St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Don’t Cry

Sermon on Luke 7:11-17

Text: Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Crying is a very natural thing for people to do. It is the first way we have to communicate with one another. Because a baby has not learned to communicate with spoken words, he must cry to let us know he is hungry, has messy pants, that something isn’t right. As we grow older, we are told to suppress this emotion. We hear things like, ‘Big boys don’t cry!’. Yet, it is a wonderful emotional release for us. We cry when we are happy and we cry when we are sad. Yet, when we cry because we are sad, we can cry differently than many others. Jesus comes to us, as he came to the widow of Nain, and tells us “DON’T CRY!”. Today we will look at 1. Who Speaks These Words? 2. When Does He Say Them? 3. How Are They Meant? 4. Why Can He Speak This Way?

Our text begins with Jesus’ travel from Capernaum to Nain: “Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.” Luke, from the very beginning, points to the central character of this account. It was not the widow or her dead son. Rather, the attention focuses on Jesus and his words and his actions. He was leading a large crowd of people, who had come to hear him teach the way of salvation.

He is also the central figure in our lives, as well. He is the one who deserves our full attention for all that he has done for us. He teaches us, as he taught his disciples and the crowd that followed him, the way to salvation. Jesus, first of all, uses the Law to condemn us for our sins. Jesus points directly at us by exposing our many actions as sinful. For example, he points to my sinful nature and says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Jesus points directly at my life and shows me all of the times I have failed to live the perfect, holy life that is required for salvation. He also tells me that, because I have failed to be holy and perfect, I deserve his punishment. We hear him say, through the prophet Moses, “Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” (Deuteronomy 27:26) The curse that is being pronounced is hell. Jesus points out my many sins and the punishment that I deserve.

Yet, Jesus also points to the solution to my problem in John 3:17, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God sent his Son into the world to save it. Jesus was sent to take my place. He gave his perfect life to me and took upon himself my sins. He suffered in my place so that I might have eternal life. This is why Jesus is the central focus of our lives. Our salvation depends entirely on him. Only through him am I saved. Because he has the ability to save me from hell, he shows that he has the power to help me with the other problems of this life. That is why he can say to me, “Don’t cry!”.

As Jesus and his followers drew near to the gate of the city, they were met by another procession. What a difference between the two groups! The first was filled with joy as they walked along with Jesus. This was not true of the second group. We read in verse 12, “As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.” The second procession was anything but joyful. Jesus met a funeral procession as it left the village of Nain. This sad situation is intensified, when we read about the survivor. The person who died was this woman’s only son. To make matters worse, we read that this woman was a widow. This was a very sad time for the woman. Beside the fact that she lost her son, she also lost her only means of income. There was no such thing as Social Security and the like. If a man died, it was up to the children to provide for their mother. This woman’s only son had passed away. She had no one to support her. The situation for her was most desperate. If ever this woman needed help, it was right now. Indeed, her tears must have been ones of deepest sorrow.

These two processions met at the gate of the town. This was the only way in or out of the city. Was it merely an accident that these two processions happened to meet here at this time? I don’t think it was. I believe that Jesus, in his omniscience, knew that this meeting would take place. He knew of this woman’s needs and wanted to help her. This fact is very comforting for us. Just as Jesus came to the aid of this widow, so also he knows all of our needs, troubles, cares and concerns. He knows all about them, even before we come to him in prayer. We have so many comforting passages that tell us that Jesus is continually concerned with our welfare. He knows when we are hurting or in dire straits. Not only does he know about them, but he comes to us and helps us with them. He tells us in Matthew 6:8, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Note the time reference! He knows before you ask. There is a saying that says, “God has the solution planned even before we know that we have the problem.” When does Jesus offer us words of comfort and hope? He comes to us in our weakest moments and says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus comes to us and comforts us when we need him the most.

We read in verse 13, “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” When Jesus saw this woman’s desperate situation, his heart went out to her. The Greek here has the idea that his Jesus’ whole inner being was moved with compassion for this widow, and he came to her and said, “Don’t cry.”

At first, we might be a bit shocked. Jesus commanded this woman to stop crying. That doesn’t sound very sympathetic. A parent may tell a child, who has been carrying on for some time, to stop crying. However, Jesus’ command to stop crying is not a harsh reprimand, as if she had no right to cry. Jesus understood the pain that she was going through. Rather, Jesus’ words are ones of gentle invitation. Perhaps, it would be better translated, ‘Dry your tears,’ or ‘Weep no more.’ Jesus was sympathetic to this woman’s problems and wanted to offer comfort.

Jesus also comes to us in the saddest moments of our lives. He is moved with compassion as we go through the struggles of this life. He sees us as we face sadness and troubles. He, also, comes to us and tells us, Don’t cry.” By these words, we have Jesus’ assurance that he will take care of everything. Does that mean that the problem will suddenly vanish? It may, but it also might be for our spiritual benefit, if the problem remained. We can never tell exactly what God has planned for our lives. We can, however, be assured of Jesus’ continual presence, and we can be sure that all things do work out for benefit. This is what Jesus means when he says “Don’t cry.”

Does this mean that the Christian is never to cry? Of course, not. Jesus, himself, was moved to tears at the death of his close friend, Lazarus. Crying is a normal, human, emotional release. However, the tears of the Christian can be different from the unbeliever. The Christian has an assurance of help and hope that the person who does not believe does not have. Indeed, the Christian can be confident in the Lord’s help. We may cry, but we do not despair, because we know that the Lord is with us.

When we tell our troubles to our friends and the tears start to flow, often, there is little that the friend can do other than listen, comfort, and offer a tissue. This is not the case when we pour out our troubles before the Lord. When Jesus saw the problems of the widow, not only did he comfort, but he also did something about it. “He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.” Jesus went to the stretcher, which was carrying the wrapped body of the son, and addressed the body, as if it were alive. He commanded to get up, and he did so immediately. Jesus, then, presented the young man to his mother. Jesus had told her not to cry and, now, he showed the reason he could tell her so. He took care of her problem. He saw her need and took care of it. He had the power to do something about it.

We, also, can take comfort when Jesus tells us, ‘Don’t cry.’ He has the ability to do what needs to be done. Jesus can do what, humanly speaking, would be impossible. We come to a situation in life that looks hopeless to us. There is no way we can handle this. Yet, somehow, things always seem to work out. Why? Because Jesus is there protecting and taking care of us. As the almighty God, nothing is impossible for Jesus to do. That is why he can say to us, ‘You may ask for anything, in my name, and I will do it.’ Let us learn, again and again, to come to Jesus in prayer, to trust that he has heard our prayer and will do whatever is best for us. Jesus tells us, ‘Don’t cry,’ and he invites us to come to him for the solution. Remember that the one who invites us is the one who loved us so much that he was willing to die for us. He comes to us in our darkest hours and brings comfort to our souls. As the hymn writer put it so well, “Art thou weary, art thou troubled, art thou sore distressed? ‘Come to Me,’ saith One, ‘and, coming, Be at rest.’” Amen.