11 Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. 12 Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” 17 This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.
Nain (modern Nein) is southwest of the Sea of Galilee and about 2 miles from Mount Tabor. Jesus was, as customary by this time, followed by a large crowd both of disciples, followers, and people who probably came out from the surrounding villages and Nain to hear Him.
On the way in, they come to a funeral procession.
Death is a curse. It is the painful and seemingly final removal of someone we care about from our lives. It follows us all of our lives, waiting like a predator to take us when we least expect it, and sometimes it takes us slowly, dragging us through years of agony.
It is something that defines our humanity. We live life with the knowledge that it is only temporary. That any of us can be snatched away in a moment or a heartbeat.
It robs us of security. Robs of us of our loved ones. Robs us of peace.
And there is no escape from it. As Genesis records God’s words to Adam, “You will surely die.”
This funeral was worse than most. This one saw a parent burying her only child. Death had already taken her husband. In that culture, women did not typically work trades, and it was the responsibility of her husband first to provide for her, and when he passed, that responsibility would have fallen to her son. Now not only had this widow seen the man she had loved taken from her, she lives to see a very awful miserable day when her only son, whom she bore, who provided for her (and any living, unmarried sisters), passes away as well.
So we can only imagine the sort of sorrow and fear she felt now. Bereft of loved ones and alone.
Jesus meets her as He is coming into the city and she is coming out to bury her son. Perhaps He thinks of His own mother, Mary, and the sorrow she will endure. Perhaps He thinks of the countless parents who have buried their children throughout history, the widow or widower who had to look at the grave of their beloved partner, the cries of all of humanity suffering under Death’s sting.
The Son of God is moved with compassion at our plight. It was the reason why He came. He came to end sin and make an end to Death. And He planned to share His everlasting life with us.
So He gives us hope here. He gives the crowd a testament that Death is subject to the Prince of Life. Death would have no power over Him or us that He does not allow, and even those that pass through it will be raised by Him, because He overcame it.
Jesus tells the woman not to cry, stops the funeral procession and (like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter) addresses the dead man directly. Get up.
The man, quickened by Christ, sits up and begins to talk. While the crowd is stunned and awestruck, Jesus helps the man down off of his funeral bier and gives him back to the widow.
There is hope. He is Hope.
The people begin to glorify God, hailing Jesus as a great prophet. And news of the miracle begins to spread throughout Judea.
There is hope in the midst of our suffering. There is One who can save from death. There is One who gives life.