The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Then fear came over everyone, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited His people.”
[Luke 7:15-16, hcsb]
I’m not sure I’ve ever properly heard the story of Luke 7:11-17, despite it being the story that spread through Judea and brought Jesus’s fame to John the Baptist. But the story itself is maybe less famous.
Jesus is on his way to Nain, and meets up with the funeral of a man who had been his widowed mother’s only son. The mother and a large crowd is trailing along. They don’t ask Jesus for anything. This is really quite extraordinary. These people didn’t come to Christ; He came to them.
Then, the text says, He looked at the widow and “had compassion on her and said, ‘Don’t cry.’”
Still no request for intervention from the widow or her friends. Did they not know Who spoke to them? They kept moving, in fact! It wasn’t until Jesus came up and touched the coffin that they stopped carrying the man onward.
Then the simple words, “Young man, I tell you, get up!” And the dead began to speak.
And once again, we see the right reaction to God’s presence in verse 16—“fear came over everyone.” It is amazing to me how deliberately and consistently all of Jesus’s miracles led straight to the glorification of God. It was apparently really recognizable to even the common people, and even the people knew how to respond—with fear, with trembling, with “I’m a sinner” and “I’m not worthy!” Even in this case, where the people don’t seem to have known who Jesus was, and still seem a little confused, with some of them calling Him a “great prophet” (although Gill points out that the Messiah is called a “great prophet” in Deuteronomy 18:15, which may have been their reference); at any rate, recognizing this really incredible truth that after centuries of prophetless silence, God has visited His people.
And: fear. And: the word would not be suppressed. Jesus performs a miracle to strangers—out of compassion alone—and suddenly not just Capernaum but “all the vicinity” knew Him, with word reaching the disciples of John the Baptist.
(On a sidenote, I can’t help but notice how perfect a microcosm this is for salvation: the dead man going to his funeral, unable to ask for Christ’s help; his friends equally unable, by ignorance and distraction, to ask for Christ’s help; Christ looks at them, has compassion, interrupts their plans very abruptly, touches the man; and brings him to life; all for the glory of God the Father.)