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Jesus the Redeemer from sin and the grave would be fully shown to the hearts of the mother and the son.
But the crowds without! What wonder, what amazement filled their minds! Fear had come upon them all, and they all glorified God for what had been done. All clearly saw that His power only could have raised the dead; but there were two opinions among them. Some said, "a great prophet is risen up among us," others said, "God hath visited his people." We shall do well to examine these two opinions, for there are still some who look upon the Lord Jesus only as "a great prophet." We believe that He is "God who hath visited His people." Let us look back to the history of the prophets and see whether the greatest among them ever raised the dead by his own power, or in his own name. They did raise the dead, but how? Elijah, the greatest of the prophets-for he was himself taken up alive into heaven-raised from the dead the only son of a widow, and this was the manner in which the miracle was done. "He laid him upon his own bed, and he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon this poor widow, with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came again into him, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and he delivered him unto his mother and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth." (1 Kings xvii. 19-23.) How like the circumstances of this miracle are to those we have just read, of the raising to life the son of the widow at the gates of Nain; yet how striking is the difference between the prophet's prayer to God that He would hear his petition that the soul of the child might come into him again, and the command of the Lord Jesus, in one single word, "Arise." Who does not see
the difference between the servant's and the Master's tone? Does not Elijah speak as the prophet? and does not Jesus speak as God?
MATTHEW XI. 2-6. LUKE VII. 16 −22.
At the gate of Nain two crowds had met. One from Capernaum-for when Jesus left it "many of His disciples went with Him, and much people,”—and one from Nain itself, for when the son of the widow was carried to his burrial, ❝much people of the city was with her." In the midst of these two crowds the dead man was raised to life, and all saw it, and all wondering, glorified God. Each man carried to his home the story of this miracle, which with his eyes he had seen. All through the country spread the report
LUKE vii. 16, 17. "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 Judea, and throughout all the region round about."
Still stronger grew the hope among the people, that Jesus was indeed the long-expected Messiah.
The fame of this last and greatest miracle reached the faroff prison in which John the Baptist was confined.*
John had been now nearly a year in prison. It is not likely his own faith in Jesus as the Messiah should have failed him, but it is very likely that he found it hard to convince his followers that their master could have been allowed to languish in prison, if Christ, the King of Israel, had really come. If
* In Macherus, a fortress on the borders, between the dominions of Herod and of Aretas, king of Arabia. See Whiston's Josephus, book XVIII. sect. IV.
Jesus were the Messiah, surely He had power to deliver John out of the hands of the tyrant Herod! If He really were the long-promised King, why did He not at once take upon himself his kingdom, and set his people free from all who oppressed and afflicted them? John himself may have been perplexed by the seeming delay, or he may have wished before his own death to attach those men who had followed him, to Jesus, by sending them to him to receive from himself the proof that He really was the long-expected Messiah. It is written
LUKE Vii. 18.
"And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things." MATTHEW Xi. 2.
When John had heard in prison the
works of Christ,' LUKE Vii. 19. Calling unto him two of his disciples, (he) sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou He that should come?—or look we for another?"
These messengers from John would have been glad to have found Jesus, as an earthly king, in his court filled with the rich and the noble, or at the head of his armies, fighting against the enemies of Israel.
They did find him surrounded by his court indeed, but it was a crowd of the sick, the poor, and the miserable. They did find him warring and conquering too, but the enemies against whom He fought were Satan and his evil spirits. The distresses from which He delivered his people were all those sad diseases, that long train of troubles that sin has brought into the world.
20-23. "When the men (John's disciples) were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou He that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many
that were blind He gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."
All that the prophets had spoken of the Messiah, John's disciples now saw fulfilled by Christ, before their eyes, and He bade them go, and tell their master, by these signs to know assuredly that He who should come was come, and that to look for another would be wilfully to shut their eyes upon the truth. John had seen the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus as a dove, when he baptized Him in the river Jordan, and by that sign had known and declared Him to be the Messiah, the Holy One of God. And now, that his disciples saw, by the wonders Jesus did, that He was indeed mightier than their master John, who did no miracle, they must not be offended, but rather remember John's own words, when he had told them that his joy was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, whose fame must increase while his decreased. (John iii. 29, 30.)
They must now return to him, and tell him all that they had seen and heard. Then would he indeed rejoice to show them how every word the old prophets had spoken of the Messiah was fast fulfilling. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked, the dead were raised, devils were cast out from the poor wretches they had tormented; and, to the poor, the gospel -the good news of salvation-was preached. The new kingdom was begun, and blessed should they be who should not be offended in that the Messiah's reign was to be, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." * Blessed would they be if they could see and feel how much better these things were than earthly pomp and greatness.
* See the song of the Angels at the birth of Christ. Luke ii. 14.
Blessed indeed, for, as John had told them at the beginning of the ministry of Christ, they should receive from him the baptism of the Holy Ghost. (Mark i. 8.)
Now, can we learn any thing from this message of John, and from the answer given by the Lord Jesus to his disciples? Yes, we may learn much; for the Christian is often placed, in the circumstances of his life, as John was in his far-off prison. The Baptist John had known Jesus; he had seen him face to face, he had been taught by God that He was indeed " He that should come," and that it was useless to look for any other Saviour. But though he knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God, who should take away the sin of the world, the beloved Son in whom God was well pleased, (John i. 29. Matt. iii. 17.) who should (in the end) gather His wheat (that is, His own people) into His garner (heaven) and burn up the chaff (or all wicked people) with unquenchable fire; though he knew, and expected, that Jesus should be preferred before him, and that his own power and influence should grow less, he now needed to have his faith and trust strengthened by Jesus himself. He was greatly tried. From his birth he had been bred up in the wilderness. Among rocks and mountains, on the banks of Jordan, as a child, as a youth, as a man, his life had been passed. The wilderness had been his home; the wild fruits his food, his raiment was of camel's hair; and by him God had spoken to the people. He had been a voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight; (Matt. iii. 3.) and all from Jerusalem had gone out unto him, and all Judea, and from the region round about Jordan, and he had baptized them in the river Jordan. There could not be a life more full of happiness to this man of God; it was strengthening to his body, it was cheering to his mind, and his spirit must have rejoiced amidst these desert scenes, over the thousands who came to him to hear the glad tidings, "that the kingdom of God was at hand."