Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” Luke 7: 11-16 NIV
In the last week two of my aunts passed away—neither from COVID. I know many reading this are also grieving the loss of friends or loved ones. My heart goes out to you. Death and fear of death has become forefront in our minds in 2020.
Unlike the passage, we cannot mourn in groups this year for fear of spreading the virus. So, much of our grieving is done in isolation. You may wonder at my focus on death in a countdown to Christmas post. But death is a real, undeniable, experience for all who live.
Jesus and his followers came upon a funeral procession.
Her only son, I can hear someone whisper into Jesus’ ear. Widowed ten years, another nudges his arm. Divine judgement, a voice from the crowd pronounces. Wailing can be heard behind them.
There’s an impression the widow did something to deserve such losses. But this is not Jesus’ view. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. The crowd, the procession, everything is lost to him, save the sight of the widow in her grief—and he’s filled with compassion. “Don’t cry!”
Jesus is not telling her not to grieve the loss of her son. He’s stepping into her sorrow. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.”
The writer doesn’t tell us how the crowd responds, but we know a Pharisee would never touch a coffin. What is this Jesus up to? Does he really think he can bring this boy back from the dead? He’s crazy! He’s unclean…
Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Can you imagine how the widow must’ve felt? Only moments before she was lost in hopelessness, heartbroken, struggling to breathe as her world crumbled around her. Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk. “Mama.” Light dawned! Hope rekindled! Life restored! Tears of joy replaced tears of sorrow.
Did Jesus laugh?
Great fear swept the crowd—but I’m sure great relief swept through the widow’s heart.
What was the response of Jesus’ disciples? Were they surprised or were their assumptions about Jesus the Messiah confirmed? The last person to raise a boy from the dead was Elisha. Someone greater than Elisha was here!
I love Jesus! I love the way he looks, feels, works. He is surely a good God, a loving Savior, a real superhero. Paul Miller in his book, Love Walked Among Us, says this—
Jesus’ eye is on the widow. He takes her son by the hand, helps him off the basket, and walks him over to his mother. He’s not thinking about himself and how he can benefit from this amazing display of power. He isn’t distracted by his own miracle—he remembers the person. He cares for both the son’s physical need and the mother’s emotional need. Jesus possess both tenderness and power. Usually tender people lack strength and strong people lack gentleness. But Jesus shows both goodness and strength.
When Jesus walked on the earth, he did not shy away from death. He moved toward those suffering loss with loving compassion. He healed, he brought life, he gave hope. He still does. This is my Lord. This is my Savior.
He was born on Christmas day!
Love Walked among Us: Learning to Love like Jesus, by Paul E. Miller, NavPress, 2014, p. 26.