Summary: Jesus, who has power over life and death, has compassion on us, too, no matter what our situation in life. God has visited His people, and visits us still.
A VISITATION BY GOD, AND THE COMPASSION OF JESUS
It is interesting to compare this incident with that in the immediately preceding passage. In Luke 7:1-10 a Roman centurion pleaded with Jesus on behalf of his bondman, who otherwise had no voice, and no rights. The centurion, recognising his own lack of rights as an outsider to the people of God, addressed Jesus indirectly via teams of emissaries. It was a message of the deepest humility, the utmost faith, and the clearest understanding of the authority of Jesus. Jesus commended this outsider’s faith, and healed the centurion’s servant (Luke 7:9).
In Luke 7:11-17 there is no such appeal from the bereft widow, no sending of emissaries, no expressions of faith. In fact, the widow is silent throughout. However, there is a miraculous demonstration of the compassion of Jesus.
What an encouragement to us, not only to pray for those without a voice in society (widows and orphans, the stranger, the homeless, the disenfranchised, refugees, the poor, the destitute, the unborn – the list goes on and on): but also to pray for those who cannot, or even for those who will not pray for themselves.
A ‘procession of life’ was entering Nain that day, with “much people” thronging around Jesus and His disciples (Luke 7:11). For them it was perhaps beginning to dawn that Jesus is the only ‘living hope of a sure salvation’ (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5).
At the gate to the city they encountered a ‘procession of death’ going in the opposite direction, with a widow recently bereft of her only son, and “much people of the city” with her (Luke 7:12). For her it would have appeared that all hope had died with her son.
The Lord saw her, had compassion on her, and tenderly told her to stop weeping (Luke 7:13). This would have been small comfort to her, if it were not for what followed.
Jesus did the unthinkable (Luke 7:14)!
First, He touched the bier! Did He not know that this was forbidden, and that it rendered Him ceremonially unclean? Yet Jesus was never one for standing on ceremony when He had work to do, and is always willing to get right down beside our dirt and grime, and sin and disease - and even voluntarily participated in death itself. Those who bore the young man stood still, perhaps in astonishment, but also waiting to see what was going to happen next.
Then, secondly, and astonishingly, Jesus spoke to the corpse. “Young man,” He said. Young man what? Rest in peace? No, but, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” As with the Roman centurion’s bondman (Luke 7:7), the authority for the miracle resided in the word of Jesus Himself: “I say unto thee” (cf. also Luke 11:9).
Thirdly, the young man sat up, and began to speak (Luke 7:15).
Comparisons might also be drawn with the raising of a widow’s dead son in the days of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24). However, on that occasion the widow blamed Elijah; and Elijah had to do rather more than just touching the bier, stretching out upon the boy three times before he revived. Elijah ‘delivered the child alive to his mother’ (1 Kings 17:23), just as Jesus did with the young man here.
We can imagine the fear and astonishment that came over the people from both processions at this time (Luke 7:16). This was supplemented, however, with a limited expression of faithfulness, and awe towards God. Surely a great prophet has risen among us (cf. 1 Kings 17:24). Or, indeed, God Himself has visited His people.
The idea of visitation by God was not unfamiliar to His hopeful people. John the Baptist’s father prophesied of this, when he had his voice restored to him (Luke 1:68-70). Jesus bemoaned the fact that Jerusalem ‘did not know the day of their visitation’ (Luke 19:44). There is also ‘a day of visitation’ to come, for which we wait (1 Peter 2:12).
No wonder that the news about Jesus spread throughout Judaea and beyond (Luke 7:17), reaching across the world, and down through the ages to ourselves. Jesus, who has power over life and death, has compassion on us, too, no matter what our situation in life. God has visited His people, and visits us still.