A Widow's Son Is Restored to Life
11 The following day He [Jesus] went into a city called Nain, and many of His disciples and a large crowd went with Him. 12 When He came near the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
14 Then He came and touched the coffin, and those who carried it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 He who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He gave him to his mother.
16 Fear came on everyone. And they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us!” and “God has visited His people!”17 This rumor of Him went throughout all Judea and the surrounding region.
Jesus walked from town to town, and village to village, He would often pass tombs (freshly white-washed with lime every spring, in time for the Passover festival, so that no one would accidentally touch them, and become unclean). Funerals were daily occurrences in those ancient times, when illness and accident often took people’s lives, not to mention the frequent executions Jews suffered at the hands of their Roman overseers. And yet, Jesus rarely raised the dead. Why do you think that is? You can see the enormous effect it had on the countryside.
Why did Jesus, on this day, and in this place, have compassion? Could it be because His own mother had been widowed, and He knew her hardship?
What must this have been like for the people in the funeral procession, for the onlookers?
What do you think the young man said when he came back to life? (“He who was dead sat up and began to speak.”)
And what do you make of Luke’s conclusion to this story, that Jesus gave the man to his mother? What other story from Jesus’ life does that remind you of? (Hint: read John 19:26-27)
The Gospel writers noted Jesus' particular attention to widows, and it may be there were many widowed women in Jesus' day. The Lord Jesus' special compassion and honor for widows came with a long history of God's own particular protective love for widows and orphans. If you were to do a word search with the word "widow" in the Old Testament, you would see, again and again, God presenting Himself as their champion, and promising dire consequences to those who did not take extra care of them.
Matthew recorded an occasion when the teachers of the Law came to Jesus with what they thought was a complex issue, designed to trip Jesus up. They told the story of a widow who was made to marry one brother after another, as each died leaving her childless. Who would be her husband in heaven? Jesus made quick work of their deceit. (You can read all about it in Matthew 22:23-33. The same story appears in Mark 12:18-27)
Mark told another story about how Jesus and His disciples were sitting in the temple courts one day when a widow came and dropped a couple of pennies into the offering box. Jesus must have seen the looks on their faces, betraying their disdain for such a small gift. The Lord set them straight--slamming the wealthy hypocrites who impoverished women like this widow. In His eyes, she had shown everyone up with the size of her sacrifice to God. It was, after all, all she had. She would go hungry that day so she could come to the temple and worship her Lord with an offering. (Mark 12:41-44)
Not surprisingly. it was Luke who recorded the most about Jesus' tenderness and protectiveness towards widows.
1. In Chapter 2, Luke talked about Anna, widowed as a young woman, who dedicated the rest of her life to God and work at His temple. She was a prophet who recognized Jesus as Messiah when He was only eight days old
2. He gave a transcript on Jesus' teaching about Elijah being sustained for three full years on the miraculous supply of a widow's oil and flour (Luke 4:26)
3. Today's story showed Jesus making the grief and loss of a widow His number one priority.
4. The example of persistent prayer Jesus held up as the gold standard for petitioning God came through a parable concerning a widow asking for justice. (Luke 18:1-8)
5. Luke also recorded Jesus' response to the teachers of Law, asking about who the widow of multiple husbands would be married to in heaven. (Luke 20:27-40)
6. And Luke strategically placed the story of the widow's offering (Luke 21:1-4) in succession after Jesus' discourse on taxes, marriage in heaven, Who the Messiah is, and, most significantly, a warning about the teachers of the Law themselves, saying,
46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:45-47)
You and I do well to continue in what the Lord asked of His people back in Moses' day,
"...bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)