Friday, May 9, 2014

Death Instead of Beauty (Luke 7:11)

Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. (Luke 7:11 NASB)

This is the only passage in Scripture in which the city of Nain is mentioned. Still present today, Nain (located in Northern Israel at the foot of a mountain) has decreased in population over the years and is now only a small village. At the time of Jesus, it was a thriving city. We can assume from the name that it was also a beautiful city, because the word Nain is translated as "beauty". 

Jesus headed to Nain, accompanied by quite an entourage. In addition to his apostles (the twelve) and many disciples (those who were disciples but not in the inner circle), there was  also a "large crowd".  The word used for large crowd is also translated as "multitude", so we can presume that this was, at the least, a crowd of hundreds. 

Understanding their arrival in Nain, this city called "Beauty", will help us to understand what comes next. When I think of a beautiful city, I imagine Paris in springtime. It is absolutely breathtaking in its beauty. Although the construction in Nain was admittedly different, it was as pleasing to the eye as Paris in the spring. 

Jesus had healed the centurion's servant remotely with a word. That was an amazing demonstration of faith and power, so the crowds must have been eager for more. Jesus and the apostles headed out on the road to Nain, about 20 miles away. As they went, more and more people joined and, by the time they reached the city of beauty, Nain, there was a large crowd, eager to see what Jesus would do next. 

As they approached the city gates, they met a funeral procession. Jesus came to "Beauty" and was greeted by death. How often that is true in our lives! In our beauty-obsessed culture, it is all too common to focus on being outwardly beautiful, but put no focus at all on inward beauty. Peter addressed this very topic in his first letter. 

"What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in." (1 Peter 3:3-4 MSG)

Peter was writing to the women of faith, but the same truth applies to men. What matters most is not found on the outside of us. When Jesus looks at us, with all our outward beauty, does He see that same beauty of spirit on the inside? It is a critical question, and one to which we should give first attention. 

Today, ask God to reveal (both to us and to our loved ones) our hearts as He sees them, and pray that we will allow Him to create in us a clean, beautiful heart that will be pleasing to Him.