Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 7:14-15 The resurrection of the dead

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 14, 2018

14 He went up to the open coffin, touched it, and the pallbearers stopped. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

When you or I encounter a funeral—today we’re often in our cars—we stop and wait respectfully while the procession goes past. Or if we go to a visitation beforehand, we file past the casket or the urn and say what we hope are kind words to the family. Two things to avoid saying are, “I know what you’re going through,” because coping with death is different for everyone, and “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” because it’s too open-ended. It’s better to share the comfort we have in the gospel of the resurrection: “I’m glad we’ll see him again in heaven,” or else do something specific for the person. Something specific means: “Here’s a casserole I made; throw it in your freezer and microwave it when you need it. Just keep the container or toss it.” Or something like, “There’s a storm coming—we’ll be by to shovel you’re driveway and sidewalk early in the morning. You don’t need to worry about it.”

In the in the days of the tabernacle and temple, however, funerals were different. The Law of Moses forbade God’s people from coming into contact with a dead body: “Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days” (Numbers 19:11). More than that: “Whoever touches the dead body of anyone and fails to purify himself defiles the LORD’s tabernacle. That person must be cut off from Israel” (Numbers 19:13). So the family would take care of the dead person, professional mourners were hired, and friends generally stayed away at a safe distance.

This makes Jesus’ action amazing in every way. Jesus did the unthinkable: he went up and touched the coffin. Actually, as we said yesterday, a soros is a “bier” or stretcher of some kind, so that by touching this thing, Jesus would be said to have come into contact with the dead man’s body. But here’s where everything turns on its head. Jesus is a man, and therefore he was under the Law of Moses. But Jesus is also truly God. Paul said, “Christ, who is God over all” (Romans 9:5). And David said, “For who is God besides the LORD?” (Psalm 18:31). Jesus Christ is God, the LORD over all. Because this is true, he is not affected by death. Death, rather, is affected by him. So rather than being defiled by this dead body, Jesus brought the dead to life! It was not a slow process, either. The dead man did not need to go into recovery and have his voice slowly and painfully restored. No, as soon as Jesus spoke to him—for Jesus’ power is in his word—the man sat up on his stretcher and immediately began to speak.

In a touching reminder of the Lord’s compassion, Luke tells us: Jesus gave the man back to his mother. It was for her sake that he raised this particular young man from the dead. It was for our sakes that this and other resurrections performed by the Lord are recorded in the Bible. For if Jesus could raise this man from the dead only by speaking to him, then he can raise you and me from the dead on the Last Day by doing the very same thing.

What about that Day? We know from the Bible that there will only be one return of Jesus to the world, not two as some teach. How do we know this? “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). So the first coming was the time when Jesus was in the world as described in the Gospels, when he died for our sins. His one and only return—the “second time” of Hebrews 9—will be to raise the dead, judge all mankind, end the world and begin the eternal life we will have with him in heaven. Those who cite a passage like Isaiah 2:2-3 as depicting the beginning of a millennial reign of Jesus…

  “2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
  that the mountain of the house of the LORD
  shall be established as the highest of the
  mountains, and shall be raised above the
  hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
  3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the
  LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob;
  that he may teach us his ways and that
  we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion
  shall go forth the law, and the word of the
  LORD from Jerusalem.” (RSV)

…must understand it in the light of Hebrews 12:22-23, which describes this heavenly Zion not as a literal place, but as the heavenly city of God and those who will dwell with God forever in heaven (“our citizenship is in heaven,” Philippians 3:20).

The resurrection of this young man and others raised by Jesus and the Apostles also confirms some things about our own resurrection on the Last Day. In the resurrection, the whole former person will be restored. Jesus said, “The Father raises the dead and gives them life” (John 5:21). He gives “them” (the dead) life; he does not create new beings. About this, we can say:

1, Those who will be raised will be “the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:12-16). Pastor David Hollaz said: “The resurrection of the dead essentially consists of the restoration or repair of the same body which perished in death from its atoms and particles that have been scattered and dispersed here and there, and in the reunion of the same body with the soul.” The young man in Luke 7 was not a different person, but the same son of the mother whom Jesus gave back to her.

2, Note that Jesus Christ himself was recognized as the same person after his resurrection (Acts 4:2). The mother in Luke 7 received back her risen son, the same son who had died.

3, The Bible uses the analogy of sleep for death. Just as the same person wakes from sleep, so also the same person rises from the dead (Daniel 12:2; Psalm 17:15). We see this here in the young man in Luke 7 who was able to sit up from his bier and immediately began to speak, and so it will be with us.

Of course, our resurrected bodies will be transformed, no longer affected by sin, temptation, death, or the ravages of time. The young man in Luke 7 was raised only for a time—for the remainder of his natural life. He died again, some time later. We, however, will rise to eternal life: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). By the grace of God and the compassion of Jesus our Lord, we who put our trust in Jesus will be among those raised to eternal life. So when any one of us faces our own death, we are able to do so with the same attitude we have when we go to sleep. We will wake up again. And just as a tired man is refreshed when he wakes up in the morning, we will be refreshed in a much better sense when we are awakened from the sleep of death by the word of Jesus our Lord.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive