By David Faust
“Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry’” (Luke 7:11-13).
“Don’t cry”? How could Jesus say such a thing? His words sound almost cruel under the circumstances.
The Finger of Death
Lots of people felt like crying that day. In a small town like Nain, news traveled fast. When the finger of death touched a neighbor’s home, everyone in town heard about it. A heavy blanket of grief hung over the crowd.
Strong emotions stir whenever a loved one dies—even in old age—but few sorrows compare with the pain parents endure when they bury a young son or daughter. The widow and her friends had a right to cry. Tears flowed as they marched somberly to the cemetery to bury a young man everyone in town surely knew by name.
Did he die after a lingering illness, or from a sudden accident? Dr. Luke doesn’t mention the cause of death, but he tells us poignantly that the young man was his mother’s “only son,” and that “she was a widow.” The same bitter tears she shed when her husband died flowed once again as her son’s death overwhelmed her soul with sorrow.
Why did Jesus tell her to stop crying? Didn’t the Lord himself weep at the tomb of Lazarus? Aren’t we supposed to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15)?
The Rest of the Story
Jesus’ instruction would seem insensitive if not for what happened next. “Then [Jesus] went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother” (vv. 14, 15).
The stunned pallbearers and the awestruck widow learned two important truths about Jesus that day. First, he cares deeply when people hurt. When he saw the grieving widow, “his heart went out to her” (v. 13). Second, they learned that Jesus brings hope to hopeless situations.
After raising the young man back to life, tenderly “Jesus gave him back to his mother” (v. 15). On that day outside of Nain, the grieving widow got her son back immediately. For us, the glad reunion with our loved ones who have gone on to glory lies somewhere in the unknown future—but it will occur. It’s just a matter of timing.
On that day outside of Nain, the Lord of life changed a funeral procession into a victory parade. The crowds “were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people’” (v. 16).
We all live outside of Nain. We’re all marching toward the cemetery. But God still changes funerals into victory celebrations. In eternity he will give children back to their parents and reunite loved ones parted by death. In that glorious place where there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4), there will be no need to weep.
1. Do you usually cry at funerals? Why, or why not?
2. How does the hope of eternal life in the future affect your day-to-day life in the present?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for July 7, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Psalms 123, 124
1 Chronicles 1, 2
1 Chronicles 3, 4
1 Chronicles 5, 6
1 Chronicles 7—9
1 Chronicles 10, 11