If Jesus didn’t have the power over life and death, the His promise of salvation and eternal life wouldn’t be very believable. In the previous miracles we’ve seen healing, we’ve seen exorcisms, and we’ve even see a case of transmutation (water to wine). But Jesus also wanted to ensure that those who chose to follow Him understood that He could deliver the promise that He was making. But before He could do that, they had to understand He had control of the current life. And that’s one of the reasons this miracle is so important:
Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”
– Luke 7:12-16, NASB
There are a couple of striking things about this miracle. The first is that Jesus raised a person from the dead. This had happened before in the Old Testament, but always involved the prophet calling upon God to do so. Jesus doesn’t do that. He simply commands the dead person to arise. *He* was the One making the resurrection happen. *He* was the One who had the power. That was different than in the Old Testament and that’s why fear gripped the people who were witnesses of the miracle. That’s why they began glorifying God. They had not seen such power. Now it’s really easy to miss how great this event was because we’re reading it and we’re not seeing it live. Now imagine you saw someone who you knew was dead being brought back to life right in front of you. And I don’t mean through medical means, like when they shock the heart of someone who has no heartbeat. I mean by a man saying, “Get up!” and the person coming back to life. We’d be absolutely shocked with amazement. But for Jesus to claim He can save us from our sins, He had to show us He had this power, the power over death. And this miracle demonstrates that clearly and conclusively.
The second thing that is striking is that we see Jesus acting out of compassion. We’ve hit this before. It’s easy for folks to claim that we have a God that doesn’t get involved in the affairs of Man. And it’s easier to attack such a God and say, “Well, He might exist, but He might as well not.” This is the soft position some agnostics take. However, our God is active and He is involved and He does act out of compassion. He acts out of love. And therefore if you’re going to argue against the God presented by the Bible, you have to deal with the fact that the BIble claims He is intimately involved in our lives and in the existence of all of His creation, and not only that, but also that’s He’s a loving and caring God. That’s why He came to die for our sins in the first place. That’s why He works everything for the good of His people.
Now, if the awesomeness of this miracle hasn’t washed over you yet, let me see if I can rephrase things in a way that makes this miracle so amazing. God Himself, the one who has control over life and death, who needs us not, has such compassion and such love for each one of us. Do you have compassion for an ant? We are a whole lot closer to the ant than we are to God. Yet just as most folks think nothing of squashing an ant, realize that God does think very carefully on everything about us. He knows us in a way we don’t even know ourselves. This is Almighty God, perfect and holy and just, who looks upon us, stained in our sin, an abomination in His sight, and determined to deliver on a plan to cleanse us and restore us and restore fellowship with us, though we were the ones who broke it. That plan was costly, it cost Him His life, but He did it anyway.