Last Sunday we began a 5-sermon miniseries that is titled “Risen from the Dead”. The theme of each of these messages is or will be resurrection. There are a few passages in the Bible that deal with visions or dreams of the dead being revived. There are a couple of episodes in which a person recovered after being injured so badly that they almost died. While these types of stories are closely related to our topic, our major focus will be limited to only those instances in which a person clearly and literally died and sometime later undoubtedly rose from the dead.
There are 10 examples of actual, indisputable physical resurrections recorded in the Bible. The first 3 are found in the Old Testament books of 1st and 2nd Kings. They involve, in some form or fashion, the famous prophets Elijah and Elisha. We went over these first 3 miracles in last week’s sermon. Interestingly, 2 of them dealt with children who had died - the widow of Zarephath’s son and the Shunammite woman’s son. The other concerned an adult - the hastily buried man.
Today we will move into the gospels - the 4 written biographies of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They tell us that after being baptized around age 30, the Lord began teaching and preaching throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. His authoritative words were often accompanied by many miraculous acts of healing and other wonders. He calmed the seas, made the lame to walk, caused the blind to see, cleansed the lepers, and so forth. But did Jesus every raise someone from the dead? The answer is absolutely “Yes”.
This morning’s sermon is called “The Miracles of Jesus”. We will go over 3 specific occurrences during Jesus’ earthly ministry in which He brought a dead person back to life again. This will bring our current total of resurrections discussed in this series to 6. Just like those we discussed from the Old Testament, 2 of today’s miracles will involve children or adolescents. This similarity is probably just a coincidence, but it is interesting to note that many of these resurrections were of kids. Perhaps that says something about the character of God and His regard for the young.
I. THE WIDOW OF NAIN’S SON - Luke 7:11–17
Jesus, His apostles, and a crowd of followers were nearing the city of Nain, a village about 6 miles southeast of Nazareth. As they approached the town’s main entrance, they met a funeral march coming out of the gate toward them. This procession was bound for the cemetery, where they intended to bury a young man who had died. The deceased male is never called a boy or child in this story, and therefore was possibly a teen or youth that had been living at home when he died. Regardless of his exact age, the young man’s mother was a widow who’d already lost her husband and now was about to bury her only son. As expected, she was absolutely devastated and stricken with grief.
Seeing the weeping mother, Jesus felt deep compassion for her and told her not to cry. He approached those who were carrying the coffin, reached up and touched it, and they came to a stop. The Jews rarely used actual coffins, and most scholars believe this was a pallet upon which the young man’s linen-wrapped body laid. Jesus said “Arise” and the young man sat up and began talking. Jesus then presented the resurrected son to his mother.
Following this miracle, the people present began glorifying God and calling Jesus a great prophet. The news of what Jesus had done spread quickly throughout the region. His fame increased as more and more people realized that Jesus had the power to raise the dead.
II. JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER - Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56
One day while Jesus was preaching to crowds of people by the seashore, an official from the local synagogue named Jairus came up to Him. Broken, he fell at the Lord’s feet and begged Him to come and heal his ailing twelve-year old daughter who was near death. Touched by the father’s desperate plea, Jesus joined Jairus and the two of them started off towards the official’s house followed by the large crowd. As they were going, one of Jairus’ servants encountered them and informed them that it was too late - the girl had already died. He told Jairus to let Jesus go and bother Him no more.
But instead of giving up, Jesus dismissed the crowd and continued to the house with only Peter, James, and John. When He arrived, another large crowd was already gathered there lamenting the death of this child. Jesus told them not to worry because the girl was not dead but sleeping, and they all scoffed at His naivety. Undeterred, the Lord cleared the crowd out and then took His three apostles along with the girl’s parents into the room where their daughter’s body was. He told the little child to “Get Up”. Immediately she rose from her bed and began walking around the room. Again, the news of this miracle spread throughout the countryside.
We should clarify that the little girl in this story was literally dead - not merely sleeping. They would not have attempted to call off the rescue if they were not sure she was dead. Imagine your child was gravely ill and you called for an ambulance. Would you then seek to intercept it and tell it not to come unless you were absolutely certain it was no longer necessary? Surely not. The various accounts of this story told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke confirm her death. Jesus knew she was not merely sleeping, but He also knew that He had the power to resurrect her. In the Lord’s eyes, physical death is like sleep because He knows that we will live again.
III. JESUS’ FRIEND LAZARUS - John 11:1-44
Jesus was close friends with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. These 3 siblings lived in Bethany, a small town near Jerusalem. One day, Jesus and His disciples received an urgent message from the two sisters that their brother Lazarus was critically ill. To the surprise of many, Jesus did not immediately stop what He was doing. Rather, He continued ministering in the place that He was for 2 more days before departing to Bethany. While He tarried, His friend Lazarus died.
By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days. As He approached the city, Martha hurried out to meet Him. She expressed frustration with Jesus, stating that if He had only come sooner Lazarus would not have died. Not long thereafter, Mary also came to Jesus and declared her similar disappointment in Him. The sisters were both in great grief and mourning. Jesus was moved with compassion and began to weep. Jesus then asked where the body of Lazarus had been laid, and they led Him to the tomb.
When they got there, Jesus asked some members of the crowd to remove the stone from the tomb’s entrance. Martha initially objected because she supposed that the remains inside had already began to decay and emit a foul odor. Martha did not want her brother’s grave to be defiled. But Jesus insisted, so the stone was moved out of the way. After speaking with the God the Father quietly for a few moments, Jews addressed the crowd and loudly cried out “Lazarus, come forth!” Immediately, Lazarus came walking out of the tomb alive but still wrapped from head to toe in his burial clothes. Jesus ordered that he be unbound and released.
News of this miraculous resurrection quickly spread to nearby Jerusalem where the Pharisees and chief priests heard what had happened. Upon learning what Jesus had done, they quickly convened a meeting in which they began plotting Jesus’ death. They were determined to get rid of this threat to their religion once and for all.
We began this series on resurrection by stating that only God has the power to bring the dead back to life. In last Sunday’s message both Elijah and Elisha earnestly prayed for God to intervene, and the resurrections that subsequently occurred were attributed to the LORD alone. But did you notice in today’s stories that Jesus did not formally seek God the Father’s assistance, but rather He acted on His own authority and by His own power. What does this important observation tell us?
Seeing that only God can raise the dead, and knowing that Jesus Himself raised the dead on multiple occasions, we must then conclude that Jesus is God in the flesh. This is the only logical explanation for Jesus’ divine power and authority. The 3 miraculous resurrections that He performed, which we briefly examined today, are unmistakable evidence of His deity.
Next week is Easter Sunday, the day upon which Jesus personally rose from the grave. This is the pinnacle event of Christianity. I hope you will join us as we talk about the Lord’s crucifixion and the empty tomb. Until then, may His blessings be upon you.