Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of NAIN,
with a great crowd following him. A funeral procession was coming out as he
approached the village gate. The boy who had died was the only son of a
WIDOW, and many mourners from the village were with her. When the Lord
saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. "Don't cry!" he said. Then he
walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. "Young
man," he said, "get up." Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk to those
around him! And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Great fear swept the
crowd, and they praised God, saying, "A mighty prophet has risen among us,"
and "We have seen the hand of God at work today." Luke 7:11-16
On one of the descending slopes of Mount Tabor, in the
great plain of Esdraelon--the golden granary of Palestine, and the
battle-field of the older Hebrew history--the traveler still discovers the
ruins of the city of NAIN. It is invested with imperishable interest from
the one solitary but touching event with which its name is associated in
On the day after the cure had been performed on the
centurion's servant, Jesus and His disciples, along with "a great crowd,"
took this journey of twelve miles from the city of Capernaum; and as the
shadows of evening were beginning to fall, they found themselves approaching
the village by its one entrance on the slopes of the wooded mountain. Jewish
cemeteries were always situated outside the walls of their towns, and the
time of burial was at sunset. The coffin was carried on the shoulders, with
the face exposed, until they came to the place of sepulture. Here the lid
was nailed on the coffin, and the funeral rites were completed.
Funerals, even to the most hardened, are affecting
spectacles. None can fail to be solemnized as the mournful procession wends
along the highway, or the street of the crowded city. But we often think,
how little unconscious wayfarers can gauge the unknown depths of many such
sorrows, or measure the yawning chasms in the hearts of those who are thus,
in speechless and pensive silence, passing by.
The words of the sacred narrative touchingly describe to
us such a burial scene. A funeral was seen emerging from the gate of Nain as
the sun was setting. Bitter sobs and heart-rending weeping from the midst of
the crowd, arrest the ear of Him whose mission it was to heal the
brokenhearted. There was everything to aggravate the pangs of that lacerated
heart, and make it to her the sorest of trials. The whole village had turned
out to sympathize with her. "A large crowd from the town was with her."
But, in the deep agony of her grief, she stood alone. These tears of
hers were not of yesterday. She could once tell of a happy home! The world
to her had once been all sunshine, its future stored with happiness. The
richness and exuberance of outer nature in her Hebrew hamlet, its summer
fruits and purple clusters, had its reflection and counterpart in her own
joyous heart--itself a garner of cherished blessings. But her first, and as
she supposed, her most desolating blow came! The smile of joy was all at
once exchanged for the tear of bereavement. The desire of her eyes was taken
away with a stroke. A thousand fond hopes and cherished schemes vanished in
the twinkling of an eye, and were buried in that grave. She was left
solitary, to toil on her pilgrimage path--"she was a widow."
But in seasons of saddest trial, God often gives
supporting solaces. When His children have to sing of "judgment," they can
often sing of "mercy" too. (Ps. 101:1.) This poor woman's lot was hard
indeed. But amid her fast-flowing tears, there was one object still
surviving, around whom her heart-strings were fondly entwined. The partner
of her joys was gone; but he had left behind him a sacred legacy of
affection! One little child remained, to cheer the lonely hearth of the
widowed parent. Often, doubtless, did she clasp the treasured gift to her
bosom; and as she dropped the silent tear over his cradle, or watched the
innocent glee of childhood, as he played by her side, would she love to
trace in his countenance the image of him who had died! If the past was
bitter, the future would have been darker, sadder still, but for this
precious link that still bound her to life. Often, in her solitary moments,
would she weave visions of happiness around the coming years of her boy,
saying, with Lamech, "This same shall comfort us." In him every ulterior
plan is wrapped up and concentrated; and the last thought, associated with
life's close, is that of his hands closing her eyes, performing to her the
final offices of affection, and bearing her to "the house appointed for all
Ah! how often are we brought to learn that our chief
blessings may be taken away just when we most need them! When was Jonah's
gourd smitten and withered? not when the evening breeze was fanning his
brow, but "in the morning when the sun rose," and the suffocating
heat beat on his fevered head! When was Lazarus of Bethany taken away? just
when his sisters--when his Lord--when the Church--seemed as if they could
least spare him!
