As pastors we are confronted by death more than many people in the world. We sit next to people on their deathbeds. We counsel people who have doubts and worries as they face certain death, and many of us have watched as Jesus sent his angels to call one of his children safely home to heaven. We have been to more funerals than most people, excluding the funeral directors. People have often said to me, “Pastor, I wouldn’t trade places with you, because I don’t know if I could handle the emotions of death and suffering that you see on a regular basis.” It is during these sometimes difficult moments of our ministries that God gives shepherds of his flocks the same assurance he gave the widow from Nain.
As we pastors talk about death with our flock, there are a couple of beautiful reminders for us as God’s shepherds here on earth. These reminders are clear and uplifting as we look at the words and actions of Jesus as he walked up on this funeral procession. First, we need to remember that we are always dealing with saints/sinners whom God created to be emotional beings. At the time of death, God is using us to offer our counsel and aid – both spiritually and emotionally. Jesus as true man showed us this as he met this widow, “When Jesus saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’”
All of us know that this account has a wonderful ending, but Jesus gives us so much encouragement even before he raises the widow’s son from the dead. “Jesus saw her and his heart went out to her.” His heart was in anguish for this widow. This widow and the many people we minister to might feel like God doesn’t see them as they struggle with this unnatural part of life called death, but this is not true at all. God uses us to remind God’s people that no matter how bad our sins are and no matter how much God deserves to turn his face from us, God sees every one of us and his heart goes out to us – even during this time of death.
But we also know from firsthand experience and even in our own lives, the ugly sin of doubt gets its foot in the door way too often, and we forget who our God is and what our God has done for us. Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead for a reason, and by this great miracle he gave a wonderful witness to the fact that he was the Son of God. The people said, “God has come to help his people.” And even more than just coming to help his people, we know that God sent his Son to save his people. Even though we were not there that day to witness this great miracle, through our eyes of faith we see it and can give a beautiful witness that God certainly has come to help and save his people – from sin, death and the power of the devil.