The Widow of Nain: Seen by Jesus (Luke 7:11-17)

Luke 7:11-17 tells a remarkable story from the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus is travelling with His disciples to a city called Nain and, as became typical, a large crowd accompanied them.  As Jesus came to the gate of the city He encountered what would have been a pretty common scene: a funeral procession.  The crowd of people were leaving the city carrying a coffin which contained a dead man.  This man is described as young and the only son of a widow.  

Jesus sees

The woman, understandably, is caught up in the procession mourning the loss of her son.  The sight of the coffin being carried to the place where he will be buried will have filled her view.  The noise from the wailing of mourners would have filled her ears.  The pain and sorrow of loss and would have filled her emotions.

And in that state, focussed on her bereavement and loss, Jesus sees her.  His attention, drawn by the group of mourners, focusses on her.  He sees her.  In the midst of her pain, He sees her.  Dressed in clothes which mark her out as a woman who has lost much, He sees her.

She is oblivious to Him.

But Jesus sees her.

Jesus intervenes

And as He sees her He is moved with compassion and intervenes.  He doesn’t observe from afar.  He doesn’t simply wait respectfully for the procession to move past.  He doesn’t turn the other way.  Instead, He sees the widow, allows Himself to be moved by compassion, to feel her pain, to identify with her anguish, and He acts.

Unlike Jairus, who seeks Jesus and asks for help; unlike the woman suffering from the issue of blood who reaches out to grab Jesus for help; unlike blind Bartimaeus who cries out to Jesus for help; the widow of Nain is so consumed by her circumstances that she makes no move towards Jesus.  But this is of no concern to Jesus.  It is not about what she does or doesn’t do – it is all about Him.  His compassion does not depend on a well-worded request.  His intervention doesn’t need a well-timed plea.  Instead, her need triggers His compassion and results in Him acting for her.

Jesus reigns

And what an intervention it is!  Can you imagine it?  In verses 13-14 we read that Jesus halts the funeral in its steps (surely taboo?), tells the woman, ‘Do not weep’ (surely insensitive?), touches the coffin (surely off-limits and makes Himself ceremonially unclean?), and tells the dead man to get up (surely impossible?).  And the man sits up and speaks (v15)!  Wow!!

Before His intervention her future looked bleak.  She had no husband, and now she had no son.  She is alone with no-one to look after her or provide for her.  She is totally reliant on her savings (if she has any), her ability to scrape together something with which to trade in the markets, and on the kindness of strangers.  She faced a future with no certainty and no hope.  Now suddenly her loss is reversed and her hope is renewed.  In an instant Jesus has turned things around.

But this raises a huge question:  Who is this Jesus?  How can he raise this man to life?  Surely only God can reverse death?  Absolutely!  And the conclusion of the crowd is accurate: ‘God has visited His people!’ (v16). Through His actions Jesus claims that He is the Lord of all.  He reigns.  Nothing has a hold on Him.  Not even death!

And so know this today: Jesus sees you.  He sees you in your circumstances.  He sees you through your tears.  He sees you through your pain.  He sees you in your loss.  And He is moved with compassion for you, and He has the power to intervene.  He reigns over all circumstances, no matter how big or small.

He sees you.

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  1. #1 by Peter Davey on February 5, 2020 - 8:17 am

    Thank you Simon! So brilliantly written and drawing out worship and glory to Jesus!! Thank you!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • #2 by Simon Clay on February 5, 2020 - 9:35 pm

      Thank you for your encouragement, Peter!

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