Two Notable Miracles
Abbreviated Notes of an Expository Address on Luke’s Gospel by Dr. H.A. Ironside
“Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
“And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
“For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
“Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
“Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
“For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
“When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
“And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
“And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.
“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
“And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
“And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.
“And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
“And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.” —Luke 7:1–18
When we speak of anything as miraculous, we mean that it is beyond the power and ability of the natural man. A miracle is the putting forth of supernatural power, and as found in Scripture is always to alleviate human sorrow or distress and as a manifestation of divine authority. Jesus was accredited as the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel by the mighty works which He performed.
In the present portion we have, first, the healing of a Roman centurion’s servant, in verses 1 to 10, and then the raising up from death of the son of the widow of Nain, in verses 11 to 18. We shall consider these in their order as here set forth.
We are told that as Jesus entered in to Capernaum, after preaching the great sermon, a portion of which is preserved for us in the previous chapter, and a fuller record given in Matthew 5 to 7, He was met by a deputation of Jewish elders, who came to Him on behalf of a military officer, a centurion whose servant (to whom he was greatly attached), was seriously ill. Matthew tells us the centurion himself came (Matthew 6:5), but we can readily understand that the elders presented his case to the Lord, as representing him. The discrepancy exists only in the minds of men who seek for some fancied evidence that Scripture is not wholly inspired by God. The case was urgent. The young man was already in a dying condition.
The elders pressed the claim of the centurion by declaring “He is worthy for whom then shouldest do this, for he loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue.” It is significant that in recent years a synagogue of evident Roman construction but with distinctly Jewish ornamentation has been uncovered among the ruins of Capernaum. It is a thrilling sensation to stand on the dais in that ancient building and reflect that possibly ones feet are resting on the very stones where the holy Saviour’s feet once stood! This was my privilege some years ago.
Jesus immediately started for the centurion’s home, but on the way was met by other messengers who, speaking on behalf of their soldier friend said, “Lord trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter my house.” Note the difference. The elders said: “He is worthy.” He, himself insisted: “I am not worthy!” He was the one who had taken his due place of repentance as an unworthy sinner before God. Realizing something of the true nature and character of Jesus he said, “Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee; but say in a word and my servant shall be healed.” As a military man he explained that he could speak with authority and his soldiers would be obedient. Surely Jesus could speak in the same way and rebuke the disease that threatened the life of his servant!
Such an expression of trustful confidence gladdened the heart of our Lord. He marveled at the man’s simple faith—a faith such as he had not found in Israel. Nothing glorifies God like confidence in His Word. In response to the centurion’s faith the apparently dying man was instantly restored.
But a greater evidence of His power was soon to be given. On the following day Jesus went with His disciples to the nearby city of Nain, whose ruins are still to be found in Galilee. A large throng followed them, doubtless stirred by what had taken place the day before, and hoping to see some other great wonder wrought by Jesus. Nor were they disappointed. As the crowd drew near the village, they saw a funeral procession wending its way to the cemetery. They soon realized it was the funeral of a young man, whose widowed mother was the chief mourner. As Jesus drew near his tender heart was filled with compassion as he beheld the evidences of her grief. He bade her cease to weep, then touching the bier on which the corpse lay, he said with authority, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise!” Immediately, in response to that voice which shall one day awaken all the dead, the young man opened his eyes. Life returned to that cold body. To the amazement of all, he sat up and began to speak. How graphically Luke describes it all, and what a stirring of heart there must have been in the breasts of the many onlookers as Jesus “delivered him to his mother.”
It was such a demonstration of divine power as they had never known before and they glorified God declaring that a great prophet had risen up among them.
The news of this mighty miracle went abroad through all Galilee and Judaea, even coming to the ears of John the Baptist who was pining in prison because of his faithfulness in rebuking King Herod’s wickedness.
Thus God had borne witness to the claims of His Son, who in grace had come into the world to be the Saviour of sinners.