One day, a sudden sickness prostrates the widow's son on
a couch of languishing. There may have seemed at first no cause for anxiety.
It is but a passing cloud--no gloomy vision of anticipated evil dare cross
for a moment that doating heart. Soon the young pulse and buoyant frame will
be as vigorous as ever.
Alas! the tale is soon told--that house is darkened with
the shadows of death--the last glimmering light, in that desolate heart and
dwelling, is put out. He, who had just risen to the pride of manhood, and
who, we may infer from the crowds which followed him to the grave, was all
that a fond parent could wish him to be, lies lifeless in his chamber--his
sun has "gone down while it is yet day."
We can imagine (though we cannot attempt to describe) the
succession of bitter hours the bereaved mother must have spent, previous to
the time at which the sacred narrative reveals her first to view at the gate
of her native town--the sorrowful night-watchings by the tossed and
sleepless couch; the dread anxieties of suspense vibrating alternately
between hope and fear--the glad symptoms of revival; but these again, only
succeeded by the too faithful premonitions of approaching dissolution. And
then, when all was over--when left to herself to brood over the dream of
bygone bliss, and the wrecks of her happiness scattered around
her--realizing the bitterness of that which, in her land, and in all hearts,
has passed into a proverb--the loss of "an only son." While the sympathy of
neighbors and friends, each having some kindly word to speak of her boy,
unsealed the well-springs of her affection anew, and brought fresh warm
tear-drops to her cheek.
And now, the tramp of the mournful crowd is heard
pacing along the streets! In another brief hour, she will have to retrace
her steps to an empty household, leaving the prop of her earthly existence
laid low amid the clods of the valley.
They have reached the gate of the city--they have crossed
its threshold. The gloomy walls of the cemetery may be already in view.
But the Lord of life, and the Abolisher of death is approaching! There
was only ONE in the wide world who could dry that widow's tears, and give
her back her "loved and lost." That ONE is in sight!
Jesus and His disciples are seen approaching from the
opposite direction. To all appearance, it is but a motley group of wayfarers
coming along the Capernaum highway, weary and worn and dust-covered, after
the heat of a sultry summer's day. But, in the midst of them, there is a
voice which can speak in tones of mingled authority and tenderness--"Leave
your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let your widows
trust in me."
JESUS approaches! He needed no interpreter of the scene
of sorrow--no messenger to carry the tidings of the loss sustained by that
mother in Israel. "He needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew
what was in man." Before He left, that morning, the shores of Gennesaret,
well He knew, as the omniscient God, all the peculiarities in that case of
severe trial. He had marked every throb of that breaking heart. He had
predetermined and prearranged the apparently accidental meeting at the
village gate. And now, at the appointed moment, the dead man is carried in
his coffin, as the Lord of the dead and the living draws near.
We need not dwell on the sequel. In other cases, the
Savior's intervention and healing power are importunately solicited. There
is a singular exception in the present instance. No voice pleads with Him to
perform the miracle. The crowd are silent. The mourning widow is too deeply
absorbed in her own grief to observe the presence of the Prophet of
Nazareth. Besides, notwithstanding His other miraculous deeds, He had never
yet raised the dead; so that even if she had known, or perhaps personally
witnessed His ability to heal the sick and cure the diseased, she would
never imagine He had power to reverse the irrevocable sentence, and unlock
those gates of death, which, for nine hundred years (since the time of
Elisha) had been closed to all miracle.
Without parade or ostentation, the divine Redeemer enters
amid the crowd. But observe, it is to whisper, in the first instance, in the
ear which most needed it, the balm-word of comfort, "Weep not." And
even when the word of power is about to be uttered (that word which is to
summon back a soul from the spirit-land) all is done in unobtrusive silence.
