11 A little later Jesus went to a city called Nain. His disciples and a great crowd traveled with him. 12 As he approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When he saw her, the Lord had compassion for her and said, “Don’t cry.” 14 He stepped forward and touched the stretcher on which the dead man was being carried. Those carrying him stood still. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up.” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
16 Awestruck, everyone 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 region.
51 When he came to the house, he didn’t allow anyone to enter with him except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother.
“To lose a child is among the most painful of human experiences…. [As] the woman Jesus encountered in Nain… walked with her community in sorrow, Jesus had compassion for her. When he told her not to cry (7:13), he was not chastising her emotion but extending comfort and preparing her for the resurrection to come.”* Again, in chapter 8, Luke said as Jesus raised a dead child, he made sure the child’s mother as well as her father were present.
Lord Jesus, you said your actions gave us a preview of your eternal kingdom. How I long for the day when you will restore all lost children to their mothers’ loving arms, as you did in these stories! Amen.
* Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, “Portrait” note on “Widow from Nain” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2016, p. 1300.
When we think about the miracles of Jesus, I’m guessing the ones that stand out would be restoring sight to the blind, healing the leper, and causing the lame to walk again. All of those are front page newsworthy which would make any paper fly off the newsstand and flood social media. But, of course, the granddaddy of them all would be raising people from the dead, a story so phenomenal, so unbelievable, so outrageous, it would diminish the news of the royal baby birth back to a tiny paragraph on page 7.
These miracles of astonishing body-healing feats stand out. Even those who barely know anything about Jesus are probably aware of them. But today, we’re asked to set those aside for one moment to look at the miracle of the widowed mother. In Luke 7, we see one of the flashiest of miracles: bringing a young man back to life. In our awe of this wonder, we often miss the end of verse 12. “He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow.” In today’s world, we might give little significance to this sentence in the midst of the miraculous story, perhaps even dismiss it as an essential part. But in the time of the miracle, this sentence amplified what Jesus did that day in ways we will never comprehend.
It is hard for most of us to imagine the deep pain of losing a child. From what I understand, life stops, and it never starts up the same way ever again. There is always a piercing ache of loss, of what could have been, what should have been, of a tremendous love desiring to be poured out into one no longer here. This. Is. Unfathomable. The mother in our story was drenched in the acidic rain of sorrow. For those of you who have endured this storm, we pause to lift you up in prayer now.
Yet, on top of the pain of losing a child is another layer, a layer which doesn’t make sense to most of us living in the 21st century. This woman lived in a time when her worth was defined by her ability to have children, particularly male children. Sons helped run the family business, sons brought in income, and sons would take care of her when she was older. One might imagine her story prior to this moment of not being able to have other sons. We’re not even certain if she had other children. Or perhaps she had other sons whom she had also lost. We also know that she had already lost her husband, too. When this woman’s son died, she must have been overcome with the immediate sense of massive grief and faced with the fear of an uncertain future. In this moment, she lost everything.
Yet Jesus saw her. He saw her pain, her loss, her destitution. We recognize Jesus’ compassion on the young man whom he brought back to life. But not to be forgotten is his compassion on the widowed mother. He healed her lamenting soul and gave her a hope for the future. What he gave to the widowed mother was truly miraculous.
Whatever you are facing or will be facing, know that Jesus sees you. We may never witness a miracle of bringing life from the dead, but that does not mean we are unseen or that miracles aren’t happening in our midst. Just as the widowed mother’s story mattered to Jesus, you and your story matter, too. You are noticed. You are significant to our Savior. He sees your heart, he feels your pain, and he longs to be the light to break your darkness.
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