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The Raising of the Widow's Son.
by Richard Chenevix Trench
Chapter 14 from The Miracles of our Lord
Luke 7:11-16
St. Luke is the only Evangelist who relates more than one of our Lord’s raisings from the dead. St. Matthew and St. Mark record only that of Jairus’ daughter; St. John only that of Lazarus.  St. Luke, recording the first of these miracles with the two earlier Evangelists, records also this one, which is peculiarly his own.  

‘And it came to pass the day after that He went into a city called Nain.’  That healing of the centurion’s servant at a distance and with a word was, no doubt, a great miracle; but ‘the day after’ was to see a far mightier and more wonderful work even than this.  Nain is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture.  It lay upon the southern border of Galilee, and on the road to Jerusalem, whither our Lord was probably now going to keep the second passover of his open ministry.  Dean Stanley points out its exact position, and even the spot where this mighty work must have been wrought: ‘On the northern slope of the rugged and barren ridge of Little Hermon, immediately west of Endor, which lies in a further recess of the same range, is the ruined village of Nain.  No convent, no tradition marks the spot.  But, under these circumstances, the name is sufficient to guarantee its authenticity.  One entrance alone it could have had—that which opens on the rough hill-side in its downward slope to the plain.  It must have been in this steep descent, as according to Eastern custom, they “carried out the dead man,” that “nigh to the gate” of the village, the bier was stopped, and the long procession of mourners stayed, and “the young man delivered back” to his mother.  

‘And many of His disciples went with Him, and much people.  Now when He came night to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and much people of the city was with her.’  It was thus ordained in the providence of God that the witnesses of this miracle should be many; the ‘much people’ that were with the Lord, in addition to the ‘much people’ which accompanied the funeral procession.  That He should thus meet this at ‘the gate of the city,’ while it belonged to the wonder-works of God’s grace, being one of those coincidences which, seeming accidental, are yet deep laid in the councils of His wisdom and of His love, is at the same time a natural circumstance, to be explained by the fact that the Jews did not suffer the interring of their dead in towns, but buried them without the walls.  There was much in the circumstance of this mournful procession to arouse even their compassion who were touched with no such lively sense of human sorrows as belonged to our compassionate Lord.  Indeed, it would be hard to render the picture of desolation more complete than in two strokes the Evangelist has done, whose whole narrative here, apart from its deeper interest, is a master-work for its perfect beauty.  The bitterness of the mourning for an only son had passed into a proverb; thus compare Jer. vi. 26: ‘Make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentations; ‘ Zech. xii. 10: ‘They shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son;’ and Amos viii. 10: ‘I will make it as the mourning of an only son.’  And not otherwise the desolation of a widow (Ruth i. 20; I. Tim. v. 5; Job xxiv. 3).

‘And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, weep not.’  How different this ‘Weep not,’ from the idle ‘Weep not,’ which so often proceeds from the lips of earthly comforters, who, even while they thus speak, give no reason why the mourner should cease from weeping.  But He who came down from heaven, one day to make good that word, ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain’ (Rev. xxi. 4), shows now some effectual glimpses and presages of His power; wiping away, though as yet it may not be for ever, the tears from the weeping eyes of that desolate mother.  At the same time, as Olshausen has observed, we must not suppose that compassion for the mother was the determining motive for this mighty spiritual act on the part of Christ: for then, had the joy of the mother been the only object which He intended, the young man who was raised would have been used merely as a means, which no man can ever be.  That joy of the mother was, indeed, the nearest consequence of the act, but not the final cause; --that, though at present hidden, was, no doubt, the spiritual awakening of the young man for a higher life, through which, indeed, alone the joy of the mother could become true and abiding.

‘And He came and touched the bier.’  The intimation was rightly interpreted by those to whom it was addressed; ‘and they that bare him stood still.’  Then follows the word of power, and spoken, as ever, in His own name: ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; --I, who am the Prince of life, who have the keys of death and the grave, quickening the dead, and calling those things which are not, as though they were, ‘say unto thee, Arise.’  And that word of His was at once heard and obeyed; ‘he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.’  Christ rouses from the bier as easily as another would rouse from the bed,--differing in this even from His own messengers and ministers in the Old Covenant, for they only with prayers and effort (I Kin. xvii. 20-22; cf. Acts ix. 40), or after a long and patient exercise of love (2 Kin. iv. 34), won back his prey from the jaws of death; and this, because there dwelt not the absolute fulness of power in them, who were but as servants in the house of another, not as a Son in His own.  So, too, in heathen legend, she was only ‘rescued from Death by force,’ and after a fierce conflict,

‘Whom Jove’s great son to her glad husband gave.’

‘And He delivered him to his mother’ (cf. I Kin. xvii. 23; 2 Kin. iv. 36).  So shall He once, when His great ‘Arise’ shall have awakened not one, but all the dead, deliver all those who have fallen asleep in Him to their beloved, for mutual recognition and for a special fellowship of joy, amid the universal gladness which shall then fill all hearts.  We have the promise and pledge of this in the three raisings from the dead which prefigure that coming resurrection.  ‘And there came a fear on all’ (cf. Mark ii. 27; v. 15; Luke v. 9), ‘and they glorified God’ (cf. Mark ii. 12), ‘saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us, and that God hath visited his people.’  This could be no ordinary prophet, they concluded rightly, since none but the very chiefest in the olden times, an Elijah or an Elisha, had revived the dead.  They glorified God, that with the raising up of so great a prophet, the prophet that should come, as no doubt they accounted (Deut. xviii. 15; John i. 21, 46; iv. 25; vi. 14; Acts iii. 23; vii. 37), He had brought the long and dreary period to a close, during which all prophecy had been silent.  It was now more than four hundred years since the last of the Old Testament prophets had spoken, and the faithful in Israel may well have feared that there should now be no open vision more, that instead of living words and words with power from prophets in direct communication with God, there should be henceforward nothing for them but the dead words of Rabbis and doctors of the law.  We may a little understand their delight when they found that God had still His ambassadors to men, that perhaps the greatest of all these ambassadors was actually among them.