In silence He touches the coffin--in silence He beckons to the
bearers to stand still; and, as the two meeting crowds have now mingled into
one--amid the same hush of impressive silence, He sounds the omnipotent
summons over the sheeted dead--"YOUNG MAN, ARISE!" Life's pulses begin again
mysteriously to beat--a well-known voice again meet a mother's ears. Oh, who
would mar the touching simplicity of the inspired narrative, by endeavoring
to depict the burning tears of wonder, and love, and praise, which roll down
these sorrowful, furrowed cheeks, as, in the simple words of the text,
"they delivered him to his mother!"
We have heard of the joy occasioned by the sudden
appearance of the sailor-boy in his native cottage, many a long year after
she who had loved him best had thought of nothing but of her child in a
watery grave, the wrecks of his vessel tossed on distant shores. We have
heard of the soldier returning to his long-lost home, when his children were
used to talk of their father's grave in the far East, with the palm trees
and lush grass waving above it; and we may imagine the joy when the sad
dream of years was reversed, and he stood alive before them, locking them by
turns in his embrace. What must have been the joy of this Hebrew mother,
when the new lease of a prized existence was granted by a gracious Savior;
and, as she returned, holding that hand she had never thought to clasp again
on earth, exclaiming--"This my son was dead, and is alive again! he was
lost, and is found!"
Let us gather a few practical truths and reflections from
this suggestive narrative.
I. We have here AN ATTESTATION TO THE SAVIOR'S
We have other examples in Scripture of individuals raised
from the dead. We have Elijah, at Sarepta, raising another widow's
son--Elisha raising the son of the Shunamite--Peter raising the young woman,
Tabitha. But all these cases were effected permissively, by mere delegated
power. These holy men stormed death in his iron stronghold; but it was not
with their own weapons. Their language was either "Thus says the Lord,"
or else, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth," (Acts 3:6).
They disowned and repudiated the thought of any of their own inherent
ability over life--any usurpation of the Divine prerogative. They
acted only as servants. But here, there is no acknowledgment
of derivative power. "As a son over His own house," Christ gives
forth the mandate of uncontrolled Omnipotence, "Young man, I say
O blessed assurance! that that Being to whom I owe every
blessing I enjoy--every hope for time and for eternity--who was nailed for
me on the bitter cross, and for me, closed His eyes in a sleep of death,
that He had infinite Godhead in mysterious union with suffering, sorrowing,
woe-worn, death-stricken humanity; and, now that He is upon the throne, and
"all power is committed to Him both in heaven and in earth," that nothing
can resist His commands, nothing baffle His commands and purposes. There is
no evil but His power can ward off, there is no calamity but He can avert,
if He pleases. The "I SAY UNTO YOU," He uttered over the coffin at Nain, is
His omnipotent formula FOR all times and AT all times. He speaks, and
it is done!"
II. Let us learn THE TENDERNESS AND COMPASSION OF
CHRIST AS MAN.
It is striking to observe in the more prominent events of
our Lord's public ministry, how the manifestations of His Manhood and
Godhead go together. There is generally a joint exhibition of majesty and
tenderness; proclaiming that, while He is God, He is yet "a brother"--while
a brother, He is yet "God."
It is the case here. We have just marked the unmistakable
proofs, that He who arrests that weeping crowd is indeed Divine!
Omniscience brought Him there--the act of omnipotence
demonstrates His deity in the eyes of the beholders.
