June 2007 - Vol. 9

The widow´s son at Nain rising to life - by William Hole

Restored to Life:
The Raising of the Widow's Son by Jesus

by Jeanne Kun

Jesus meets tragic loss with compassion
As Jesus and his followers approached Nain, a town lying to the southwest of the Sea of Galilee, they met a procession of mourners accompanying a widow who was about to bury her only son. Shortly before, Jesus had healed a man so ill that he had been about to die (Luke 7:2-10). Now, in a scene charged with dramatic intensity, the Lord—the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15)—encountered a man already dead and showed his power over death.

Jesus was moved with compassion at the sight of the weeping mother. Esplanchnisthe, the Greek expression Luke used to describe Jesus’ feeling, means “to be filled with heartfelt mercy,” “to have mercy from one's inner core.” Jesus’ heart went out to the woman in her painful loss, and he recognized the hardship of her situation, as well. Without husband and son, she had no male protector and provider, no economic security. Without any means of earning a living, she would be solely dependent on the charity of others. Seeing her grief and need, Jesus immediately acted on her behalf.

Death submitted to Jesus' authority
Since burying the dead was a meritorious work of mercy (Tobit 1:17; Sirach 38:16-17), friends and neighbors of the woman and her son, townspeople, and perhaps even hired mourners and musicians would have been part of the funeral procession. Jesus halted the procession by touching the bier, and probably signaled to the bearers to set the bier down. Then, taking everyone by surprise, he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” (Luke 7:14). The words Jesus spoke were a command addressed directly to the corpse, not a prayer for the deceased addressed to God. At this command, the dead man sat up and spoke (7:15). Just as sickness, the forces of nature, and Satan had submitted to Jesus' authority on so many other occasions, death now submitted, too.

Faith was not required of anyone for this miracle—no one had asked or expected Jesus to raise the young man—but the miracle inspired faith. Those who witnessed the dead man's restoration 
glorified God and hailed Jesus as a great prophet through whom God was acting (Luke 7:16).

A sign of the advent of the messianic age 
The raising of the young man of Nain was a sign of the advent of the messianic age and pointed to Jesus as “the one who is to come” (Luke 7:19). This miraculous event anticipated Jesus' reply to the messengers sent by John the Baptist to inquire about his identity: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” (7:22; see also Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6). Jesus’ miracle was prefigured in the Old Testament account of Elijah’s restoring the son of the widow of Zarephath to life (1 Kings 17:17-24; see also Luke 4:26). Yet whereas Elijah was a great prophet who prayed to God to revive the child, Jesus restored the young man's life himself—because he is the Lord of creation, Author of life, and Messiah.

An epiphany of the glory of Jesus
Finally, the miracle in Nain points to Jesus’ ultimate victory over death and is “an epiphany of the glory of Jesus that will be fully manifested in his own resurrection” (Rene Latourelle, The Miracles of Jesus and the Theology of Miracles). Jesus restored life to the widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17), Lazarus (John 11:38-44), and Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25; Mark 5:35-42; Luke 8:49-55)—but that life, though renewed, was still mortal, and each of those people would die again. Jesus’ own rising from the dead was a resurrection to true immortality. And in the final resurrection, when “this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54), we will live with him for all eternity.

[Jeanne Kun is a noted author and a senior woman leader in the Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. This article is excerpted from Mighty in Power: The Miracles of Jesus by Jeanne Kun (Copyright © 2004 by The Word Among Us Press). Used with permission. This book can be purchased from The Word Among Us Press.]

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