Summary: The raising of the Widow of Nain's son shows us the compassion of Jesus
The Raising of the Widow of Nain’s Son
Today’s Gospel reading isn’t a very easy passage to speak on.
I think the key to understanding why Luke included this story in his Gospel can be found in the final passage of Lk 7 - Luke 7:18-35
John the Baptist has held in prison by King Herod for a long time and is beginning to lose his faith
So he sends some of his followers to ask Jesus if he really is the Messiah.
And Jesus responds in Lk 7:22 by saying
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the Good News is preached to the poor”
Strange response, isn’t it?
Why didn’t Jesus simply say “yes”
I think there are two answers
1. Jesus wants us to look at the evidence to come to our OWN conclusions
2. Secondly, the term “Messiah” was a highly charged term at the beginning of the third Decade of the First Century AD.
But I don’t want to focus on either point this morning.
In considering the story of the raising to life of the Widow of Nain’s son, I’d like to look at the compassion of Jesus.
It is a story outside my experience because I have never seen any one raised from the dead.
And I am sure it was outside the experience of those attending what they thought would be a “normal” funeral.
Try to imagine the scene – and how the mother must have felt.
1. The hurt in the death of a child
Of all deaths, the death of a child is most unnatural and hardest to bear.
Story: When my brother Eddie died in Jan 2001 at the age of 36, my mother said: “It isn’t right for the children to die before the parents”.
And I am sure Eddie’s death drove my Mum to an earlier grave.
It is trauma to lose a child.
2. The loss of the bread winner
What was even harder for the widow of Nain is that not only had she lost her husband but now her only son was gone too.
A widow in those days was in a very vulnerable position if there were no male relatives to protect and provide for her.
There was no social security network.
She would have to go gleaning in the fields to get food to eat
One of my favourite books is the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament.
If you recall the story, Naomi comes back to Bethlehem from Moab as a widow.
And she brings with her a Moabitess - her daughter in law Ruth who is ALSO a widow.
And to provide for the two of them, Ruth has to go and glean in the fields.
Let me just read you a little bit from Ruth 2
1 Naomi had a powerful relative named Boaz, through the clan of her husband Elimelech.
2 Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “I would like to go and glean grain in the field of anyone who will allow me.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”
3 So she went. The field she entered to glean after the harvesters happened to be the section belonging to Boaz, of the clan of Elimelech.
4 Soon, along came Boaz from Bethlehem and said to the harvesters, “The LORD be with you,” and they replied, “The LORD bless you.”
5 Boaz asked the young man overseeing his harvesters, “Whose young woman is this?”
6 The young man overseeing the harvesters answered, “She is the young Moabite who came back with Naomi from the plateau of Moab.
7 She said, ‘I would like to gather the gleanings into sheaves after the harvesters.’ Ever since she came this morning she has remained here until now, with scarcely a moment’s rest.”
8 Boaz then spoke to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Do not go to glean in anyone else’s field; you are not to leave here. Stay here with my young women.
9 Watch to see which field is to be harvested, and follow them. Have I not commanded the young men to do you no harm? When you are thirsty, go and drink from the vessels the young people have filled.”
According to the Torah (that is the first five books of the Bible), farmers in Israel were instructed that should leave the corners of their fields unharvested.
In addition they were instructed in the Torah not pick up any of the grain that had been dropped or missed when harvesting.
That was so the poor people – like widows -could glean and so would not starve
Gleaning was hard work- and often the men who were harvesting who shoo any woman away who was gleaning – so that she would not get in their way