11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. 18 John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them,
Jesus, with a crowd following, listening, yearning for salvation from the rule of the Romans, travels toward a town called Nain, meaning pleasant or green pastures. This day was not looking so pleasant for a mourning mom who had just lost her one and only son. This mom had even more to be concerned about, as she was also a widow. In Bible times, this would have been an incredibly bad situation for a woman. A woman alone was fairly worthless in that society. A woman needed a man, father, husband, son, to provide for her, to give her a voice and status in the community. This woman had lost her husband and now her only son, her hope.
The passage says nothing about daughters and I know that I am guilty of assuming that the dead man was her only child...but what if he was not? What if she had daughters to care for? to feed, to clothe, to build up dowries for? Would she have to sell them? Send them out to prostitute themselves? Go out to prostitute herself so that they would have a roof over their heads or food enough to eat? What other option might there be for her? The religious rulers of the day were not even caring for their parents as God had commanded them (Mark 7:11-13), how could she expect them to provide for her?
This is the woman Jesus sees. A woman crushed, wrung out, limp; no hope for the future; the joy of her youth dead and decaying; the only reminder of a beloved husband still and lifeless. No hope...and Jesus sees her. He sees her pain, her suffering, her hopelessness and "his heart went out to her" or "his heart overflowed with compassion" (NLT). Jesus is the walking, talking, fleshed out heart of our God...and his is a heart that over flows with compassion for His creation. He sees our pain, the very deepest, darkest hidden corners of it and it makes his big, God heart ache with sorrow. He sees our hopelessness...and knows that there is hope. He is our hope, just as He was this widow's hope...not her son, but Jesus.
...and he says, "Don't cry." Now, the Bible doesn't say whether this widow had heard of Him or knew what He looked like or even that He was on His way. She was wrapped up in her world of mourning. When I worked in Children's Emergency, a young man was brought into our department, CPR in progress. He had been playing basketball with his school team..and his heart stopped. His anxious parents arrived soon after he did and we found out that our young patient was a good student, played sports, was completely healthy...their only child, born to them later in life...and now, suddenly, he was dying. How would those parents have reacted if I walked up to them and said, "don't cry"? Just like this widow, would resentment, anger, fear, shock have risen from the brokenness of their hearts? Would they have called me crazy if I acted as Jesus did, walking over to touch where the child lay and saying "Young man, I say to you, get up!" I know that my coworkers would have looked at me like I was crazy...maybe even called for security, but would they have done so if it was Jesus in the room? Just maybe, though, just maybe the heart of this widow recognized Jesus for who He was.
Do human hearts recognize the true personhood of Jesus? Does pain and anguish give us a clearer view of who He is? For myself, I know that it makes me look a whole lot harder for Him. It makes me yell and cry and stamp my little human foot, shake my tiny human fist, yet I cannot get away from the promises that He has poured out in His Word. No matter how bad things get, He does not change and His promises never fail.
...and the dead man sat up and began to speak...
The first resurrection from death since the days of Elisha. No wonder the people began to speak of Jesus as a prophet. Elijah and Elisha had each raised an only son from death to return him to the arms of a sorrowing mama. These people accompanying the woman, whether family or hired mourners, did not understand who it was that stood before them, returning a now living child to his more than grateful mom.
No matter who they thought it was, the news began to spread like wildfire throughout the land of Jesus' power over death. Prophet or Messiah?? Could they dare to hope the latter had finally arrived? May our hearts be open to the truth...may we see the Hand of God...the compassion of Jesus' heart in our everyday lives.