecting on the power of that truth! For we were also dead, but he said “Live!”; and so we arose. He has spoken the life-giving word of the gospel into our dead heart of stone, and behold, it is beating with life! Our minds must leap ahead to the tomb of Lazarus, where Christ with an all-powerful word calls forth the dead from his tomb, and so forever vindicates his claim, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:1-44). Does not he prove this great truth again, every time he calls a poor dead soul into the eternal life of his presence? Such were you and I, but we have been raised with the word of the Savior, and death has forever lost its grip on our souls.

    Having so been blessed beyond all comprehension, how can we not break forth in praise? If this widow's dead son, having once been given life, expressed that life by beginning to speak, how can we do less? Man's life is to know God, and the nature of that life is to rejoice and sing of this wonderful knowledge. Are we living indeed? Have we been instilled with the power of a life which will never fade, a life which is nothing less than the fellowship with an infinite God for which were made at the first? Then we must speak, we must sing the praises of the One who has raised us up – let a true believer in Christ but try to be silent, and the word of the gospel will burn in his bones and consume his soul in such a flame of ecstasy that, try as he might, it must burst forth in song (Psalm 39:1-3). When the dead are raised, they cannot hold silence, so great is the wonder of their deliverance. And we were dead, but have been raised to life – let the ends of the earth hear it!

    And this is what happened indeed, in consequence of our Savior's mighty work. The dead was raised and began to speak, and the account of God's power and grace spread throughout the whole region. If this was the consequence of a mere sign and foretaste, what will be the effect of Jesus' actual victory over death's fierce power, and his winning of an eternal life for a multitude that no man can number? Surely, it will be the song of the redeemed, rising up from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation on the earth (Revelation 5:9). “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:3-4)!

    As we conclude with this account, we must remember that, as wondrous as it is, it is but a sign and a taste of the greater wonder which Christ would soon accomplish on the cross of Calvary. How was it that he could take a widow's sorrows into his own soul, stop the coffin-bearers with a touch, raise up her dead son, fill his decaying tongue with lively words of wonder and praise, cause the fame of his grace and power to spread throughout the region? How could he give such grace and mercy to someone who deserved only wrath and fury? How could he do these things without compromising his righteous and divine nature? It is only because of that mighty event toward which all his days were hastening, in which he would take upon himself all our sins, fill his heart with all our sorrows and afflictions, embrace in his bosom all the wrath of God and all the manifold effects of rebellion, yes, and even take that mighty consumer of every man, fearful Death, into his own body. Death consumes all things – but there is One whose almighty being is even greater than death. There is One in whom all the fullness of God dwells in human form. And this One took even that last foe Death into his infinite person, exhausted all its power and fury, and was still undefeated – for three days later he rose again with the power of an incorruptible life! O Death, your own death has been made certain by the death of our Savior! In slaying him, you slew yourself, for thereby has he conquered you, and delivered your miserable captives! Where now is your sting? What has become of your universal victory? Ah, foolish Death, you had no strength but sin, and One has arisen to defeat sin, and to strip from you forever all your power (I Corinthians 15:54-56). And ah, deceptive Serpent, his foot is likewise upon your head, and you are crushed indeed! From now on, we all who belong to Jesus will march upon your smitten brow, trampling you under our feet (Romans 16:20) as we follow our Head and Redeemer in the great victory procession to heaven and eternal life!

    Posted by Nathan on April 26, 2007 04:30 AM

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