We are standing at the gate of Nain. A casket is being borne through the streets with the corpse of a young man, the only son of his mother, and she a widow. Suddenly the mourners are interrupted by a man who hurries forward, gesticulating wildly. “Here, let me deal with the dead,” he cries “I can bring him back to life.” Instantly the procession halts, and the bearers, with a mystified expression on their faces, gaze at the speaker as he elbows his way through the crowd. “All this man needs is education,” explains the interrupter, boldly approaching the casket in which lay the body of the departed. And out of his books of science and philosophy he attempts to instruct the young man lying in the casket at his feet.
But in vain he watches for a sign of returning life; there is no response. Education has failed. He forgets that birth and life precede education, that a man must be alive before he can be educated. Presently other approaches, declaring that he has the secret of· life. “All that this man requires,” he proclaims, “is a better environment. How can you expect to influence him under such unsanitary conditions?” And he points to the refuse and dirt on the ground. So he goes to work. The rubbish is cleared away and beautiful flowers artistically arranged around the casket. But in vain he looks for the returning flush of life; the man is still a corpse. And Social Service has also failed.
Suddenly a third man appears, and, pushing the other two aside, insists that he can succeed. “Now, young man,” he begins, “makes up your mind that you are going to live. Exert your willpower. Brace yourself. You can get up if only you will.” And thus he appeals to him. “Come, young man,” he continues, now playing on his affections, “reform, and reform! See your poor, sorrowing, widowed mother. For her sake come back to life.” But there is no response, and at last he grows desperate. “Here, sign this pledge,” he exclaims, holding a small card before him. “I promise, God helping me, that I will never die again. But-he is dead, dead, dead! And reformation has failed.
Then there comes a pause. For a few moments no one moves. At last, however, a famous rabbi walks slowly towards the bier. “My friends,” he cries, “Do you know what this man needs? Religion! Though knowledge for the five books of Moses and the Talmud he will be revived.” And he sits down by the side of the bier. “Now,” declares the rabbi, “I will reveal to the young man the 613 precepts of the Law, for if he will keep them faithfully he will live again.” “But,” inquires one of the bystanders, “How can a corpse observe them since he cannot even hear your words?” “Ah, my son” exclaims the surprised rabbi, “I did not think of that.” And sadly he turns away, for religion also has failed.
Then from out of the crowd there steps the Figure of one who moves with perfect confidence and composure toward the scene of failure. A sudden hush falls on the expectant throng as He stands for a moment beside the bier. Will this one also fail? Does he know the secrets of life and death? Presently he speaks. His voice is calm but authoritative. “Young man, I say unto thee, arise!” Eagerly the people crowd around to see. Who is this? “I say!” “I”. What power is there behind that “I’? What manner of Man is this? Suddenly their questions are answered. The eyelids quiver, the flush returns to the cheek; the heart throbs once more, and the young man rises to his feet.
What had happened? Jesus had imparted life. The man was dead, and it was life he needed first and foremost, physical life. The Son of God knew that and gave it. So it is with you, my friend, for you too are dead, “dead in trespass and sins”. And you too need life. But the life that you need is not physical, but spiritual. And it too is in Christ, and it is the Greatest Gift Ever Offered.