In the good-sized city of Capernaum, where Jesus was well-known, he healed a respected Roman military man’s servant without even entering the man’s home. Jesus marveled at this Gentile’s faith. Then for some unknown reason, Jesus led a huge group of people more than twenty miles away to a little town called Nain.
Nain was a small,
backwater sort of place.
It was south-east of Nazareth, not on the way to anywhere, not mentioned elsewhere in our Bible—a small, backwater sort of place. Nothing much usually happened in Nain. I imagine Jesus’ crowd doubled the population of the town. I imagine the merchants there rubbed their hands together when they saw so many people approaching while the mamas of the town let out a sigh of resignation.
Jesus didn’t even make it through the gates of Nain. A good portion of the town’s population was trudging out, led by some pallbearers and a weeping woman.
So Jesus’ crowd met this woman’s crowd. One group pursuing Life, the other chasing away death.
It was inevitable that the leaders of these two crowds would meet. She with nothing left—no husband, no children, no future, He with everything to offer—eternal life, living water, “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Story Break: Stop for a second to consider Jesus’ timing. In his entire public ministry, He only brought three people back from death. It wasn’t random for Him. Now He “just happened” to approach this out-of-the-way town as a funeral procession departed it. Not coincidence.
Jesus was the only one
who could offer more than
platitudes and a casserole.
Jesus took in the situation, felt sorry for the widow (Luke 7:13), and responded. He was the only One who could make a difference here…the only One who could offer more than platitudes and a casserole. He was the only one with hope.
Jesus intentionally approached the funeral bier (like a stretcher that could be carried) and touched it. If He had accidentally touched the body, He would have been ritually unclean. (He did touch Jairus’ daughter.) He knew that.
The pallbearers stopped when Jesus touched the bier. Can you imagine what they were thinking? Had they heard of Jesus? Even if they had, they wouldn’t know what He looked like. Random people didn’t just walk up and touch these things. At the same time, I imagine authority radiated from Jesus and they somehow knew He could make a difference. Cultural and spiritual shock: no wonder they stopped in their tracks.
Jesus said the most straightforward thing to the dead guy. There was no “umm…uh,” no hocus-pocus, no mumbling under His breath, no special waving of His hands. With just eight beginner-reading-level words (in English), Jesus reached across the great chasm of death (Luke 16:26) and drew this young man back to the earthly realm.
Story Break: Just wow. In Dwell, I’ve written extensively about Lazarus’ death and return, but still, contemplating this kind of power just floors me every time. It’s the power for which Anakin trades everything in Revenge of the Sith, the goal of Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, the claim of alchemists in the Middle Ages and the longing (I think) reflected in Day of the Dead celebrations. Jesus is no superhero, sorcerer, or séance medium. (Plus, most of these examples are fictional.) Yet only He wields such power.
And what about us? We’re not Jesus. While we can’t raise people from the dead, there are no special words we must utter to access the power of the Holy Spirit in us. We can talk to God with the same simple words we say to our friends (even the ugly words). Don’t let yourself get tongue-tied because you don’t know all the theological jargon or because you can’t quote Bible verses word for word. The most beautiful prayers are the simple, honest ones.
The young man sat up immediately—no dramatic pause, no shaking or convulsing. He started talking to Jesus, and before long, he climbed down off the funeral bier. Then Jesus walked him over to his mother.
The widow’s desperation compelled
Jesus to act on her behalf.
This woman didn’t ask for a miracle. She didn’t express her faith. As far as we know, she didn’t even know who Jesus was. But her desperate life compelled Jesus to act on her behalf. Jesus reached out to her. And that’s beautiful.
Maybe nothing much typically happened in Nain, but on this particular day, Jesus brought hope!
Do you have a story of Jesus’ hope when you felt desperate? We’d love to hear about it in the comments. Have another thought about this miracle from Luke? Share that too!