But He is more than this. His look of compassion--His
tear of sympathy--proclaim that, in that same bosom where resides the might
of Godhead, there beats also all the tenderness of human affection. Observe,
it was the sight of woe (the contemplation of human misery) which stirred to
its depths that Heart of hearts. It would seem as if He could not look on
human grief without that grief becoming His own. In the similar case of
Lazarus, it was not the bitter thought of a lost and dead friend, which
unsealed the fountain of His own tears. This it could not be; for, four days
previously, He had spoken, in calm composure, of that departure; and when He
stood in the graveyard, He knew that, in a few moments, the victim of death
would have his eyes rekindled with living luster. At Bethany, (as here at
Nain,) it was simply the spectacle of human suffering that made its
irresistible appeal to His emotional nature. The Rod of human compassion
touched the Rock of Ages, and the streams of tenderness gushed forth.
"When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews weeping which came with
her--JESUS WEPT." "When the Lord saw" this poor widow--"He had
compassion on her." He hears her bitter, heart-rending weeping in the
midst of the mourners; and, as we already noted--for it is worthy of
observation--utters the soothing, sympathetic word, before He utters the
Nor should we overlook the fact, that it was but a
word He uttered. This reveals an exquisite and touching feature in the
Savior's humanity. It attests how intensely delicate and sensitive, as well
as true, that humanity was. When we meet a mourner, after a severe trial, we
shrink from the meeting; glad, perhaps, when the sad and dreaded call of
courtesy is over. There is a studied reserve in making a reference to the
departed one--or, if that reference is made, it is short--in a passing word.
The press of the hand often expresses what the lips shrink from uttering. In
that touching picture we have of patriarchal grief, Job's friends and
mourners sat for seven days at his side, and not a syllable was spoken. It
was so here with Jesus. He (even He) does not intrude with a long utterance
of sympathy. There is no lengthened and commonplace condolence. With a tear
in His eye, and a suppressed sob, all He says is, "Weep not."
It was the same, afterwards, with Mary at Bethany. There
was not even the one word--nothing but the significant TEARS.
Behold, then, the beautiful and touching sympathy of a
fellow-mourner--"the Brother born for adversity." "When the Lord saw her,
his heart overflowed with compassion." We have seen that that
weeping, forlorn woman, had no lack of other sorrowing friends. Her case
seemed to be a matter of notoriety. Many went out to mingle their tears with
hers. But the sympathy of all these could only go a certain way. They could
not be expected to enter into the peculiarities of her woe. Human sympathy
is, at best, imperfect; sometimes selfish, always finite and temporary. Not
so the sympathy of Him who had just joined the funeral procession. He could
say, as none else can, "I know your sorrows," (Exod. 3:7).
The sympathy of the kindest friend on earth knows a
limit--Jesus' sympathy knows none. Who knows but, in that gentle utterance
of tender feeling, and in the deep compassion which dictated it, the Son of
Man, the One born of the Virgin, may have had in view another "Mother,"
whose hour of similar bereavement was now at hand; when His own death
was to be "the sword" which was to "pierce her soul" (Luke 2.)
"Weep not"--that is often an unkind arrest put by man
on the sacredness of human sorrow, as if it were unworthy to weep tears
which Christ wept before us. But He (the Great Savior) who came to dry more
fearful floods of sorrow, could, in His compassionate tenderness, speak His
own calming word. That hour was a token and foreshadow of a happier time,
when, in a sorrowless world, "God shall wipe away all TEARS from off all
Oh that in all our seasons of trial, we could appropriate
this fellow-feeling of the Prince of Sufferers--that divine compassion, in
comparison with which, the tenderest and best human sympathy is but as dust
in the balance! Whatever may be your present experiences of sorrow--loss of
health--loss of wealth--the unkindness or treachery of trusted
friends--remember, the Savior and sympathizer of Nain, is still the same! He
had compassion--He has compassion still. He who stopped the
coffin, on that summer's night, in the plains of Jezreel, still lives, and
loves, and supports, and pities; and will continue to pity, until
pity be no longer needed, in a world of light and love--of purity and peace.
III. Let us, from this, as from other similar
narratives, recall SIN AS THE CAUSE OF DEATH. It is sin which has
caused weeping eyes, funeral processions, widowed and bereft hearts.
