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Luke; whilst the third and most remarkable, (on account of the absorbing interest of the incidents,) namely, the calling up of Lazarus after he had been dead four days, is peculiar to the Gospel of St. John.
It is to the second of these miracles that, seeing it has already come before us in the Gospel for the day, I purpose to call your attention this morning. The circumstances are thus briefly told us by the Evangelist: "It came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain." By referring to the narrative in St. Luke we find that our Lord, the day before He entered Nain, had performed a miracle in healing the servant of a centurion at Capernaum; that centurion of whose faith, and humility so pleasing a testimony is given in the Gospel.
It was then on the day after this work of mercy, that the Lord, whose whole life on earth was spent in doing good, drew nigh to the city of Nain, which like Capernaum was a city of Galilee, and therefore in the country where most of the mighty acts of Jesus were performed. In His progress to the place He was accompanied by many of His disciples, and a large crowd of people, who had probably witnessed, or heard of the cure of the centurion's son, and who followed our Lord in expectation of beholding some fresh display of power and goodness.
As they approached the gate of the city, they
were met by a sight of grievous sorrow; "behold there was a dead man carried out to be buried, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow." What a picture of desolation is presented to us in this short statement! a mother mourning for the loss of her only son-and she a widow! tasting of that sorrow which because of its exceeding bitterness, the prophet Jeremiah introduces in that appeal, wherein after proclaiming the wrath of God, he calls upon the Jews to mourn for the judgment about to fall upon them for their sins, "O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes, make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation." It is a sharp trial, as many of you must know, to lose a child in any circumstances; even when there be many in a family, the death of one brings a gloom over all, and many months, many years must pass before the wound which it makes in a parent's heart can, if ever at all, be healed. But how far deeper is the gloom, and more acute the wound, when that child is an only child; when it is one on whom every hope, every joy has been centred; on whose preservation no anxiety, no care is thought too great. In such cases, the life of the parent is wound up in the life of the child, and when it fails, when death divides that bond, the survivor's lot must indeed be desolate.
"And this was the lot of the chief mourner at the
gate of Nain.
She was a childless mother, and
chief mourner, because
The severity of her af
also a widow. I say the there were many with her. fliction had excited, and naturally too, the sympathy of her neighbours, and they flocked to assist at the last sad offices she was about to pay to the dear object of her defeated care. "Much people of the city was with her." Such a spectacle could not fail to attract the ready notice, and pity of our merciful Saviour. "When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not." He did not use many words. He knew that in such a moment, it would be useless to speak smooth things: that hers was a sorrow in which the kindest expressions, however well meant, would only serve to aggravate her pain. He knew that if she were to be comforted, it could only be through the working of a power beyond the reach of man to exercise. He knew that in the bier now borne slowly before her, lay buried the source of all her hopes, the spring of all her enjoyments: that if ever again in this world she was to wear a cheerful countenance, and recover herself from under the pressure of the calamity that now lay heavy upon her, it must be by the receiving again that which she had lost. He knew too by that Divine intelligence which could look into the future, that such a resto
ration of her son to life again would be attended with good results; that it would attach the sorrower to Himself; that it would be in her, and also in her son, the beginning of a new and more spiritual life than as yet they had known; that henceforth they would become "dead unto sin, but alive unto God." And so, He not only pitied, but He succoured her. Without waiting for her to speak, He anticipated her fondest wishes. He touched the bier: and then when they that bare the body, struck by so unusual an interruption, halted in the way; when many mused in their hearts what this action might mean; then-in that moment when the attention of the surrounding crowd was fixed upon Himself -Jesus gave utterance to these simple but prevailing words, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise."
It was a brief command, and to many of the bystanders, no doubt appeared extravagant. It recalled to the lifeless corpse, the spirit that had already passed into eternity. It bid death let go a victim that seemed already secured. But it was the command of One mightier than death: and so it was obeyed." He that was dead sat up, and began to speak, and He delivered him to his mother."
Who can penetrate into the depths of the fountain of joy which must have welled up in the mother's heart at this startling restoration of her son. The Evangelist himself has foreborne to describe
her feelings, and we need not attempt it. We can only estimate them in our minds by the measure of her late distress. According to her heaviness would be the proportion of her joy. Her son "was dead, and is alive again," he "was lost, and is found."
But though we are not told how the widow felt at this miraculous recovery of her child, thus delivered out of the very jaws of the grave; nor in what words she showed her thankfulness to our Lord we are told the effect of the miracle upon the multitude, and that was this: "There came a fear on all and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up amongst us, and that God hath visited his people." They were afraid, and not without cause, for they felt themselves in the presence of a Being who, while He had like themselves the form of the Son of man, yet acted with the authority of God. Before One that could "those things which be
quicken the dead, and call
not, as though they were." They judged, and justly too, that He who could do such marvellous things with a simple sentence of His mouth, must indeed be the promised Deliverer. The veil which ignorance and prejudice had drawn so thick over their hearts, was for an instant lifted up, and they joyfully recognised in the lowly and humble Jesus, the long-expected Messias. They glorified God