The greatest biblical prophet Elijah performed a very similar miracle to the one Jesus does in this story. Most scholars think that Luke wanted people to make the connection between Jesus’ and Elijah’s miracle.
Soon afterward 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.” And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside.
Jesus healed a widow’s only son, and it’s no coincidence that the people praised God by stating that a great prophet had arisen, and that God had visited them that day. You see, in the history of the Jewish people, another great prophet called Elijah also healed the only son of a widow, and afterwards the widow made the claim that the prophet was from God. This healing was a sign that echoed back through the ages – a sign that pointed to who Jesus was. But this sign also pointed to the character of God.
Jesus didn’t heal the widow’s son simply as a demonstration of power. He felt her sadness and pain. In a word, he felt compassion. It was through this compassion that Jesus responded. I also wonder if Jesus was thinking about his own family. It appears from the gospel (good news) accounts of Jesus’ life that his father, Joseph, wasn’t around. Perhaps he too had died. And perhaps Jesus was seeing, in this widow, his own mother, who in just a few years time would be mourning the loss of him – her son, Jesus.
Jesus reached out to this woman, and Luke tells us that he also reached out and touched the plank the son was lying on – something that only the bearers would be allowed to touch. By doing this, Jesus crossed a social boundary to demonstrate his compassion.
God’s character is to have compassion and to reach out to the broken, marginalised, bereaved, hurting, sick, and troubled. And as we are God’s ambassadors and Jesus’ followers here on earth right now, we are to do the same.
Today, think of someone you know who needs a touch of God’s love. Like the widow in the story, they too might be bereaved. Let God fill you with his compassion for that person. Decide what you’ll do for them.
You were filled with compassion
when confronted by the death of a widow’s son.
Give me compassion for those that need your love;
the broken, marginalised, bereaved, sick, hurting and troubled.
Show me how I can make a difference to them;
that I may be your agent of love, generosity and welcome.
This day and forever.
How do we gain God’s compassion for people?
Why do you think the echoes with Elijah’s similar miracle were important for Jesus?