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 gospel story.

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 living."

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.


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 unto you."

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!"


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 Godlike mandate.

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 faces."

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 loftier songs!

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."

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