There is a sadder death than the death of the body--there
is a deeper compassion, which this Savior of love feels over lost souls.
He is ever stooping over His world, and marking this one and that one--borne
on to their spiritual grave--"dead in trespasses and sins." He is standing,
even now at the gate of the heavenly city, as He did of old at the gate of
Nain, calling upon such--"Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give you life." "I am the resurrection and the life--he
that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." His
ministers, His ambassadors, are called to fulfill a mission to the
dead--"He said unto me," said Ezekiel, "Prophesy upon these dry
bones, and say unto them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!"
Remember, His calling time, and your awaking time, shall soon be past. In
the might of the great Restorer, then, rise from your coffin of sin, and
walk in newness of life--so that when the hour of resurrection overtakes
you, and, with the buried millions of the globe, you shall "hear the voice
of the Son of God," it may be with joy to obey the summons, "Awake and
sing, you that dwell in dust."
IV. The narrative before us is full of COMFORT TO
THE TRIED AND BEREAVED.
"DO NOT WEEP!" He does not mean, by uttering that word,
to put an unkind arrest on tears--He seems by it rather to say--"Do not shed
tears by mistake. If you knew all the design and purpose I have in that
bitter sorrow--that aching trial--you would chase these tears away. Give
expression to no hasty surmises with regard to my doings."
Look at the scene here described. We read that those
present at the funeral the attendant crowd of mourners and
spectators--"glorified God." Yes, and could we rend these heavens and ascend
up amid the heavenly worshipers--who knows but perchance we might see
there two glorified forms bending over the memories of that sunset hour
at Nain--the Widow and her Son--telling, with tearless eyes, that it was
that death-scene which had led them to their thrones and crowns!
God is ever saying to us, "Trust me in the dark"--there
shall yet be a revelation of mercy and love in these mysterious trials! That
"Weep not" of Nain, was intended to carry its message of solace and
comfort to the myriad hearts of all time, crushed with their ever-varying
sorrows--and more especially to those bearing their most cherished treasures
to the custody of the tomb. He would proclaim to us, even now, that He has
"power over death"--that the King of terrors must bow to the scepter of the
King of kings. He prepares His whole Church, in this miracle, for singing
the prophetic song--"O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your
victory?" He gives to the world a pledge of the summons which will one
day be addressed to its slumbering myriads--"Arise!" when "all
that are in their graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth."
Nor, once more, is the simple statement here made with
reference to the young man, without its inferential meaning, "Jesus gave
him back to his mother." Jesus rested not with the mere summons to life;
nor with beholding the young man raising himself up on his coffin, and
giving utterance to articulate sounds; but He takes him by the hand, and
places it in that of his rejoicing parent! His first act, on raising him, is
to restore him to the heart that mourned him, and to permit them to resume
together their old joyous communion.
It is indeed a mere inference, or reflection, suggested
by the passage, but borne out by many more decided Scripture references. May
it not, however, lead us to cherish the joyful and delightful prospect, at
the resurrection of a reunion with those we have loved; that those
tender affections, nurtured and hallowed on earth, shall only be for a time
interrupted by death, to be resumed in better and brighter worlds--where the
pang of bereavement, and orphanage, and widowhood, shall no longer be either
felt or feared! The great "ARISE!" which shall startle the sleeping dead,
(the sleepers in Jesus,) shall be followed by personal recognitions, sacred
reunions--the old smiles of earth lighting up the countenance--the voice,
with its old familiar tones, tuned and prepared for nobler services and
Meanwhile, let the bereaved and sorrowful bow with a calm
unmurmuring submission to the will of God--rejoicing in the present
possession of the compassion of Jesus, and looking forward, with triumphant
hearts, to that cloudless morning when "the sun" of earthly
prosperity shall "no more go down, neither shall the moon withdraw
itself"--but when (reunited to death-divided friends, and with no tear
to dim their eyes) "the Lord shall be their everlasting light, and the
days of their mourning shall be ended."