How did he die? Was it an accident? Had he fallen from a horse? Had he been murdered or had an infection spread through his body, killing him slowly? The Bible doesn’t record the details. The story, told in just five short verses, is found only in the Book of Luke.
“Afterward he was on his way to a town called Nain. His disciples and a large crowd were traveling with him. Just as he neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the town was also with her. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said, ‘Don’t weep.’ Then he came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And he said, ‘Young man, I tell you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother” (Luke 7:11–17).
Nain was a small village nestled in the rocky hillside above the Valley of Jezreel. One could see the wide and fertile plains below, planted in wheat, barley, or another crop. Stretching from the Mediterranean to the west and the Jordan River to the east, it has been called the “breadbasket of Israel.” Jezreel was also the location of several historic battles. It was there that Saul and Jonathan died while warring against the Philistines (1 Samuel 29:1, 11; 31:1-7). In the New Testament, it was called the Valley of Megiddo, or Armageddon, the location of another great battle, the “Battle of Armageddon” (Revelation 16:14-16; 19:19-21).
Winding His way up the narrow path, Jesus and His entourage arrived at the entrance to the village of Nain at the same moment that a funeral procession was leaving. I suspect that common courtesy would have required Jesus and His friends to step aside allowing the funeral procession to proceed toward the graveyard. Jesus, though, didn’t step aside. He stepped into the path of the oncoming group, stopping them in their tracks.
Everyone with Jesus could easily recognize the tragic situation as the weary woman walked beside the open casket, carrying the stone-cold remains of what was once an active, energetic young man. Though there were other mourners, the woman was alone because she had no husband and no other children. Moving close to the casket, Jesus “had compassion on her and said, ‘Don’t weep.’ ” Might Jesus have wrapped the momma up in a brotherly embrace? “Please ma’am, don’t cry!”
When Jesus, the incarnate God, touched the cadaver, he miraculously sprang to life! Death was turned to life! Immediately the momma’s tears of sadness turned to tears of grateful joy as the young man sat up and began to talk. “Hey! What’s goin’ on?” The funeral was cancelled! Joyful celebration broke out!
The first time that God raised someone from death happened at Zarephath (1 Kings 17). The first time Jesus raised someone from death happened seven-hundred years later at Nain. These two miracles are linked, so Luke’s choice of words is interesting. “Jesus gave him to his mother.” It’s interesting because, when God gave new life to the son of the widow at Zarephath, “Elijah took the boy ... and gave him to his mother” (1 Kings 17:23).
Jesus may have said, “Woman, behold your son!” (John 19:26, NKJV). Maybe?
Clearly, nothing is too hard for the compassionate and all-powerful Jesus!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.